Berlin is Europe’s largest city lab. The city has built up this reputation over the past decades through a combination of many available empty buildings and unused land and active and enterprising cultural and urban initiators.
Experimenting with empty buildings is certainly not over yet. What to think of the Haus der Statistik that faces a whole new future.*
In the DDR-era
The building was once the House of Statistics of the GDR (East Germany) and was built around 1968-1970.
It did not function as such for long. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, its function under the authority of the GDR came to an end. In the united Germany it was used by the office of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service that grants people access to all Stasi-files that concern them.
After having been in use for almost 20 years in 2008, the two institutions moved to another location and left behind a series of empty buildings with the gigantic size of no less than 50,000 m2. The buildings are located in the former heart of East Berlin, near Alexanderplatz. Due to its sheer size, the building cannot be overlooked; with its broken windows and graffiti, it is a striking appearance.
Not for project developers
In Berlin, political and social involvement are almost always part of redefining abandoned buildings and places. It took 7 years of vacancy before the first thoughts on what should happen to the Haus der Statistik became known.
In order to prevent the sale of the Haus der Statistik to investors and the associated demolition, an art campaign was organised in September 2015.
The Berlin ‘Allianz bedrohter Berliner Atelierhäuser (AbBA)’ envisioned a centre for art, culture and social activity during the protest action taking place during the Berlin Art Week which is a cultural event organised and funded by the the city council.
AbBA: ‘The current politics of refugees, economy, urban development and law require new ways of dealing with crises and structural problems. The ‘Haus der Statistik’ in the heart of Berlin can become an example of how with creativity, political will and cooperation change is possible’.
The city embraces the initiative
By the time of the election in September 2016 the project already received a positive assessment from the Berlin senate. Informal consultations had already taken place during the election campaign. The talks were aimed at reconciling two submitted conflicting concepts for re-development and by this avoiding a battle for a winning concept.
The coalition agreement of the new Berlin Senate (SPD, Die Linke, Bündnis90 / Die Grünen) stipulated that the Haus der Statistik should be developed as a model project for administration, culture, education, social affairs and affordable housing and that the area should be redeveloped in community hands. In addition, it was decided to ensure a broad participation of the urban society in the further development process. The concept and principles of the initiative were thus politically anchored.
In order to realise the model project aimed at the general interest, the city of Berlin purchased the building from the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (BImA) in 2017 and supplemented the concept in terms of content with the requirements for administrative space and a new town hall building.
Alternative urban redevelopment
The Koop5 (the five cooperation partners) are involved in the developments of the Haus der Statistik. ‘Werkstatt’ which is located right next to the immense front building, is used as a On-Site Location for the planning process since 2018. This is also the place where the ZKB (ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin eG) works on a regular basis and the other Koop5 Partners meet for conferences or public events.
In the immense building a number of public institutions the Senatsverwaltung, the Bezirksamt Berlin-Mitte and the organisations WBM und BIM are working together on a community-oriented redevelopment of the Haus der Statistik.
This cooperation between government, state-owned companies and society, which as (potential) clients are jointly and equally responsible for the development of the Haus der Statistik-kwartier, can be called unique.
The involvement of citizens’ initiators is particularly special. ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin eG is involved in the process as a permanent, equal cooperation partner of the Koop5. This gives the involvement of urban society in the project a binding character.
A long timeframe
The existing Haus der Statistik will be the starting point for the development of a new urban building block with a special programmatic diversity. In the coming years, a lively mix of affordable housing and commercial, cultural and social applications will develop here.
By 2021, the urban design of the planning consortium Teleinternetcafe and Treibhaus Landschaftsarchitekten is to be converted into building law by the Bezirk Mitte through a development planning procedure. At the same time, the existing buildings will be renovated by the BIM and the ground floor will be livened up by the first use by pioneers, this process is mainly coordinated by the ZKB ZUsammenKUFNT Berlin eG.
The housing construction is being prepared so that the construction of 300 affordable flats can start in 2022. The new ‘city hall’ (town hall) for Bezirk Mitte will be moved in 2028 – that is also the term of the lease in the existing office in the Mitte district.
*Publication of images and text with in corporation with and permission by Werkstatt Haus der Statistik