Architecturally I had high hopes for Berlin. I knew about the redevelopment of the city after the war then again after after reunification, but I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the development I would encounter. Whole city blocks and avenues created from nothing. Single apartment buildings stretching on and on.
On the other hand there were often spaces still vacant, undeveloped, where a building had once clearly stood. A different city had emerge after the war, one that I was very keen to see.
Being a subscriber to The Modernist I had seen their issue featuring the Mäusebunker and it had ignited an interested in Berlin. Though it wasn’t a motivator to visit Berlin it did definitely give the trip a purpose. Later I would find out a visit would require a 40 minute train journey, hopefully it would be worth it.
Though Brutalism is often my focus I ended up visiting and photographing a huge variety of buildings largely those built to solve the housing issue in the city after World War II but also modernist buildings thanks to a map I picked up from Blue Crow Media.
Embassy of the Czech Republic
Originally opening as the Czechoslovakian embassy in 1978. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 the Czech Republic took over the building and continued to use it as their embassy.
The buildings design is very typical of the era however the materials, granite and glass, were different in comparison. The interior has been left largely in its original state. Red and orange run throughout with furniture and fixtures designed especially for the building.
A small but impressive former church hidden in the district of Kreuzberg. Built in 1967 by German architect Werner Düttmann, who at the time was West Berlin’s director of Urban development. The building no longer holds church services and since 2015 it has been repurposed as a gallery space after the interior went through a three million euro renovation.
Spitteleck is a prefabricated building built in the early 1980s. It was situated in clearly a largely residential area that used to be a part of East Berlin. Walking down Leipziger Straße there were tall apartment buildings lining both sides of the busy street, though they were more conventionally designed than Spitteleck that stood out at the end.
The Coca-Cola sign was added to the top of the building after German Reunification.
The Research Institutes for Experimental Medicine has gone by many names. More commonly called the Mouse Bunker or Mäusebunker in German, prior to 2003 it was known as the Central Animal Laboratories of the Free University of Berlin. Once an animal testing laboratory, now unused and empty with its future resting in the balance.
It’s surroundings and location were equally as unusual as the building. Hidden on one side by several low standing apartment buildings it could only be viewed front on. On the other side a woodland path ran alongside a canal, the lump of a building hidden by trees, even though they were bare during the early months of spring.
The Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine
Surprising to me the hygiene institute stood across the street from Mäusebunker. It was a Brutalism face off of the most highest calibre, two unique buildings that had both outlived their uses, but unfortunately there was a clear winner. Though the hygiene institute had its own personality with hidden details on every corner it fell a little short, especially when comparing it to its neighbour.
I walked underneath its raised structure with each corner and detail different from the last. There was no single side the same as another, neither any symmetry to be found. It was when I stood at the front of the building, viewing the building in full, that I could appreciate how complex the design really was.
Thanks to recent campaigning, led largely by architect Gunnar Klack and architecture historian Felix Tokar, both HygieneInstitut and Mäusebunker will not face demolition and the developers are looking for other more sustainable ways to develop the area.
The neighbourhood of Kreuzburg revealed two fantastic surprises. A car park that I came across purely by chance and then Kreuzberg Tower. A completely baffling building in both design and function.
Kreuzberg Tower is an apartment complex made up of three buildings, the 14 story tower and two 5 story wings. It was designed by John Hejduk. Its facade is well known for its colourful and angular balconies.
The original Gedächtniskirche (or The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) was largely damaged during bombing raids in World War II. At first it was decided that the ruins would be removed and the whole area was to be redeveloped but after considerations the remains were to be kept at the centre.
The new design, which is a complete juxtaposition to the remains, consists of an octagonal new church, a chapel and a 12 metre hexagonal tower. The incredible detail of the block work cannot truly be appreciated until you venture inside, revealing 21,292 individual stained glass inlays designed by Gabriel Loire.
During my trip to Berlin I saw many large scale apartment blocks, they would line major roads and often continue on into the distance, but there was something different about Pallasseum. Firstly, it wasn’t built parallel to the road, the road actually ran under it. The building also wasn’t one continuous straight block, it criss-crossed itself creating small courtyards in between.
The building is known for the littering of satellite dishes that hang from the balconies and each section was almost a repetition from the last. Most peculiarly the building has been built over a World War II bunker, with is large concrete mass protruding from the south end of the building.
The range of architecture in Berlin was so vast, unique and interesting I want to put something together that will reflect that. Instead of focusing purely on Brutalism I want it to capture the city no matter the architectural style. I have already posted a few highlights on film and hope that there will be more to come.
I used a number of maps from Blue Crow Media during my stay in Berlin.
The Inspiring Fight On The Ground To Save Berlin’s At-Risk Brutalism featuring HygieneInstitut and Mäusebunker.
Berlin’s Concrete Pallasseum and What Lies Beneath
Copies of The Modernist featuring Mäusebunker are still available.
2 thoughts on “BRUTAL Berlin”