I had dedicated some time during my visit to Berlin to hopefully visit Mäusebunker, an old animal testing laboratory that had become an icon of Brutalism in the city. I knew it would take some time as the train ride in one direction was 40 minutes alone. Then there were a few stops I wanted to make along the way which would only add to the length of the overall journey.
I was already out that morning exploring the East Side Gallery and the area that surrounded. I crossed a bridge over the Spree heading for Schlesisches Tor. Underneath the raised tracks a crowd had already gathered outside a small pub situated between the two lanes of traffic. I climbed the stairs to the platform and took the next train heading west.
The first stop was Pallasseum, a large residential building in the district of Schöneberg. I walked through the residential area where people went about their daily lives. Considering the size of Pallasseum it wasn’t until I was standing in front of it that I could truly appreciate the size of the complex.
Pallaseum has 514 apartments, which house over 2000 residents. It spans a street as well as a World War II bunker. After construction it was praised as a successful answer to social housing at a large scale. Though it quickly became home to vandalism and the area became less desirable to the point where demolition was even considered. Luckily, the local municipality put time and effort into raising the standards for the residents and now the building even has protection.
Hours could have been spent photographing Pallaseum, especially the details of the building and spaces the large complex created for its residents, some of which were accessible. I would have liked to capture the building from the other side of the concrete bunker and even hope to venture inside.
As I walked towards Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche there was plenty to stop and look at. Each city block different. They all had buildings that stood out from the others. Corners that had been changed during the war and either been obviously rebuilt with little consideration for the surroundings or left empty entirely.
Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche was built on the foundations of an older church that was destroyed during the war. It’s triangular shape is reflected in every aspect on the building.
It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that I had missed St Norbet tucked away just around the corner! But instead, across the street stood a very small and very unique cinema with cherry blossoms on either side. Yet another distraction.
Surprisingly for this trip this wouldn’t be the only cinema I would be taking pictures of.
I had already walked quite far and took the quickest route to the nearest public transport option which was suggested to get to my next location. Unfortunately, the further I got away from the city centre meant that the options were becoming more limited and would require more walking.
Further out of the city I went but I was having second thoughts whether I had time for everything I hoped to see. It was a lot to fit in and Pallaseum had taken more time than expected but I couldn’t just travel passed Bierspinsel.
More often that not I find myself captivated with metro stations when visiting a new city, when really they are there to provide transport from A to B. I had to limit myself as already time wasn’t in my favour and I had still not reached my planned location. I stayed a few minutes waiting for the crowds to clear outside Feuerbachstrasse station before walking towards Bierpinsel.
It wasn’t long before I had to stop again when two buildings caught my eye on the other side of Schloßstraße. One an elegant cinema complex Titania-Palast that had opened in 1928. Fortunately the building was saved when the chain Cineplex took over in 1995 but unfortunately the inside was gutted and the original interior was lost.
The other was an intriguing glass building. It was at one point Forum Steglitz, one of Berlin’s earliest shopping centres. The buildings glass and steel is traditional to its 1970s origins. These features along with its new method of shopping had made it popular with local residents. Currently Forum Steglitz is undergoing another remodel with aims to make it a mixed use property.
Following the road, framed by the shops on each side, stood Bierpinsel on top of an overpass. For many reasons the structure stood out, not just because of its location but also its strikingly unique design and its more recently updated paint work.
The 47 metre tower has three floors originally home to a restaurant and nightclub. When the tower was built in 1976 it was red. It wasn’t until 2010 when it was given its current look by prominent graffiti artists during the Turmkunst event.
The design was obviously futuristic, a concept that continued even into even the smaller more hidden details. Even after fifty years looking at it makes you feel like you have slipped into a dystopian future or alternate reality. Hopefully that feeling continues for many generations to come as Bierpinsel goes through redevelopment.
Annoyingly it was back the way I came to the closest station and make it to the train to my final destination.
I walked through a quiet suburb before coming out at a main road, on the other side was my destination. What I didn’t realise was that I would be getting a two for one.
Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie
I had come to visit Mäusebunker not knowing that the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology existed. I walked around the back of the buildings complex structure then underneath it before emerging at the front in its car park.
Completed in 1974, the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology was originally a part of the Free University of Berlin. It was designed by architects Hermann Fehling and Daniel Gogel, who together made a considerable contribution to German postwar architecture. Now the building is owned by Charité, one of Europe’s largest university hospitals.
A low design that built at the center was used to help incorporate the building into its suburban surroundings. The structure features many different geometric shapes and angles, resulting in a building with no two sides the same and very little symmetry to be found. Directly opposite stood Mäusebunker.
Mäusebunker’s design is singular with its pyramid shape and striking ventilation pipes that protrude from its walls. From the beginning the design from Gerd Hänska was seen as controversial, especially due to the buildings original use as an animal testing facility.
Unfortunately the building was fenced off, so getting close was out of the question. There was a break in the fence but I decided against it, after all I was there to document. I walked around the building, alongside a canal, taking advantage of any opportunities to capture the different angles and details of the building that gaps in the trees allowed.
Mäusebunker has been empty since 2020 and was due for demolition later that year. Along with the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology a petition was started. Gaining popularity quickly it saved the two buildings from demolition and now other uses are being explored. Though demolition is an unlikely fate for either, like many other at risk buildings, their future still hangs in the balance.
Alexanderplatz was becoming a very familiar location as I was passing through it everyday more than once but this was the first time I would be arriving on the U-Bahn.
Usually I would spend far more time capturing unique stations, especially the interiors but Berlin’s transport system was far more extensive than the other cities I had visited.
I didn’t realise it at the time but to find Alexanderplatz so empty was a rare occurrence and provided me with the excellent opportunity to admire those details that makes the station stand out.
Outside the station I was greeted by a familiar sight, Fernsehturm, a TV tower that is now a well known icon of the city. It was here I finished my journey as the setting sun kissed its metallic sphere high above me.
I have also put together my travel across Budapest in a similar way as I make my way across the city to Kerepesi Cemetery.
My zine BRUTAL III featuring The Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology is available to order. It also features Mäusebunker another brutal icon in Berlin. Both of these buildings and more brutal architecture in Berlin can be found in my post BRUTAL Berlin.