December 18 2012

Handling Historical Relicts: Conversion or Preservation?

Deep within the Grunewald, Berlin’s largest forest, lies a special treasure of great historical significance: a hill called Teufelsberg. It’s a challenge to find it, but once you do, you will be rewarded with an extraordinary view across the whole city. With its 114.7 meters in height, it might not seem that high of a mountain, but it’s one of Berlin’s two largest sites.

Teufelsberg, Germany

Teufelsberg was artificially created in the 1950s, when the destruction after World War 2 left great amounts of rubble that had to be stored somewhere – in this case it was turned into a hill. Considering it a great strategic location, the American Military erected several buildings with a radio station during the Cold War to spy on the Soviet-protected territory of Eastern Germany. Since 1991 the buildings have been abandoned.

While the forest around and on Teufelsberg is a popular recreational destination – for mountain biking, climbing, kite-flying, sledding, and even skiing – the former radio station lies untouched. That is – officially untouched. Due to its great qualities as a viewpoint and historically interesting site, Teufelsberg buildings are frequented by adventurous urban tourists, who climb across the fence to experience its raw and unique treasures on their own.

For years, the city of Berlin has been looking for an investor to revitalize the space, but none of the eligible candidates have been able to realize their concept. The question remains: who will get to use it? What concept could encompass its natural, historical and architectural qualities?

Teufelsberg, Germany

Numerous architects and investors have brought forward ideas of possible new uses: from a museum about espionage, to restaurant and hotel scenarios – having such a special space to work with created many extraordinary ideas. In 2008 the Maharashi foundation planned to buy the land to build a university, including an institute for “Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace,” founded by the David Lynch Foundation.

Several ideas failed because of high construction prices and strict environmental laws for the site. Maybe it’s time to accept it for what it is – a monument and popular tourist destination. Since February 2011, official tours have been offered for curious visitors who would like to look at the ruins. But the hole in the fence is still the most popular way to get on the territory.

What is your opinion – can you imagine a commercial future for this space or should it be turned into a monument for public use?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Luise Letzner

Originally from Berlin, Luise Letzner currently pursues a Masters at HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany, in Urban Planning. She also holds a B.A. in European Studies from Malmö University, Sweden, where she focused on inner-city redevelopment projects, place branding, and the concept of urbanity. She worked as a concept strategist and social media manager for several online agencies and in trend research, where she investigated new forms of communication via mobile and online technology, as well as trends within city marketing. Apart from Sweden, she has lived in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. and is fascinated by different approaches to the creation and use of public spaces within city centres. For The GRID, she investigated current urban and environmental design projects in Berlin and Hamburg.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 6:51 pm and is filed under Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Handling Historical Relicts: Conversion or Preservation?”

  1. Aascot Holt Says:

    Hello, fellow GSP blogger!

    I’m really happy to see somebody bring urban exploration to light in a sensitive manner. A lot of urban exploration is looked down upon, at least in the States (because most of the time the best places to go are the illegal ones…), but I’m glad to see that somewhere it’s accepted as a purely fun fascination with linking to the past.

    Great post and I’m excited to see more from you!

    Best wishes,

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