Amerikahaus Has Dodged a Bullet For Now

Munich's Amerikahaus has stood at the Karolinenplatz location for more than five decadesThe Amerikahaus has been located at the Karolinen Platz since 1957. Built on the site of the former Lotzbeck Palace, the site was originally used for American Government broadcasting. Eventually, it became a centre for cultural exchange and intellectual discussion. The Amerikahaus has played an integral part in German-American relations in Munich, particularly during the Cold War, but also most certainly to the present day.

When the funding from the American government was withdrawn in 1997 during the Clinton administration, a number of different organisations stepped in to keep this symbol active in the life of the city. The Bavarian government certainly saw the advantages of such work, and became a significant contributor to the Amerikahaus. For those following this story, it has been a roller coaster of emotions regarding the future of the cultural centre. In August of last year, the Bavarian cabinet first announced that the Amerikahaus would be closing its doors. Although there have been times in the last year that it looked like the Amerikahaus would be allowed to stay in its present location, over the last few months the chance of this looked increasingly more bleak.

What will happen to the building?

As the story rippled through the city, the obvious questions were asked by many citizens. Why does the Amerikahaus have to move anyway? What is now going to be done with this real estate on one of the most prestigious plazas in the city? The explanation that emerged was that the engineering academy Acatech would be moving into the building. Acatech confirmed that they would be interested in the location, but insisted that it had initially been offered to them. 

There was talk of Acatech moving elsewhere, perhaps Berlin, if it did not find a location in Munich which it deemed acceptable. The Bavarian Science Minister, Wolfgang Heubisch (FDP), indicated that he although he saw both sides of this issue, the prospect of Acatech moving elsewhere would be unacceptable. There were political attempts by local politicians, such as Bavarian Minister of Education Ludwig Spaenle (CSU), it appeared that the fate of the Amerikahaus had been long decided. 

Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer (CSU) has been purportedly both surprised and irritated by the vocal and vehement support that the Amerikahaus has enjoyed from even politicians within his own party. Nevertheless, it turns out the decision that Acatech would take over the building is unaltered. According to Thomas Kreuzer (CSU), the Statskanzlei-Chef (head of the chancellery), Amerikahaus' move has been postponed, but not stopped. This decision allows all parties time to find a workable solution to the dilemma of finding a new home for the Amerikahaus. Though the good news that the Bayerisch-Amerikanischer Zentrum (Bavarian American Center) is able to stay in the Karolinen Plartz location until 31 December 2013 is a great relief, Raimund Lammersdorf insists that it is not enough. 'We want to stay here,' he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 

Possibly due to public outcry, the solution was offered that the present occupants of the Amerikahaus could be moved into the Lotterieverwaltung. While this is a building with its address officially on Karolinenplatz, it is not remotely suitable to house the impressive number of events that the Amerikahaus now offers. The most glaring omission in this solution is that the new location is not equipped with a theatre, which is integral for the programmes that take place at the present location. In a typical year, the Amerikahaus organises roughly two hundred events, while outside organisations are responsible for another hundred.

In the face of popular opposition, the closing is postponed

Over the last few weeks, there have been mounting accusations, particularly by the Greens in the municipal government, that this is not exactly how events came to pass. The allegations are that there was pressure from Acatech to make the real estate available. Rather than being offered the Karolinen Platz location, that the engineering academy had made a behind the scenes power play for the location.

At this point, those are only accusations, and absolutely nothing has been proved. Nevertheless, it does seem particularly curious that the Amerikahaus was in the eleventh hour of negotiations and that only when politicians from the opposition, as well as former ministers from the CSU, started making noise about political improprieties did there seem to be any willingness on the part of the Bavarian state government to budge.

The saga of what happens to the Amerikahaus is anything but resolved. In the coming months, this is sure to be a story of intrigue both for historical and political reasons.

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