This is Berlin!

In the last years Berlin city has undergone a radical transformation, with an influx of money from public institutions and private companies, far away from the cold days of the German reunification in 1990. This has benefited in the architectural modernization and services improvement for its inhabitants but in contrast led to the loss of its unique condition among other European capital cities: historical buildings, bridges, roads and streets, survivors of the 1939-1945 war years and its battle fires are all being refurbished to clean and nearly new condition (the Reinhardtstraße bridge of the Stadtbahn is one of the last examples of this). 

Berlin is now losing its value as a “time capsule” from the past.

[Photo by the author, August 2018.]

This battle-scarred building is located at Am Kupfergraben Ecke Dorotheenstraße nr 1 in Berlin-Mitte district, today home of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin School of Business and Economics.

With its walls full of signs of war, smoke and fire from Luftangriffe by British RAF and American air-raids, and shrapnel from howitzers and splinters due to street-fighting with the Soviets during the final Battle of Berlin in May 1945, it is an evident survivor of the destruction experienced by the city.

[Two pictures of this building before the restoration work, as viewed in 2008.]

Photo by the author, May 2008.]

Photo by the author, May 2008.

The heavily damaged building was restored and cleaned a few years ago, helping in preserve it but in the process erasing forever its original state, much more blackened and holed, a true-live survivor of the aerial bombings and battles suffered by the city during the Second World War which now has lost its past.

[This aerial view taken a few days after the war’s end in Berlin, clearly shows the devastation suffered by Mitte district. Museumsinsel with Altes Museum is in the foreground, Unter den Linden crossing from top to bottom, and other main sites like the Zeughaus, Staatsoper, Humboldt Universität, and the green Tiergarten park far behind. Our “time-capsule” building is seen at extreme right, marked with a red arrow.]

Photo: still from film. CHRONOS Media.

[New shots from Dorotheenstraße 1 taken last summer, in front of the Pergamonmuseum.] 

Photo by the author, August 2018.

Photo by the author, August 2018.

It has survived in those conditions due to its location in Berlin Mitte, near the Museumsinsel. During the postwar years, located at the Soviet Occupation sector, it was repaired by a number of securing provisions of concrete and brickwork, a patchwork which made extend its life until the end of the Cold War in 1990.

[Different views of today’s condition of the Humboldt building.]

Photo by the author, August 2018.

Photo by the author, August 2018.

Photo by the author, August 2018.

This building was built in 1879-83 with a four-storey sandstone facade in Italian Renaissance forms mixed with simple Prussian functional design. 

It was renovated in 2002 to be the Faculty of Economic Sciences and from 2009 started the restoration of the roof and facade in cooperation with the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (the State Office for preservation of historic monuments), with emphasis in that the signs of war remain legible on its 1.200 m2 facade.

The work was made by Ellwart Steinrestaurieung, an experienced company focused on monument and ancient buildings restoration, in close cooperation with the architecture office Martin Focks. In their study they asked themselves before the restoration began: “…Can a façade repair appropriate to the monument be realized without neglecting the age value of the building and without distorting or even eliminating the historical traces of war damage?”

[Photo by the author, August 2018.]

Massive work was made to exchange the facade stones as well as a removal of post-war provisories, but not the projectile impacts. The final result is a mixture of two periods, with a facade full of holes in a secured and cleaned building. 

It costs approx. €2.5 million and ended in the Autumn of 2013. 

[Close view of one of the several graffities which ‘adorn’ the building before the 2009-restoration project.]

Photo by the author, May 2008.

It stands today under monument protection

[This view shows the building as it was before 2011…]

Photo by Andreas Steinmann.

[And compare it with a 2013-year view…Notice at upper right that the missing stone cornice of the facade seen in previous image has been retrofitted during the restoration project, and the overall condition is more clean.]

Photo by Sima Massah.

You can read a full report (in German) about the renovation process at:

Photo by the author, August 2018.

Photo by the author, August 2018.

In this image taken in 1947 by photographer Harry Croner can be seen the surviving building at Berlin Am Kupfergraben after the war’s fire and destruction with Pergamonmuseum and its entrance at left. Notice the ruined dome of the Stadtschloss in the background.

Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM (CronerNeg 108/B3).

East Berliner Am Kupfergraben as seen in 1979, an image taken by Chris John Dewitt.

Photo: © Chris John Dewitt.


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