Thursday, 10 September 2009

Bunker on Albrechtstrasse, Berlin

Reinhardtstrasse in central Berlin seems a typically ordinary Berlin street, a mixture of building types and uses, the modern architecture of the Spree Eck building at one end and the Friedrichstadt Palast facing down the street from Friedrichstrasse at the far end. What stands out most of all is the large concrete block building on the corner of Albrechtstrasse, a massive square symmetrical building with a height of around 18 metres. What looks even more unusual is the modern looking penthouse built onto the roof, complete with roof garden, which only very slightly softens the hard appearance of the concrete fa├žade.

There are a small number of World War II bunkers remaining in Berlin, most are left because they are simply too difficult to remove. In the case of the Reinhardtstrasse bunker the close proximity of nearby buildings would make removal impossible without causing damage to neighbouring property.

This bunker was completed in 1943 to a design by Karl Bonatz and was built for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the German state railway. Its purpose was to provide shelter for train passengers using the nearby Friedrichstrasse station, but it could also be used by local residents and theatre goers, providing shelter for around 3000 people seated, with 48 beds available.

The bunker has 5 floors and originally had about 120 rooms. Double doors are located centrally on each side of the building connected to a staircase, which enabled large numbers of people to enter the building at the same time. The outer walls are constructed of 2 metre thick re-inforced concrete, with the roof being 3 metre thick.

In May 1945 the bunker was occupied by the Red Army who later used it as a war prison. Since then it has had various uses, including as a warehouse and as a hardcore techno club hosting SM and fetish parties renowned throughout Germany.

In 2003 Christian Boros and wife Karen Lohmann purchased the property to house their contemporary art collection. The conversion was carried out by Jens Casper of Realarchitektur, Berlin. The outside of the bunker was cleared of later adaptations but signs of war damage were left (see image below with damage to slit window opening). Alterations were made inside, making the original 120 rooms into 80, providing about 3000 square metres of exhibition space, with the penthouse added onto the roof area to provide a modern and open plan living area.

The collection opened in 2007 and can be viewed by appointment only – bookings can be made through the Sammlung-Boros website.

see also photo Bunker On Albrechtstrasse / Reinhardtstrasse (Boros Art Collection), Berlin, Germany


  1. Doesn't it seem a little odd that they could fit 3000 people inside, but had only 48 beds? In case of nuclear disaster, they could have been stuck in there for a while - and no place to sleep...

    Otherwise, loving the photographs, and had often wondered about this building, just putting it down to "new agey" berlin architecture.

  2. thanks Rose!
    I think the low number of beds is fairly common for the WWII bunkers. They were only designed as short term shelter and some only provided beds for mothers and children. Also to maximise the number of places available in a bunker, the number of beds had to be kept to a minimum - people sitting take up much less space than beds.
    If you haven't been inside the bunker at Gesundbrunnen it is very interesting and gives a very clear and horrifying picture of what it would have been like to spend time in one of these places.