Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


A short note about an electrifying place.


In Bergmannstrasse 5-7 where now the so called Ärtztehaus spreads its mock-1920s façade (and in order to see how very much “mock” it is, just go up the stairs and look into the courtyard – Babelsberg Film Studios are more real than this) the top management of Berlin´s electricity provider BEWAG (Vattenfall today) attend the opening ceremony for the newest Berlin Abspannwerk.

For those of the readers without a degree in electric engineering – and I say, as long as the dishwasher´s running and the notebook´s on, why ask? – Abspannwerk is the place where high voltage electricity is turned into its more user-friendly low voltage self and is then sent to individual recipients. To put it in very simple terms…

Hans Heinrich Müller, the architect of the electric cathedrals

Just as almost all other BEWAG Umspann– and Abspannwerke in Berlin, also this one was designed by the true master of the pre-war German industrial architecture, Hans Heinrich Müller – his Umspannwerk Ohlauer Strasse corner Paul-Lincke-Ufer built in 1925 was immediately christened Kathedrale der Elektrizität. After meticulous restoration the complex underwent a couple of years ago it is obvious to anyone looking that it must have deserved that name.

As for the Abspannwerk Bergmannstrasse I was thrilled and astounded to discover that it is also still very much present: after the renovations in 2006-2007 the former Wartegebäude (Control Room) houses several surgeries, including the best paediatric one in this part of town and perhaps even beyond, while the old Schalthaus was turned into a ladies´ gym (now, that would have been an incentive to go there when I was still a member; back then I thought, though, that the building was a former brewery…).

Here are some photos of the former Abspannwerk Bergmannstrasse:

The grounds of the former Abspannwerk Bergmannstrasse during Kreuzberg Jazz Festival 2003 (photo: Pete Shacky, Flickr)

Abspannwerk Bergmannstrasse in 2003 (photo: Pete Shacky)

Now, the mad researcher and a harbinger of all things trivia in me cannot let such an opportunity pass so here it is:

Müller designed most of the electric sub-stations in Berlin and certainly the most beautiful ones. And as we know by now, one of them was in Bergmannstrasse where at the Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof II (not to be confused with Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof I between Mehringdamm and Zossener Strasse), right next to Adolf von Menzel (we shall come back to him soon) there lies another pre-war German industrial architect, Georg Klingenberg, whose greatest work, the so called Kraftwerk Klingenberg (“Klingenberg” power plant) in Berlin-Rummelsburg, provided electric power transformed and distributed through Müller´s creations.

The man who actually oversaw the construction of Kraftwerk Klingenberg, one Walter Klingenberg, was the brother of Georg´s.

And speaking of siblings: after his first wife´s, Luise´s, death in 1922, Hans Heinrich Müller married her sister, Susanne. Luise´s and Susanne´s maiden name was Mehring. Their uncle, a great journalist, social-democratic politician and historian from Schlawe in Pomerania (today known as Slawno where many years later yours truly was born), Franz Mehring was honoured in 1946 by having one of the main Berlin streets named after him: the name Belle-Alliance-Strasse was replaced with Franz-Mehring-Strasse. A year later it was changed again and became… Mehringdamm. Where the Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof I is. And which marks the end of Bergmannstrasse where Klingenberg´s grave and Müller´s Abspannwerk can be found today…

Insignificant? Maybe. Overstretched? Perhaps. But as Agent Moulder once said: “Thirteen fifty-four. Thirteen fifty-two. Thirteen fifty. You see a pattern emerging here, Scully?” 

2 comments on “TODAY IN BERLIN: NOVEMBER 15th

  1. berlioz1935
    November 25, 2012

    You are a real fact hunter. Behind every house number there is a story.


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