Germany has launched construction of a partial replica of a Prussian palace in the heart of Berlin, embarking on an often-criticized 590 million-euro ($783 million) project to recreate a building dynamited by East Germany's communist rulers.

Germany's Parliament voted 11 years ago to reconstruct the palace, which was demolished in 1950 and later replaced by East Germany's Parliament building. When completed in 2019, it will house the Berlin museums' collections of non-European art.

Most of the cost will be carried by the federal government, though backers are counting on private donations to recreate the palace's facades. The project was delayed by a government cost-cutting package.

President Joachim Gauck laid the foundation stone at a ceremony on Wednesday. Opponents have long questioned the sense of recreating the palace.