Electric gas! Berlin, Electropolis and the birth of Siemens

by Paolo Brasioli

By Merlin, Elena and Paolo Brasioli. Drawings by Paolo Brasioli

Today, meine Freunde, Gassi … with the shock! No dangerous high voltage toys with switches or plugs! So let’s see what it is. As we all know, for many Berliners of yesteryear, theAnhalter Bahnhof it was the “gateway to the south”, from where, for example, the “Riviera-Napoli-Express” had its point of departure and arrival. So this was an area of ​​Berlin connected to the world and destined, in a way, to export, in the 1800s to the early 1900s, life and high-class and specialized Berlin entrepreneurship to the world! And here, right there, around here, “a spark fell.” Something very important has seen the light. A first small step has been taken. Actually Ernst Werner von Siemens (1816-1893) founded, only thirty years old and in order to improve the technology and operation of the telegraph, the company Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halsketogether with the precision engineer Johann Georg Halske (1814-1890).

The origins of Siemens: the foundations for an ‘electric city’

It all began on October 12, 1847, in a simple, humble yard at the back of a building near the great railway station. And so in a few years the small laboratory of the building turned into an important company and contributed decisively to the development of Berlin as “Elektropolis”, known and appreciated worldwide, precisely in the years of the special technological, industrial and economic development of those glorious times!

The traces of the amazing beginning of this story, 175 years to date, sure success and prestige (to date the company has almost 385,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than 80 billion euros!) are still here, I estimate in the air, although obviously Siemens no longer resides in these parts!

So, more or less, where the elevator to the underground S-Bahn station is today Anhalter Bahnhofin the garden with flower beds full of fragrant white roses, was the original house at Schöneberger Straße 33, which was eventually demolished at the time of the construction of the north-south tunnel for the S-Bahn in the 1930s. Built in 1842, it was a of the first buildings in the neighborhood right in front ofAkzisemauerthe customs barrier that surrounded the city between 1734 and 1860;

Growth and success: new buildings that tell a company’s story

In a short time, due to the intense activity, the operational capacity of the workshop on the 1st floor was no longer sufficient and in 1852 the production was moved to a new location in Markgrafenstrasse, more towards Mitte. At the same time as laying the foundation stone for the next famous one Siemensstadt in SpandauHowever, Siemens also made a major return to the original Anhalter Bahnhof.

Between 1899 and 1901, a new administration building was built for the management and planning department of the Siemens company. Designed by an engineer Karl Janisch (1870-1946), then head of the building department at Siemens, the building reached deep into the block, but only had a relatively narrow street frontage. When the headquarters moved to Spandau, the building was sold to Accumulator Fabrik AG, in which Siemens and AEG held shares. Despite the concentration of Siemens headquarters in Spandau, the company did not want to part with the attractive and iconic address near the historic and international Anhalter railway station and close to the government quarter among others.


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And so, between 1914 and 1915. a new administration building was built on the property at Schöneberger Strasse at numbers 3 and 4, directly opposite the company’s original headquarters. Except in his office Carl Friedrich von Siemens (1872-1941), Haus Siemens also housed technical offices and several sales and exhibition halls. The project for the Siemens house was also carried out by Karl Janisch, although the architect Hans Hertlein (1881-1967) is considered the author of the architectural work. In fact, he managed the manufacturing department of Siemens. In 1929/30 the building was incorporated by management with an extension building on the neighboring property. In contrast to the neoclassical facade of the original building, Hans Hertlein’s new building was designed in a more functional and modern style.

The war and the (partial) farewell to Berlin

During the Second World War, the Siemens house was badly damaged in many places and even partially burnt down. It was repaired in 1947, but the global post-war political situation meant that Berlin increasingly lost its importance as an industrial location. Like many other large companies, Siemens also moved its headquarters in Bavaria, right in Munich and Erlangen, concentrating the remaining activities in Berlin and apparently in Siemensstadt in Spandau. The real estate units were gradually sold. So since 1996 the building remains empty and wrapped in a lonely and silent scenario.

The reunion

But then with the reunification of Germany, Askanischer Platz and its surroundings have again become the vital center of Berlin. And so the Hotel opened in 2004 in this former Siemens building. It is the editorial office of the newspaper Der Tagesspiegelwhich is the German capital’s best-selling newspaper, with circulation mainly in the western districts, has been housed in part of this historic building since 2009.

A renovation with respect for history

When planning the renovation of the building, of course special attention was paid to its history. Externally the defining stone slab and large windows with classically elegant frames characterize the building! On the gate to the right, on the metal gate are the initials “S” and “H”, reminding us of the two founders, Siemens and Halske, and in stone relief, in the center of the arch, a telegraph pole is represented! Inside, among other things, the former state rooms, today give the four-star hotel a special atmosphere, imbued with important stories! There is also close cultural contact with the German Museum of Technology and of course with the Siemens Archive in Munich.

Also, somehow, at the same time this hotel continues, proud and mighty as it is, the neighborhood’s tradition of hospitality, just like the other hotel across the espanada, built in the former post office. SW11. In fact, this area was characterized, in the glorious and lively past, by the presence of numerous renowned hotels, among which the famous, very luxurious and very large for the time, Hotel Excelsiorright in front of the station!

So I repeat knowing that, as there is no trace or clear testimony of this history in these places, visiting these places one can feel “electric in the air”, among the fragrant white roses, this fantastic adventure of science, technology and entrepreneurship at the highest international level! See interesting!? Chush

The author: Architect Paolo Brasioli – Four | architecture

Coming from a family of Venetian artists, Paul Brazioli influenced early on by Italy’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. The influence of his father, Alfredo Brasioli, a famous Italian cartoonist, illustrator and graphic artist, was fundamental.

His work to date has focused on high-quality hotel construction and interior design for residences, hotels and gastronomy and wellness establishments, as well as the creation of furniture, lighting, accessories and art.

He has worked with renowned hotel companies and groups such as Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Falkensteiner, Hilton, Hyatt, Le Meridien, Leonardo Hotels, Marriott, NH Hotels, Rocco Forte Hotels and Sheraton. Many of his creations have been exhibited in renowned art and design exhibitions.

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