Berlin: History from the perspective of a building

Every year our family travel together to Germany for a company meeting, and to host the annual Summer Academy. Here we have learned how in Germany, especially in Berlin, the community can reflect on the past in order to participate in the present and better navigate the future. Our family is always struck by the many museums and events  that looks not only at German history, but also mistakes and darker periods in Germany’s past.


One such event is the annual Media and Light display that is projected against the facade of the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus over the river Spree. This thirty-minute  installation is entitled “Dem deutschen Volke – Eine parlamentarische Spurensuche. Vom Reichstag zum Bundestag” (To the German People – A journey through parliamentary history from the Reichstag to the Bundestag). It shows the history of parliamentarianism in Germany and of the Reichstag Building in Berlin. This journey through the past 130 years shows how the Reichstag building is used and has always been a reflection of the state of German democracy.’ The official site of this show is hosted on the Bundestag website. The show is 30 minutes long and is repeated every evening from mid May to Mid September

Imagine we could do this in South Africa? Would that not allow us to have a more meaningful discussion of our past, to help us understand how we are all shaped by decisions, actions and influences from the past? What would the Union Buildings tell us?

This display is special to our family for several reasons:

  • there are several light sources.  Video footage, shadows and colors are projected onto several buildings, while music from Paul van Dyk (Wir Sind Wir) and Die Toten Hosen (Tage Wie Diese) fades in and out around the narrative. When the narrator talks about the wall, a spiked fence shadow is projected over one of the facades (see picture above), while later the whole building is behind barbed fence.
  • the sound is amazing, even if the narrative is in German.
  • the people we take with us are touched by the footage, even if they don’t understand a word. These are typically participants in the Mesopartner Summer Academy from many developing countries where they too tend to sweep past decisions under the carpet.
  • this display also reveals something about the German culture that we admire, the ability to debate, discuss and deliberate in a very transparent way. Even if it is about taboo decisions.
  • we get the idea of one nation, even there are different opinions. Even if this is expressed in German.


Head over to Youtube. Here is one link to a show recorded in 2016. Here is another link. Alternatively, search for Film- und Licht­projektion im Parlaments­viertel.

If you have seen the show, share your thoughts, your photo or your impressions. Some German translations of some of the text would also be welcome!

Published by

Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

0 thoughts on “Berlin: History from the perspective of a building”

  1. Dear Shawn,
    thanks a lot for this eye opener. I think that the insights from “outside” trips are highly relevant for promoting mindshifts and new entry points “inside”. That is what we want to do with our joint study tours arein Germany. It is never about blueprinting or copying experiences but opening up reflections, new thinking and new entry points for other contexts. Also for Germans It is as important to get such an ouside perspective from you because in general people take for granted what they have and they often also like to fall into a tunnel view, seeing and interpreting the world only fom their own island. Germans are good in that! 🙂
    I think our joint work on the reflection on the German innovation system and the organisation of joint study tours gave both of us the chance to get systemic insights into the German development process. At the same time we are continously trying to understand the evolutionary aspects and path dependencies of development and of cultures and how they influence our economic development (and our thinking). Finally development is especially about social change and humans, about institutions and experiences which are often inherited and taken for granted.
    For me it is always a great learning experience to see the German world through your eyes and to get myself again suprised by many things I did not see or appreciate before. Thanks for that! 🙂
    Please continue to write down these impressions. Where do we come from, what can we learn from others for the development of our places, what drives us and what still hinders us for open reflection and joint development efforts in Germany and in other places? These are questions we have to reflect more about with our colleagues from the dfferent parts of the world and with each other in Mesopartner.

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