With several of the country’s most important legal bodies concentrated in one city, Karlsruhe is the seat of German law. There’s the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice), the Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichthof (Federal Public Prosecutor at the German Court of Justice), and the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court). Since 2005, an extraordinary art installation has underscored Karlsruhe’s deeply rooted ties to law and order.
In creating the piece, artist Jochen Gerz first interviewed dozens of judges, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and legal scholars, but also citizens who had come into contact with the law—prisoners, law-abiding citizens, and everyone in between. The result was a range of different statements on individual fundamental rights as well as law and order in general. These statements were printed on 24 enamel signs and installed at the newly named Platz der Grundrechte (Square of Fundamental Rights). The installation was a gift from the city of Karlsruhe to the Federal Constitutional Court to mark its 50th anniversary on October 2, 2005.
On each of the 24 signs there is a statement by a person from one group on a specific subject of fundamental rights and laws on one side and a statement by a person from the other group on the other side.
Each of the signs bears often contradicting opinions, one on either side of the flag-like enamel slates. As such, visitors can weigh and contemplate the often differing opinions on a range of topics depicted on either side of the same flag. The artist deliberately involved the population and their opinions in order to set an example for democracy. It’s an expressive and interactive work of art about varying conceptions of law and the intersection of humanity and order.
The 24 signs on the Platz der Grundrechte form the main installation. However, the piece was so well received by locals and lawmakers that 24 additional individual signs were erected at other significant points throughout the rest of the city as well.
Know Before You Go
Thanks to nighttime lighting, you can visit the Platz der Grundrechte (Square of Fundamental Rights) at any time.