The Salons of the Republic


ISBN 978-3-86859-709-7

Holger Kleine (Ed.)



Spaces for Debate






What Are the Salons of the Republic

and Why Do We Need Them?



A Day at the Salons of the Republic

Holger Kleine, Johanna Rech







The Location

The Salons

The Main Hall

The Roof









The Salons

The Formation of Space

The Exploration

The Room Configurations







The Planned Center of Democracy

at Paulskirche in Frankfurt Peter Cachola Schmal

Representation of Space and Spaces

of Representation Michael May

Democracy and the Public Sphere

amidst Digital Change Jonas Aaron Lecointe

Places of Democratic Innovations as

Salons of the Republic? Sandra Speer

Strengthening Democracy through

Interaction Marion Kamphans


The Room as a Moderator

Holger Kleine



A Balancing Act between Art Academy

and Vocational School Ralf Kunze














The student designs presented here were created in design seminars

which I taught at the Department of Interior Architecture of Wiesbaden’s

RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. In these seminars – most of the

participants are in the third semester of their bachelor’s degree program

the didactic objectives are linked to the exploration of the possibilities

and requirements of today’s public interiors. Thus, the predecessors of the

Salons of the Republic were designs for council chambers, civic halls, or

temporary installations.

The design for Berlin was developed in winter semester 2018_19, that

for Frankfurt at the instigation of Peter Cachola Schmal in winter semester

2020_21. The latter project is our contribution to a current debate that is

being conducted among the general public and extends to the highest political

circles. However, it is not our intention to limit our ideas to these two

locations. They serve merely as examples of our conviction that architecture

can make an indispensable contribution to cultivating the capacity for dialogue

and the desire for a vibrant democracy. Currently, salons for Munich

and Cologne are the subject of two master’s thesis projects. The fact that

we can exhibit our ideas for a program as novel as the Salons of the Republic

at Deutsches Architekturmuseum and publish them with ȷovis fills us with

pride and gratitude. We owe our thanks to many – not only to those mentioned

in our acknowledgements.

Holger Kleine


The interface between universities and society is undergoing a fundamental

change. Instead of a mere transfer of knowledge, ideas, and technologies

from universities to society, we are moving toward a concept that

puts exchange, participation, and cooperation at the center of collaboration.

This interaction between university and society forms the core of the work

in IMPACT RheinMain, a transfer project at RheinMain University of Applied

Sciences. We are convinced that only by involving everyone in innovation processes

– be it companies, politics, and administration as well as civil society

– can we meet the requirements of a modern transfer concept. In particular,

the far-reaching transformation brought about by digitization underlines

that this modern transfer concept must be put into practice at the interfaces

of “smart energy,” “smart home”, and “smart mobility.” The values forming

the basis of this modern transfer concept are at the heart of the Salons of

the Republic and are also described in more detail in the chapter “Places of

Democratic Innovation as Salons of the Republic?” (p. 146).

In cooperation with Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), the subproject

DIALOG IN MUSEUMS provides a platform for exchange with civil society.

Since the beginning of the Innovative Hochschule project (funded by the

German Federal Ministry for Education and Research and Joint Science

Conference), we have been experimenting with event formats that create

new opportunities for dialogue and discourse – from classic panel discussions

to world cafés, fishbowl discussions, and exhibitions or platforms

that stimulate debate in the museum. The Salons of the Republic offer an

architectural blueprint for this purpose – based on the diagnosed change in

debate culture that has come about as part of the digital transformation of

the public sphere. We share the concepts of the salons based on the belief

that the democratic potential of this change can only be achieved by increasing

the resilience of civil society through communication, participation, and

cooperation. The Salons of the Republic therefore not only make a valuable

contribution to the DIALOG IN MUSEUMS program, but also form a substantial

benchmark for our work in the IMPACT RheinMain project.

Thomas Heimer und Sandra Speer



Holger Kleine


What Are the Salons of the Republic

and Why Do We Need Them?

The Salons of the Republic are places of communication that transcend

milieus. They serve to cultivate debates using the accepted rules of democracy.

They are built public interiors, accessible to all and inviting everyone

to participate. They serve as a supplement to the chambers of parliament

and other built and virtual spaces, which are essential but not in themselves

sufficient for a vibrant democracy that has nowhere yet been comprehensively


The fact that a concept such as the Salons of the Republic is in the air is

illustrated by the novel dialogue formats that various agents have experimented

with and established in recent years: These range from a tête-à-tête

in so-called Zuhör-Kiosks (listening kiosks), such as those operated in Hamburg

or Berlin-Kreuzberg (Reis March 14, 2021), to internet platforms such

as “My Country Talks,” which “aims to bring people with opposing political

views together from around the world for one-on-one debates in order to

overcome social divides and promote dialogue between political camps that

have become estranged from one another” (My Country Talks 2021) and the

“Conference on the Future of Europe” currently taking shape, the realization

of which was included by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her

political guidelines for the European Commission in 2019. The aim of this

two-year conference is to enable citizens of the European Union to participate

on a broader scale than in the past.

In this collection of essays, Marion Kamphans interprets the Salons of

the Republic as the hub of a “social infrastructure” that requires constant

readjustment, as argued by Eric Klinenberg in his 2018 book Palaces for the

People, and as a challenging example of a “third place” as defined by Ray

Oldenburg: “Third places, according to his [Oldenburg’s] conception, are

places and settings that are atmospherically located between the home

(“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”)” (p. 154). Their character

as thresholds between and overlapping areas of the public and the private

is indeed the key reason I call the spaces designed in my design studio “salons.”

Michael May recapitulates how the bourgeois public sphere developed


in urban salons and why the term salon is still suitable today as a central

concept for the spatial representation of groups that require novel, milieutranscending

places in order to make themselves heard.

But what is a salon? The mere mention of the word conjures up yearnings;

we associate it with esprit and sophistication, flexibility and elegance,

tolerance, freedom, and overcoming boundaries, fragrance, and light. In

his introduction to Europa – ein Salon? Roberto Simanowski defined it as

follows: “It soon becomes clear that not all salons are the same. Location,

character, participant structure vary from case to case. In order to distinguish

the salon as a form of social gathering from other forms of social

gatherings such as literary circles, bohemian gatherings, soirées, clubs and

societies, or social gatherings in spas and bathing resorts, the following formal

criteria can be noted, in line with Peter Seibert’s definition: A mixture of

genders, with a salonnière at the center, regular meetings in a private house

that has been expanded to a semi-public space, conversation as the most

important element of the activity, permeability of the participant structures,

and a tendency to have no further goals beyond conviviality” (1999). He also

includes internationality as a further characteristic.

These hallmarks can largely be applied to the Salons of the Republic. The

“tendency to have no further goals beyond conviviality” requires comment

here: The salons do not see themselves in the slightest as a new extraparliamentary

opposition that questions representative democracy and

demands to be institutionalized within the power structure. No, they see

themselves as places of deliberation and communication. For such “noninstitutionalized

streams of communication” (p. 137) the term “deliberative

democracy“ has been coined. In his essay, Jonas Aaron Lecointe sheds light

on the concepts of democracy that underlie the liberal, deliberative, and

republican forms of representative democracy and the challenges that digitalization

poses for the actors in a democracy. Civilizing the internet involves

more than curbing shitstorms and bemoaning the perceived loss of freedom

of speech when confronted with contradiction. What is required instead is

“a strong civil society that […] promotes [protest and dissent] […] wherever

they stand against hate speech and thereby contribute to an actual pluralization

of positions” (p. 145).

There is certainly no shortage of democratic actors in Germany – and yet

today’s political climate seems increasingly characterized by a dwindling

capacity for dialogue. This apparently leads to two opposing but mutually

reinforcing forms of behavior: on the one hand, to retreat into a “selfaffirmation

milieu” (Bernhard Pörksen) that allows us to ignore the Other,

and on the other hand, to the outbreak of savage violence when encountering

the Other. In order to reverse this tendency, a debate culture in which



A Day at the



Illustrations: Johanna Rech

Story: Holger Kleine



Freddie, 67, from Angermünde is visiting his daughter Lisa (35) and

grandson Max (7) in Berlin.

What are we

doing on


Going to the playground

all the time is boring,

grandad. Let’s do something

different for a


We could go to the Salon

of the Republic! You

can meet people, take

part in discussions, learn

stuff … and I heard

there are things for

kids, too.

Is that the block of concrete

that they built up at the

Reichstag for loads of money –

my taxes? That talking

shop for people with

nothing better

to do?

Yes, Freddie, yes, that’s

the place I mean, but maybe

we could just go there

with an open mind and

see what it’s

all about?

Fine by me …

If Max doesn’t

mind …



What’s that?

… and what’s


That’s the Kanzleramt.

That’s where they carry

out the laws they make

over there.

Sounds cool!

When I grow up, I

want to be

Prime Minister!

Well why not …

That’s the Reichstag.

That’s where the people that

all the grownups voted for

discuss and decide which laws we

have to stick to … So that we all

get along with each other.

Ugh …

it’s always

the grownups who

decide … but it

sounds like it’s

important …

And that



it says what it is, you can

read it, can’t you? SA-LON-OF-THE-

RE-PU-BLIC. That’s where we’re

heading …

My dacha looks nicer …

I don’t wanna know

how much that

massive staircase

cost …

Yeah, ok, ok, Freddie, but here

people are sitting on the stairs

and talking. Nobody comes to

your stuffy old dacha to talk.



Look, they’re painting

over there! I thought

this place was just

for talking?

Oh look, that’s interesting,

they’re showing a film about

farming in Meckpomm. I’d like

to watch that …

Wow, this place is huge …

And there are kids

riding bikes and stuff

over there …

Alright, Freddie, why don’t you sit

down on the steps over there and

watch the film … and we’ll meet

up again here for lunch at one

o’clock …



We’ll find out later

what goes on here …

This is where

Freddie and Ole watched

the film.

This is the way

to the roof.

“Forest of Words” –

this is where Max and

Mona played hide

and seek.


The citizens‘ advice

bureau – this is where

Freddie and Ole got


This is where

they had lunch.

This is where

Max crashed into Mona

– in the children’s traffic

training center.

Lisa took a nap in

one of the sleeping


Board game area

the scene of Max and

Mona’s twister





The most fruitful and natural

exercise of our minds, in my

opinion, is conversation.

I see in its practice the most

delightful activity of our lives.

[…] If I am contradicted, it

arouses my attention, not my

displeasure; I am drawn to

those who contradict me, who

instruct me: the truth should

be the common cause of us


Michel de Montaigne

In: Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais, 1580. Book Three, Chapter Eight. Quoted

from Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de, Les Essais. ed. P. Villey and V.-L. Saulnier.

Online edition by P. Desan, University of Chicago.








Among the salons for debate, another 14 salons have been smuggled in, in

which the debaters can non-verbally let off steam: studios where visitors

can paint or sew, climbing towers, footbaths, sleeping tents, punching

bags … places for everyone to unwind and continue to ponder, just as

they please. The possibility to go back and forth between the hall and

the salons, as well as between the different atmospheres and activities

offered by each salon, means that people of all generations and from all

kinds of background will be able to while away entire days in the building.

The model studies show an intersecting room that sets the mood for the

debating salon. In the salon behind it, the staggered panes of the intersecting

room are tilted horizontally to arch over the salon. The Kneipp basin is

designed as a place for visitors to relax.











The areas of the main hall are partly utilized by permanent facilities (citizens’

consultation services, canteen, bar), partly by activities that can be

adapted to demand (in-door playground as a traffic training kindergarten,

play area, Forest of Words) and partly by regular events (film screenings,

dance floor). Large screens can be used for major events to transform the

entire 150 × 100 meter main hall into a convention hall. The bar runs diagonally

through the canteen, which is lit from the south. The ramp leading

to the rooftop landscape separates the Forest of Words from the dance

floor. The block below the traffic training kindergarten houses the canteen

kitchen and the sanitary rooms.










Seen from the dike, many of Berlin’s most striking landmarks

cluster around this roof of the republic like stage props: the dome

of the Reichstag …



the Federal Chancellery “tent,” the gate-like structure of the train station,

the block of the Charité, the shards of Potsdamer-Platz, the green

sea of the Tiergarten …




The Berlin Salon of the Republic seminar (WS 2018/19) was a didactic

experiment. At least for me, the task structure used to carry it out was

completely untested. Subsequently, I embarked on similar experiments with

varying degrees of success in Wiesbaden, Istanbul, Dhaka, Berlin, Monterrey,

and Minsk – until the pandemic forced us all to completely change tack.


The crucial didactic question facing anyone teaching a design seminar is:

individual work versus group work. The proponents of individual work put

forward the benefits of the verifiable acquisition of professional skills, the

high degree of motivation on the part of the students (“seeing themselves

reflected in the design”), and the intense experience of working alone.

After all, they argue, designing is nothing if not permanent soliloquy and

persistent self-criticism. The objectors, on the other hand, point to the

lack of social competence acquired through individual work and allude

somewhat derisively to the fact that students often simply remain trapped

in solitude, learning to wait for the professor‘s corrections instead of cultivating

soliloquy and conducting exploration by means of drafting designs.

Group work, they argue, has the advantage of promoting the acquisition

of social competence as well as the fact that design is always a matter of

social responsibility and is carried out collectively in the architects’ office

anyway. Opponents of group work, on the other hand, argue that the daring

act of “projecting” (i.e., launching a design into empty space and into

an uncertain future) must first be experienced for oneself before it can

be shared, and that motivation decreases when students not only have to

contend with their own lack of experience and competence, but also with

that of others.

Wanting to use one method and yet not disregard the other, design professors

often first have the whole thing designed collectively and then have individual

aspects elaborated by individual students. In my opinion, however,

in terms of the students’ motivation, this is the wrong way round, as they

now have to work to the sometimes bitter end on a design with which they

can often only identify to a limited extent or which they even perceive as

an expression of their lack of assertiveness. It is quite especially the wrong

order for students of interior architecture since they are usually keener on

creating a happy place in a quiet corner than working on large-scale fever




Emma-Herwegh Salon

… although I am still quite far away, I can see how many people are present

due to the open structure of the salon and can also understand the louder

discussions despite the distance. The teal shade of the interlocking frames

catches my eye: And I also find the shape extremely appealing. Like multiple,

fanned picture frames. It is not directly apparent which side the people are

on, as the places where they are sitting or standing are not clearly separated

due to the shape of the salon. The impression I get is of people sitting in a

large and abstract circle around an imaginary campfire, located in the center

of the salon and marked by the overlapping frames. I take a seat on one

of the metal beams. The surface is cool. I’m now in the middle of the salon.

It seems even more abstract and futuristic than it did from a distance …

(C. Reinhard)

the individual steel beams are positioned at different heights. The lowest

ones are suitable for children to sit on, the middle ones for me, for example.

Because of the frame structure, you can also lean back in the corners. I

am really fascinated by the structure, but I don‘t feel comfortable at all,

because I feel very vulnerable as everyone can see me. There is absolutely

nowhere to hide. My feeling of unease in this room is intensified by how cold

and uncomfortable the steel beams are. I can‘t sit here for longer than ten

minutes. This salon is definitely something for strong, self-confident people,

and not for someone insecure like me … (D. Ritterweger)


Fanny-von-Arnstein Salon

… I enter the dimly lit salon hesitantly because I don‘t know exactly what

awaits me inside. I go into the salon through a triangular entrance. My eyes

first have to get used to the darker interior. The only light comes from the

entrance and the slits in the recesses. The streaks of light move across the

floor and walls. My thoughts drift to the origami flower salon and I wonder

if there, too, the incident light dances across the floor and creates shapes …

(C. Reinhard)

… I like cave-like rooms where I can have a wall behind me. The floor is

carpeted. People’s faces vanish into the darkness. Through the darkness,

I can only hear the voices of the people I am talking to. There is no way to

discriminate against anyone based on appearances. This puts me at ease

and I can speak quite openly. I feel comfortable here because no one can

recognize me either … (D. Ritterweger)

… only a small amount of light comes in so you can only make out shadowy

figures, but it‘s enough to see which alcove and bench is still free. I feel safe

because of the anonymity of the room. The alcove makes me feel like I am

being embraced … (J. Hübner)



Frankfurt am Main



Frankfurt am Main



Frankfurt am Main


Frankfurt am Main



Frankfurt am Main


As for the history of Paulsplatz, I refer you to Google Maps, where it says

in all seriousness that Paulskirche is “a church with a political past.“1 Honi

soit qui mal y pense. On a more serious note, I refer you to the essay by

Peter Cachola Schmal (p. 128).

At this point, let me just say this: What makes Paulsplatz particularly difficult

is the fact that the square is already bordered on four sides, but two of them

have only little effect on the space due to busy streets; that the church turns

its convex, forbidding broadside towards Paulsplatz, whose present shape,

due to the bombing during the war and a lack of ideas, is strangely lifeless

today; and that the church is nevertheless the protagonist of this square and,

due to its history, also deserves to be. It is therefore necessary to create a

building that reshapes and realigns the square, that forms an ensemble with

the church and is not simply its annex. A salon cannot be a mere annex in this

location; the salon of the republic must convey a forward-looking image of

democracy that can stand alongside the historical image presented by Paulskirche.

It goes without saying that a reconstruction of the Alte Börse cannot

satisfy this requirement. The redefinition of Paulsplatz is, both spatially and

semantically, one of the most complex tasks that Frankfurt – a city that has

for decades not exactly suffered a paucity in terms of urban development

challenges – has to face today.

Even in the context of an interior architecture degree program, students

should definitely deal with urban squares – they are, after all, interiors.

They are simply rooms with the sky for a ceiling! And squares are a wonderful

task to teach students the balance of courage and humility that is

peculiar to good designers. Not what you draw and build should be the

protagonist, but what remains: the space!


Lageplan M1:500

After removing any self-aggrandizing building sculptures and displacements

of space, six urban development solutions emerged in the seminars,

which appeared plausible and which were then to be examined in terms of

their suitability for interiors:

• Mirroring or variation of an ellipse

• Creation of a corresponding element to the ellipse with another

geometric primary body

• Cube as a calming counterweight to the rotational solid of Paulskirche

with its expressive protrusions

• Layering of horizontal building masses as a contrast to the upright

walls of Paulskirche and their vertical rhythmic structure

• Umbrella over a collection of smaller buildings

• Walk-on-able building sculpture with stairs, podium, and view


At Paulsplatz, there is neither sufficient space for the “full program” that we

proposed for Berlin, nor is it necessary, as we are in the middle of a busy city

center. Paulskirche already has a plenary hall and a permanent exhibition

room. What is required is a medium-sized auditorium for about 200 to 300

people, as well as various debating rooms for 15 to 50 people, a café area

opening onto the square, spaces in between that invite people to linger, and

zones for temporary exhibitions and for childcare, as well as small, enclosed

rooms for consultations, for creating and broadcasting podcasts, and the like.

1 Google Maps (2021): Paulsplatz.,8.


4d8.6818298 (last accessed: February 25, 2021).

Frankfurt am Main


Frankfurt am Main



Frankfurt am Main


the three-quarter perspective from the southwest presents the building

as a sculpture that can be appropriated in many ways, both inside and out.


the view from Braubachstraße in the east presents the staircase

as an informal gathering place for urban society …

Frankfurt am Main


the view from Römerberg in the south shows the staircase as an

extension and tribune for Frankfurt‘s most important square …


What the Spanish Steps

are for Rome,



could become for Frankfurt.

Frankfurt am Main


Michael May




In order to examine more closely the layers of meaning implicit in the title of the designs for the

Salons of the Republic, one must first note that the word “republic” is derived from the Latin “res

publica.” In his Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Fritz Mauthner (1923: 51) points to the fact that this

term was used by Cicero in the plural as an “expression of common language like our public affairs”

(ibid.). When he used it in the singular, however, it became “a concise term for the common being,

the community, or the state” (ibid.). Yet Cicero already anticipated the later change of meaning of the

word, because for Cicero “only where the people take part in government” (ibid.) – which is also what

the architectural designs and the concept of the Salons of the Republic (!) seek to advance – is “the

res publica a real res populi” (ibid.). Mauthner emphasizes in this context that “publicus” is derived

from “populus.” In contrast, in the Latin of the Middle Ages, the urban areas of Italy were known as

republics, regardless of their form of government.

In contrast, the developed city-states of

ancient Greece, in which the sphere of the polis

was shared by all free citizens, are regarded as

the cradle of the democratic form of government,

which, in the concept of the Salons of

the Republic, is to be accompanied by critical

support by means of the architectural stimulus

of “deliberative” forms of “opinion- and

will-formation” (Habermas 1996: 429). Excluded

from this, however, were not only slaves but

also women. Even the master of the house was

not able to be free in his capacity as oikonomos,

as Hannah Arendt emphasizes in reference to

Aristotle (2000), but “only in so far as he had

the power to leave the household and enter the

political realm, where all were equals” (Arendt

1998: 32). In contrast to the house rules of

the oikos, which were based on inequality, for

Arendt this equality within the polis constituted

the very essence of freedom: “To be free meant

[…] neither to rule nor to be ruled” (ibid.). This

is what the Salons of the Republic aspire to

achieve in all their various spatial arrangements.

Similarly to Arendt, Jürgen Habermas

(1989: 3) also concurs with the separation of

oikos and polis in the thinking of the ancient

Greeks. Accordingly, “the realm of necessity

and transitoriness remained […] shamefully

hidden” in the private sphere of the oikos

(Habermas 1989: 3f.), while “that which existed

become revealed” (ibid.: 4) and thus took

on shape only in the light of the public sphere

of the polis in the discussion among citizens.

Oskar Negt (2002: 312ff.) does concede that

Aristotle placed an emphasis on this point in

his Politics. He emphasizes, however, that this

separation between oikos and polis “did not

exist so strictly in antiquity” (ibid.: 312) but

was made “subsequently” (ibid.: 313). Aristotle,

like Xenophon before him, Negt argues, had

discussed them as “problems” and not as an

ideal to strive for. Leaving aside this controversy

regarding the ancient Greeks (May 2017:

18ff.), the aim of the Salons of the Republic is

to overcome this separation of oikos and polis

through architectural stimuli.


Although the citizens in the sphere of the

polis interacted in “a realm of freedom and

permanence […] as equals with equals (homoioi)”

(Habermas 1989: 4), Habermas emphasizes

that they simultaneously did their best “to

excel (aristoiein)” (ibid.). In this context, he

points out that the virtues codified by Aristotle

were ones whose test lay in the public sphere

and could there alone receive recognition.

In contrast, the concept of the Salons of the

Republic is based on the assumption that,

through the culture of deliberation inspired

by its various locations and in the course of

diverse conversations and debates, the users

will develop the ability to include the perspective

of others in their own process of opinion,

judgment, and will-formation (Kohlberg 1987).

When Habermas further elaborates that

although “public life, bios politikos, went on

in the market place (agora),” (1993: 3), it was

not confined to a particular locality, since this

“public sphere was constituted in discussion

(lexis) […] as well as in common action (praxis)”

(ibid.), we see that the concept of the Salons

of the Republic also aspires to be effective

far beyond a specific locality – not solely, but

also through digital interconnectedness (see

Lecointe’s essay in this volume).

Habermas sees certain parallels between the

distinctions of “‘gemeinlich’ and ‘sunderlich,’

‘common’ and ‘particular’” (ibid.: 6) stemming

from the tradition of ancient Germanic law

“to the classical one between ‘publicus’ and

‘privatus’” (ibid.) of Roman law. Thus, “[t]he

commons was public, publica; for common use

there was public access to the fountain and

market square – loci communes, loci publici”

(ibid.). Accordingly, the Salons of the Republic

are not only designed to be such public places,

but also offer diverse opportunities and stimuli

for interaction, cooperation, and communality

through various forms of “praxis.” And where

Habermas sees a historical-etymological line

leading from this “common” “to the common

or public welfare (common wealth, public

wealth)” (ibid.), then this too is something the

Salons of the Republic seek to advance.

Habermas shows how this common stands

opposed to the particular as “this specific

meaning of ‘private’ […] reverberates in today’s

equation of special interests with private interests”

(ibid.). According to his reconstruction,

however, precisely this distinction underwent

peculiar shifts in feudal times, insofar as the

particular in the context of the feudal constitution

also referred to “those who possessed

special rights, that is, those with immunities

and privileges” (ibid.) – indeed, “the particular

[…], the exception through every sort of exemption

was the core of the feudal regime and

hence of the realm that was ‘public’” (ibid.) .

Habermas calls this a “representative publicness”

in which “the prince and the estates of

his realm ‘were’ the country and not just its

representatives” (ibid.: 7f.). “[W]edded to personal

attributes such as insignia (badges and

arms), dress (clothing and coiffure), demeanor

(form of greeting and poise), and rhetoric

(form of address and formal speech discourse

in general)” (ibid.: 8), they re-present “their

lordship not for but ‘before’ the people”

(ibid.) at correspondingly prominent places in

specific rituals. Even the German Democratic

Republic’s Palace of the Republic, contrary to

the intentions of its builders, could not completely

liberate itself from this character of a

representative publicness at least in the eyes of

those members of the population who viewed

the government with more skepticism. The

Salons of the Republic, however, whose name

ironically alludes to that very palace, aspire to

be representative public places in a completely

different sense, a point to which we will return

in more detail later.

Michael May 135

(Thimm 2017: 46), representing more of a

pluralization than a decline: seen in this light,

the media logic of the platforms themselves

(e.g., hashtags, retweets, Facebook groups,

forums) promotes the creation of polymedial

“mini-publics” that incorporate the traditional

media, rather than replacing it “There would be

nothing more wrong than underestimating the

power of these smaller groups to influence society.

Many of these digital ‘mini-publics’ draw

on traditional media to the extent that they

create a polymedial space via cross-references

to other media. This space receives greater attention,

without altering the quality of its own

discourse” (Thimm 2017b: 56).

Jürgen Habermas also shares the concerns

about the fragmenting effect of the digital public

sphere. But he also recognizes democratic

potential in the Internet communication of the

World Wide Web, “by allowing the reoccupation

of interactive and deliberative elements

in an unregulated exchange between partners

who interact virtually, but on an equal basis”

(Habermas 2008: 161). Outside of digitization

debates, too, the call for Habermasian-style

deliberative concepts of democracy is becoming

more and more vocal.

A New Understanding of Democracy

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)

of October 26, 2020, the political scientist Herfried

Münkler, historian Hans Walter Hütter

and the director of the German Architecture

Museum Peter Cachola Schmal proposed the

construction of a “House of Democracy” on

St Paul’s Square in Frankfurt am Main. The

authors believed that this would make up for

the commemorative inferiority of the 70- yearold

St Paul’s Church, the site of the National

Assembly and the cradle of the basic rights of

the German people. The trio argued in their

piece that the inadequacy of the historical

location was due to its reconstruction in 1948:

“As a place of remembrance, it has neither aesthetic

evidence, nor an aura that takes visitors

back into the past,” (Hütter/Münkler/Schmal

October 26, 2020), the authors lamented. The

pending refurbishment of the building, they argued,

should be used as an opportunity not just

to return to the church its aura of a “modern

memorial to democracy,” but also to expand

its role to make the church a “place of learning

and communication” – very much in line with a

“reflexive-deliberative democracy.”

Political scientists Patrizia Nanz and Claus

Leggewie responded to the proposal in the

Frankfurter Rundschau of December 1, 2020,

warning of an “antiquarian tilt” to a “museum-like

visualization of German democratic

history” (December 1, 2020) that they saw

in the proposal of their previous speakers.

In the view of Nanz and Leggewie, a “House

of Democracy” should instead function as a

forum for citizen participation, which the pair

had suggested be a fourth power of the state in

their book Die Konsultative (The Consultative)

(Leggewie, Nanz 2016). They quickly dispense

with the attribute “reflexive,” instead calling

for “a strengthening of deliberative democracy,

that is discussion of arguments, dialogue and

the exchange of views, the patient development

of compromise, the laborious achievement

of consensus through civilized argument.”

(Leggewie/Nanz 2020) However, on one point,

all five authors seem to agree: the liberal model

no longer meets the needs of a contemporary


Unlike liberal democratic theory, which

guarantees the liberty of the individual via

negative rights in the sense of non-intervention

by the state, thereby guaranteeing the

“freedom of isolation from the polity” (Ottmann

2006: 318), deliberative democracy sees

its ideal in participation in the polity through

“an argumentative, deliberative style of con-


sultation focused on understanding” (Schmidt

2010: 237). Both perspectives present weaknesses

for Thorsten Thiel, if the idea is to

“capture and evaluate the resulting societal

changes in the digital structural shift” (Thiel

2017a: 194). He attributes this ability to the

republican theory of democracy in particular,

which he believes possesses particular intuition

for (1) the power relations in the digital,

(2) the particular role of anonymity and (3)

the significance of the expansion of options for

forming a countervailing power.

(1) In contrast to the liberal perspective, the

republican concept of liberty does not formulate

freedom as being pre-political, but sees the

polity as its precondition. Hannah Arendt views

the situation as follows: “Men can only be free

with reference to one another, only, that is, in

the fields of politics and of the things they do,”

because “[w]here communal existence is not

organized politically […] it is not freedom, but

force of circumstance and self-interest that bind

men together” (Arendt 1961: 191). Republicanism

counters the liberal concept of freedom as

non-intervention, with that of freedom as not

being controlled, which protects against “the

potential to arbitrarily implement a position”

(Thiel 2017a: 196). Applied to the discussion

over surveillance, data collection and the formation

of profiles by corporations in the digital

public sphere, the republican perspective allows

for more fundamental criticism of “monitoring

and control options”: While liberalism sees the

solution as permitting the processing of data

only if voluntary consent has been granted,

republicanism is sensitive to implicit relationships

of compulsion and control: “In the end,

behind voluntary consent is very often the indirect

compulsion to receive the necessary access

to a privatized public sphere” (ibid.: 198)

(2) In the same vein, republican theory is

suitable for defending an element that is not

just closely related to the digital structural

shift, but which has also “long become a de

facto condition of modern societies” (Ibid.:

197): anonymity. “By nature of its mediation

– as expressed by IP addresses, for instance

– digital communication is always pseudonymous

to a certain extent. The spatial freedom

afforded by digitality and the temporal

asynchrony strengthen this impression even

further.” (Ibid.: 206) This feature of digital

communication is a problem for deliberative

democratic theories, because “the personal

commitment to arguments is firmly embedded

within them” (Thiel 2017b: 157). In the

public debate, too, calls for an obligation to

use real names are often heard. However, the

potential for political activism that anonymity

offers particularly for marginalized groups is

overlooked by this view: “Precisely because

an anonymous situation abstracts from the person,

from power and dependencies, anonymity

and anonymization can promote the formation

of a countervailing power.” (Thiel 2017a: 207)

In contrast to liberalism, which “advocates only

for formal access rights,” this potential cannot

be irrelevant to republicanism, as the latter is

interested in “how a political order produces

subjects capable of opinion and articulation”

(ibid.: 201).

(3) The great significance that republicanism

attributes to opposition and countervailing

power is also rooted in this interest. While the

significance of opposition may seem intuitive

for democracy, its practice is coming under

increasing pressure in an age of post-national

interdependencies, a post-democratic emphasis

on the executive and the rise of authoritarian

regimes (Thiel 2015: 273–275). To this corresponds

a “marginal position of the principle of

opposition” (ibid.: 277) in democratic theory.

While opposition in the liberal sense is understood

chiefly in a parliamentarian way and its

positive effects are limited to its function as

Jonas Aaron Lecointe 143

Marion Kamphans



Inspirations from New Museum Work

The Salons of the Republic are intended to be places where people can meet and converse with

those who they would not normally come across. The hope behind initiating a social practice that

cuts across group and socioeconomic lines is that this will contribute to civic education and in turn

to the strengthening of democracy, precisely because the Salons of the Republic provide a communication

space for a diverse public. The aim is to promote discussion of political positions and the

organization of political activities. In the following essay, the opportunities for sociopolitical development

arising from inclusive publics will be outlined, using the example of innovative museum

work. The transferability of corresponding concepts to the idea of the Salons of the Republic will

also be explored.

Cultural Education for Everyone – Museums

in a Transformation Process

For centuries, museums have served as

miniature treasure troves for the world (Donecker

2013: 7), because they collect and display

everyday, ordinary, special, and scandalous

objects from art, culture, nature, technology,

society, and the media. Museums are places

that present all kinds of objects and topics,

while simultaneously providing a potential

interpretation of their cultural significance.

They teach, research, preserve, impart –they

inform their users and communicate with

them, inspiring them to learn, while also irritating

and entertaining them – and no longer

merely physically, but digitally as well. This is

the conventional understanding of how museums

fulfill their educational mandate.

Museums are very popular in Germany, but

their visitor composition reveals a clear social

selectivity. More than 117 million people visited

a museum in 2018, viewing exhibitions

and collections in social history, technology,

natural history, and art museums, as well as

other exhibition halls (Deutscher Museums-

bund 2020: 12–17). With this large number

of visits, museums rank extremely highly in

the art and cultural scene. But their cultural

offerings also still reach only a relatively

homogeneous group – it is mainly people

with higher educational qualifications from

better socioeconomic backgrounds who walk

through the doors of these educational institutions

several times per year (Wegner 2011;

2016).¹ For museums, it remains a challenge

to appeal to new target groups and to attract

them to their cultural offerings. Particularly

underrepresented groups amongst museum

visitors include old and young people, people

with disabilities, less well-educated and socially

disadvantaged people, and people with

migrant backgrounds. For these groups, museums

tend to be somewhat “foreign” places

from a high culture that is unfamiliar to them,

or meeting points for an educated audience

who can knowledgeably walk through museum

halls with the correct demeanor.

The debate over a more socially inclusive

museum – in the sense of allowing cultural

education for everyone – is not a new one. For


as long as they have existed, museums have

had to consider how they can meet the external

expectations placed upon them in terms

of their work and objectives. A look at their

history confirms this. But even if museums

have learned how to expand their educational

mandate over recent decades and how they

can actively appeal to visitors, it has taken a

long time for the now commonly understood

understanding of museums as places for imparting

knowledge to be accepted.

An initial attempt to make “temple-like”

museums accessible to a wider audience and

democratize them was made in Germany after

the French Revolution, in the period between

1830 and 1890. Under the Federal German

education reforms in the 1960s and 1970s, the

aim was for museums to ultimately become

“places of learning” and for an emphasis to be

placed on their educational work with visitors.

This model was based on cognitive learning

theories, which assumed that museum knowledge

only needed to be structured well enough

and broken down into the correct doses for it

to enter the heads of museum visitors (Donecker

2013: 7–10).² Various opinions, each

with their own particular emphases, on how

comprehensive the model of a museum as a

communicative space should be were fiercely

debated. The views ranged from Joseph

Beuys’s idea of museum being a place for a

“permanent conference,” through to the idea

that a museum should include “visitor-focused

experiential content” and promote the

development and skills of visitors, not least by

allowing them to experience objects with the

senses and by encouraging in-depth discussions

with others (Wittgens 2005: 18–20).

Only in the 1990s did the concept of the

“visitor-focused museum” gain acceptance,

with the associated understanding of museum-

based cultural work being based on a constructivist

concept of imparting knowledge.

This meant focusing more heavily on the

exising knowledge and interests of visitors.

Since this time, museums have focused more

on interaction than teaching, using communicative

strategies to better explain the

contexts of artistic objects (Donecker 2013:

7–10). Nevertheless, in spite of all attempts

by museums to facilitate more comprehensive

participation by different groups, museum

visits remain socially stratified.

The debate over a museum for everyone

is needed now more than ever, both because

social cohesion is endangered by the “dynamics

of societal disintegration” (Heitmeyer

2018: 146–158) and because the expectations

for inclusive participation have grown. These

expectations are being directed towards

museums and exhibition halls. The conflict

researcher and sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer

links both objective restrictions on societal

participation and the lack of recognition with

the concept of dynamics of societal disintegration.

Both levels, objective and subjective, can

be interpreted in a more differentiated form

via three different dimensions (Heitmeyer

2018: 149): In the sociostructural dimension,

the emphasis is placed on participation in material

and cultural terms, such as participation

in work, education, housing, and culture. In

the institutional-participatory dimension, the

opportunities for participation are understood

in terms of public and political processes

relating to opinion formation. These could include

participation in political activities such

as elections, through to formats for citizen

participation. The third dimension describes

how individuals can actively create their own

support and social belonging. In other words:

according to Heitmeyer, the stated dynamic

of societal disintegration causes deprivation

Marion Kamphans 153


Copyright 2021 by ȷovis Verlag GmbH

The copyright for the texts is held by the authors.

The copyright for the illustrations is held by

Moritz Bernoully: pp. 38–43, 50–55, 60–63, 68f.

Annkathrin Böhm: pp. 44rb, 45,

Jessica Breier: p. 74

Felix Jäger: pp. 32f., 36, 44lb,

Holger Kleine: p. 70m,

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In cooperation with RheinMain University of Applied

Sciences represented by Prof. Holger Kleine

And by the RheinMain University of Applied

Sciences and the architects listed

All rights reserved.

Cover image

Salon of the Republic Berlin, model photograph


Holger Kleine


RheinMain University of Applied Sciences

Faculty of Design Computer Science Media

Department of Interior Architecture

Prof. Holger Kleine

Unter den Eichen 5

65195 Wiesbaden


at the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences

Management: Prof. Thomas Heimer, Sandra Speer

Coordination of the Salons of the Republic: Jonas

Aaron Lecointe

Funding provided by the initiative Innovative Hochschulen

of BMBF/GWK, project IMPACT RheinMain

(FKZ: 03IHS071)

TEAM DAM (German Architecture Museum)

Director: Peter Cachola Schmal

Deputy director: Andrea Jürges

Public relations: Brita Köhler, Anna Wegmann

Secretarial support and administration:

Inka Plechaty, Jacqueline Brauer

Building services: Joachim Müller-Rahn,

Enrico Hirsekorn

Ticket office: Ieva Paegle, Milan Dejanov, Denissa Albu


Geoffrey Miller (essays by Lecointe, Kamphans,

Speer; biographies and imprint)

Kathrin Bennett (all other texts)

Editorial design

cüvee – Empathisches Design, Wiesbaden,

Sabine Besjaew

Exhibition design

DESERVE – Raum und Medien Design,

Wiesbaden, Mario Lorenz

Exhibition The Salons of the Republic

at Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) from

June 17 to July 15, 2021

Accompanying events

Vernissage on June 17, 2021

DIALOG IN MUSEUMS #12 on June 22, 2021

Street, Internet, Salon – (No) Room for Debate?

on July 13, 2021

Printing and binding

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LibraryThe German National Library lists this

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