Mäusebunker is finally saved from demolition
On May 24, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel and the Department of Heritage Protection announced that Berlin‘s brutalist Mäusebunker building has been saved from demolition and is now listed as a historical monument. The so-called ‘mouse bunker’, a radical, large-scale design by Gerd and Magdalena Hänska, was built between 1971-1981 as the animal laboratories center of the Freie Universität Berlin in Steglitz-Zehlendorf and used from 2003-2010 and 2020 respectively as a research institution for experimental medicine (FEM) by the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. However, when the last laboratory was closed in 2020, the Charité decided to use the Mäusebunker for other purposes before ultimately applying for demolition, despite it being a valued icon of brutalism. Fortunately, things took a turn for the better.
image © Felix Torkar | all courtesy SOSBrutalism (unless stated otherwise)
the dedicated people behind this latest heritage protection
When asked by Tagesspiegel why the Mäusebunker was only now chosen to be put under protection, Christoph Rauhut, head of the Department of Heritage Protection, said: ‘It was due to the already existing demolition permit. The State Monuments Office had not examined the case until then: Brutalism had, after all, only gradually moved into the public consciousness after the SOSBrutalism exhibition in 2017 at the Frankfurt Architecture Museum. The initial situation was then difficult: the Charité wanted to use the site for an expansion of the Benjamin Franklin Campus, while the monumental value of the Mäusebunker became increasingly clear. In fact, we owe it to the commitment of many people in Germany and abroad that the clock was turned back from five past twelve to five to twelve.’ (Tagesspiegel, May 24, 2023)
image © Felix Torkar
As Rauhut mentioned in his comment, SOSBrutalism, a large campaign dedicated to saving and cataloging brutalist buildings, played a big part in those turn of events — specifically Felix Torkar, who took the case all the way to the German Tagesschau, a national TV news services, with his own rescue campaign. Beside Torkar, a dedicated group of architects, art historians, and architecture enthusiasts also joined the fight to save Mäusebunker, including Ludwig Heimbach, Kay Fingerle, Francesca Ferguson, Friederike Meyer, and Gunnar Klack.
image © Felix Torkar, courtesy @mausebunker
honoring, preserving, and repurposing this 1970s icon
The building owes its nickname to its hermetic appearance of a tank or war bunker. Both the outer shell, as an expression of architectural freedom, and the interior, with complex development, a sophisticated ventilation system, and consistent separation of these two areas, are attributed a special monument value. The other two striking concrete architectures on the Charité Benjamin Franklin Campus — the hospital (1958-68) and the Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology (1966-74) — are already under monument protection. A model procedure is also underway to research all the possible ways that the building can be reused.
On the occasion of the heritage-protection news, an exhibition dubbed ‘SUDDENLY WONDERFUL. Future Ideas for Large West Berlin Buildings of the 1970s’ has opened to the public at the Berlinische Galerie. Running until September 18, 2023, the show spotlights, among many other similar landmarks, Mäusebunker as one of the many buildings characterizing the 1970s modernism that reigned in Berlin.
image © Felix Torkar