The Charm of the Rough

The Charm of the Rough

Today there are many galleries on Brunnenstrasse, but that is not all. In the afternoon, an old couple – she wears make-up and a beret, he a suit – sits at Schnell bakery and eats cake. Plot number 166 is still vacant; it is used as a parking lot. In Bräustübl people are already ordering drinks in the afternoon, the King Kong Klub is not yet open. Kunststoffen, which is in the corner house opposite Jandorf’s department store, has stocked, as long as anyone can remember, all kinds of articles for decoration purposes. The display windows of the neighbouring shop, which was temporarily used in the summer before last, are boarded up. Even the building with the number 183, which was until just recently occupied by squatters, is locked up. It was evacuated by the police in December 2009. The window panes have been broken. And on the ground floor of the building, where the Umsonstladen (free shop) that gave away useful things at no cost was located, thick metal sheets have been fixed to prevent another illegal occupation. On the other side of the street at the Kim Bar, located right next to the entrance to the underground, the in crowd of artists, writers and media people come together at night.

The most surprising improvement on Brunnenstrasse is, however, the new construction right next door. Currently in Berlin, the idea of temporary use is visibly being replaced by the demand for redeveloping old structures. An example of this is the planned rebuilding of the old Hohenzollern palace (Stadtschloss), which the communists demolished in 1950 in a historical, political action terming it a “symbol of Prussian militarism and nobility”. In its stead, the Palace of the Republic was built. It housed the East German Parliament, the Volkskammer, and was used as a “cultural building open to the people”. Several restaurants, a discotheque and a bowling alley were attractions gladly made use of by the GDR citizens. From 2004 this Palace of the Republic, freed from asbestos and stripped to bare walls, was likewise an object of temporary use. Eventually it was torn down as well. Today the palace square is a green field in the historical centre of Berlin. Even this is an act of temporary use, inviting one to relax, until the old palace is built again. Directly opposite is the Temporäre Kunsthalle (Temporary Art Exhibition Gallery).

Arno Brandlhuber, the builder and architect of the new construction on Brunnenstrasse that is currently attracting a great deal of attention in the city, did neither one nor the other; he didn’t make temporary use of the place and he also didn’t redevelop. On the foundations of an abandoned project, he constructed a new building. For this Brandlhuber needed only cement, polycarbonate elements which were never considered for use as façades, and the guts to build the access to his building in the backyard by means of a wildly projecting outside staircase. The building is made with cheap material and does without plaster and flooring. It combines the no-frills minimalism of the classic modern with the charm of the rough and unfinished; the qualities which made Berlin so interesting to entire generations of newcomers and tourists after the opening of the Wall. Brandlhuber’s building, thus points to the future beyond the post revolutionary temporary solution on the one hand and the altogether uninspired recourse to the pre-war past on the other. Brandlhuber’s construction fits in well on Brunnenstrasse.

Since the revolution in 1989, the street has been in a state of flux. As long as it keeps changing, Berlin keeps to its promise.


Tobias Rapp: „Lost and Sound. Berlin, Techno und der Easyjetset“, Suhrkamp 2009
Wolf Jobst Siedler: „Die gemordete Stadt. Abgesang auf Putte und Straße, Platz und Baum“, F.A. Herbig 1964.
Dokumentiert wurde die Szene vor Kurzem in einem Sammelband mit beiliegender CD. Alexander Pehlemann, Ronald Galenza (Hrsg.): „Spannung. Leistung. Widerstand: Magnetband-Kultur in der DDR 1979-1990“, Verbrecher Verlag 2006.
Irina Liebmann: „Stille Mitte von Berlin. Eine fotografische Spurensuche rund um den Hackeschen Markt“, Berlin Verlag 2009.
Hakim Bey: T.A.Z.: „The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchism, Poetic Terrorism“, Autonomedia 1991.