Many wanted to go high here. The 60-meter-high square tower of the Peter Behrens building on Ostendstrasse 1-4 in Oberschöneweide is always a symbol of success stories. Inaugurated in 1917, it was the tallest tower in Germany and marked the place for the dawn of new times.
Here, on behalf of Emil Rathenau (AEG), after only two years of construction, serial production of electric trucks and petrol cars began in a modern multi-storey factory built in the then new steel frame construction. They were manufactured by the “National Automobile Society – NAG”, a subsidiary of AEG. “Elektropolis” lived after 1945 in different social conditions.
The building, designed by architect Peter Behrens, one of the most important pioneers of modern art in Germany, is now a listed building and has become a prestigious company of the socialist planned economy. The VEB factory for television electronics (WF) has been producing a screen tube for Soviet combined television and radio “Leningrad” since 1951. In the early 1950s, the factory was the largest screen manufacturer in Europe.
In the building built in 1915 as a car factory in Oberschöneweide, which later became a television electronics factory (WF), the Soviet military administration set up the “Labor, Design Office and Experimental Plant Oberspree” in 1945. The aim was to use the rich experience and technology of the German electrical engineering industry for the Soviet Union, according to the exhibition in the “Schöneweide Industrial Salon”. During the year, the number of employees increased to 2,000 employees. Research groups composed of physicists and technologists formed the basis for later work for television electronics. In 1952, the Soviets resigned from the leadership and the Soviet joint-stock company became a state-owned company. In the year of change in the GDR, it was the largest East German production company for vacuum tubes and electronic components with approximately 9,500 employees. Production has been taking place in Oberschöneweide since 1984 under license from the Japanese manufacturer Toshiba. After the fall of the wall, the Korean conglomerate Samsung took over. In 1991, the factory had a turnover of DM 140 million and a loss of DM 120 million. Samsung discontinued production in 2005: LCD screens have made screen production obsolete. The sale of the former AEG building has long been negotiated. In 1992, Samsung did not want to pay the required 30 million German marks. In industrial circles, it was said that the company eventually paid 20 million D-Marks for it. The city of Berlin paid Samsung the plant financing, most recently 29 million euros.
Behrens-Ufer should in no case be worse than the Siemens campus
Samsung SDI Germany GmbH sold in April 2010 to a new investor, Kentucky Investments SA – the Irish Comer Group. In May 2019, it was sold to Deutsche Immobilienentwicklung AG (DIE AG), the developer of the owner-managed project.
Behrens-Ufer on the “Spreeknie” between Wilhelminenhofstraße, Ostendstraße and Spreeufer – seen from the tower of the Behrens building. Photo: Reinhart Bünger
The new owner of DIE AG wants to build on the good old days. Behrens-Ufer is one of the future locations in Berlin and should by no means be worse than the Siemens campus. A total investment of more than 1.1 billion euros is planned, making it the largest private property development project in Berlin. Representatives of DIE AG are also happy to start the tour with a tour of the tower, which was created for visions with a wide view of Berlin. Greetings from Babylon in Berlin – scenes from the successful TV series were actually filmed in the atrium of the Behrens building. It has a complete basement, its own water supply through a deep well and air conditioning and was equipped with an automatic vacuum cleaner. State-of-the-art construction technology should also be the benchmark for all things in the future.
The spree is intended as a transport route for the removal of demolition
“A classic industrial building should be ready for the future,” says Mario Ragg, DIE AG’s executive director for project development. 280,000 square meters of gross floor area is being developed here. It will remain a commercial place. 10,000 employees should work in high-tech or research-oriented economic fields. Offices are created for them here. The apartments are not planned as part of the project – but a road bridge over the Spree, which DIE AG has agreed to finance. It would also connect Behrens-Ufer with the opposite Adlershof and better with local public transport. “We would also be ready to build a footbridge across the Spree,” says Gregor Keck, DIE AG’s location marketing manager.
The industrial park, which is still fenced, is to be open. This should not be possible without a demolition ball: the Spree is already intended as a transport route for demolition removal. “We’ve already secured dolphins, piles driven into the Spree,” says Ragg. Copper-coated glass panes from Hall L must be disposed of separately as hazardous waste. What can be left out, what will come?
Six passes are planned over a 400 to 500 meter wide queue on Ostendstrasse. It should be open to making the Spree Bank accessible to the public. “Quality of stay” is a magic word. For visitors to the then industrial complex, a food district in the form of a museum is planned, which is open and its appearance is comparable to New York’s Meatpacking District. There are still originals from the beginnings of the Behrens building and from the time of the WF, which have been stored over time, such as tools.
When viewed from the Spree, the visual axes may not be adjustable
Maybe there is another Badeschiff that could also become a floating podium: Berlin goes Bregenz. Coordination with the district continues. Among other things, the gross floor area (GFA) is still being discussed. “We also have to pay for the thing, which can only be done on a larger scale,” says Ragg. There have always been plans for this location: gmp Architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners have presented a feasibility study for the Behrens building, construction plans for F are in the drawer. The top Berlin conservationist, state curator Christoph Rauhut, also took part, attaching great importance to the fact that the field of vision from the Spree to the Behrens building is not hindered by “high points” – ie high-rise buildings. “The highest points do not come in the originally planned mass,” promises DIE AG Keck.
The investor is still discussing with the district of Treptow-Köpenick the layout and heights of the office buildings listed here. Visualization: DIA AG
The Lower Office for the Protection of Monuments is always available and does not want the advertising space of the Irish previous owner Comera to be affixed to the roof of the tower. More importantly: which windows must remain, which are allowed? “The description of the building was written by architect Peter Behrens’ office in pen, on canvas with passion and love,” says Ragg. It has been preserved. No bombings were recorded during World War II. Perhaps it was more interesting for the victorious forces to keep the tube technology in this place, instead of destroying it. Construction of the new quarter is scheduled to begin in 2021. The first leases are expected to be possible from April 2022, he is still confident today. The location should not leave anything that would be desirable in terms of energy and air conditioning technology. All new facade and window elements should be equipped with photovoltaics, the total energy supply should ensure the self-sufficiency of the place. Less energy should be used here than is produced. There will be no air conditioning in the buildings, but cooling through clay ceilings through which water will circulate. Rainwater tanks should be installed in places where there have been underground petrol tanks. Rare liquid must not be discharged into drains.
Only the listed Behrens building should be preserved Visualization: Nils Klöpfel
Roofs should be kept virtually technology-free and intensely green: “We don’t want moss there, we want flowers,” says Ragg. “Basically, they should be rooftop parks – nature on several levels,” adds Keck. This, of course, also includes the vegetable gardens of the two planned day care centers.
The requirements are as high as those of the Behrens Tower. DIE AG will have to be measured against this. “If green thinks, then think right,” says Mario Ragg. “Good ideas get worse when greed is added.”