Update: the petition has been moved to change.org
To the Governing Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller, the Senator for Culture and Europe Dr. Klaus Lederer, the Head of the Berlin Monument Authority Dr. Christoph Rauhut, as well as the executive and supervisory boards of the Charité
We are in danger of losing two icons of Berlin architecture at once! A unique ensemble of two institutes which are part of the Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin in Berlin Steglitz is acutely threatened by demolition. They both are exceptional examples of their type of building from the Post-War Modernist period, which is currently being rediscovered nationally and internationally as an important part of our collective built heritage and has recently received more and more attention by the monuments authorities, as well. For both, regulatory announcements for removal have already been submitted. At the same time, two positive evaluations for both their eligibility to become registered as protected monuments are already existing. To prevent their loss they have to be protected as soon as possible.
– to immediately register both buildings as protected heritage
– to stop the plans for demolition and retract the regulatory announcements for removal by the Charité
The Zentrale Tierlaboratorien (Central Animal Laboratories), nicknamed “Mäusebunker“ (“Mouse Bunker”, 1971–80, today: Forschungseinrichtung für Experimentelle Medizin, FEM (Research Facility for Experimental Medicine)) are possibly the most significant example of Brutalist architecture in Berlin as well as the most distinctive design in the œuvre of architects Gerd and Magdalena Hänska. With their Brutalist monumentality they evoke comparisons with I.M. Pei’s National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, USA and Louis Kahn’s Richards Medical Research Laboratories in Philadelphia, PA, USA—both of which are heritage protected and commendably modernized. The Mäusebunker rose from its status as insider tip to become hyped by architecture historians and fans alike and turned into one of the most photographed darlings of Berlin’s concrete architecture. Google Maps even labelled it as a Historical Landmark. It was part of Germany’s ten most significant Brutalist buildings in the internationally traveling exhibition “SOS Brutalism” by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum and the Wüstenrot Foundation. Currently two architecture faculties of the TU Berlin and the Bauhaus Universität Weimar are independently working with their students to design re-use scenarios.
The Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie
Located across the street is the former Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie (Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, today: Institut für Hygiene und Umweltmedizin (Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine)) by Fehling+Gogel (1966–74). It is the Mäusebunker’s counterpart with its expressive, curved shapes in cast-in-place concrete that required exceptionally high-precision formwork. The building is one of the most significant designs in the work of Fehling+Gogel, as well as the Organic Architecture of the 1960s and 1970s in general. It has been mostly preserved in its original state until today—a true time capsule of its era.
Both structures repeatedly offered great backdrops for movie and TV productions. Just as with the Mäusebunker, employees report that by now, tourists armed with cameras are visiting on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile the BDA Berlin (Association of German Architects, Berlin Chapter) is planning an exhibition for both buildings, scheduled for fall.
Sadly, this level of recognition has not yet had any effect on the decision making in local politics.
Being part of Berlin’s history and identity, these buildings are exceptional examples of how their implied strict functionalism resulted (maybe counterintuitively) in surprising, novel, and exciting forms. Because of its insular location during the Cold War, Berlin holds a special place in architecture history. Together with the Campus Benjamin Franklin, the ensemble is exemplary of how public buildings featured radical designs in the context of Post-War Modernism, High Tech, Brutalism and Organic Architecture.
Call to Action
The Mäusebunker and the Hygieneinstitut offer plenty of space for new institutes, as event or conference centers, archive, server cluster, new laboratories and much more. Their flexible floor plans offer a great amount of freedom in converting them for new purposes.
Besides all that, reusing existing structures is almost always much more sustainable and resource-efficient than demolishing and building a new building from the ground up. As far as we know these concerns have not been sufficiently considered in current assessments.
It is not too late. Save the Mäusebunker and the Hygieneinstitut!