This glorious monolith is the DDR Ministerium für Bauwesen (Building Ministry) and was designed by architect Rolf Göpfert in 1967/68.
The structure has some great cheeky little bits of deco, like the diamond shapes on the cornices.
Until the end of last year, the building’s facade also boasted a huge, colourful enamel Walter Womacka frieze (see post for info), which has now been removed. Thankfully, it’s in safe hands. After developers threatened to bin the frieze unless someone took it off their hands, the decidedly left-leaning WBM housing association kindly stepped in and bought it (can you imagine a London housing association doing the same thing???). I’m hoping it’ll pop up on some other facade in Berlin soon.
I always wanted to get into this building, which seems to have been empty for a while. The faded net curtains and photo of Walter Ulbricht in the front window certainly had me chomping at the bit, wondering what other pre-Wende joys might be discovered inside. I finally managed it, but it took Walter Womacka dying in order for it to happen.
After his death, the Walter Womacka association announced it would hold a commemorative film evening in the building’s lobby, which for me, felt a bit like Christmas had come early.
The building was cold, a bit damp and smelt very musty. I wanted to imagine that what I was smelling was an authentic whiff of GDR, and that we were the first people to enter the building since it had been vacated in the early 90s, although I know we weren’t. But even if it hadn’t been hermetically sealed since the collapse of communism, the lobby certainly felt ‘authentic’ – I swear there wasn’t one item of furniture in there which didn’t pre-date 1984.
Sadly, I didn’t manage to explore the rest of the building, as I was half of the audience and thought the organiser might notice if I dashed off to carbon date bits of furniture.
I regret not having at least asked to have a peek round now, because the Ministry is now being gutted. Agh. Will post some pics soon, if I can bear to photograph the carnage.