Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Warenhaus am Weinberg, or Kaufhaus Jandorf in Brunnenstraße as it is known today, was the third out of six department stores opened in Berlin by Abraham Adolf Jandorf (the last one being the now world-famous Berlin´s KaDeWe, or Kaufhaus des Westens).
It architects, Lachmann & Zauber, inspired by Alfred Messel´s designs for the Wertheims of the Warenhaus Wertheim chain, provided the building with a steel-frame grid – a step which made it both stable and modern. The steel skeleton frame it was built on and around – walls, floors and the roof of such buildings are, to put it simply, attached to the grid – was an invention which paved the way towards the construction of famous American skyscrapers. It also made those buildings particularly resistant: no wonder that most of the steel-frame buildings in Berlin survived WWII almost intact.
Next to Jandorf´s department store in Brunnenstraße corner Veteranenstraße, the group encompassed, among others: the famous Weinhaus Huth at Potsdamer Platz (the only original Potsdamer Platz house which survived both the war and the days of the Berlin Wall), Shell-Haus at Reichpitschufer at Landwehrkanal, and Columbushaus which eventually burnt down (but for the frame) during the East Berlin Uprising of 1953. Other examples of steel-frame architecture – Weinhaus Rheingold (1907), Vox-Haus (1908), Haus Vaterland (1912) – came out of the turmoil more or less still standing, too, but were removed later.
Jandorf´s store, a 5-storey edifice with an elegant stone façade featuring bees as a symbol of Fleiß (German for industriousness), offered medium-priced goods to the mostly working-class and middle-class residents of Rosenthaler Vorstadt, which at the beginning of the 20th century was a fast-developing but pretty poor area with plenty of perspectives for clever businesspeople. Today, this part of the city between Torstraße, Brunennstraße, Prenzlauer Allee and Pankow counts as one of the most gentrified corners of Berlin.
In 1926 Warenhaus am Weinberg, like all Jandorf´s stores, was bought by the competition, Warenhaus Tietz chain (and here´s a little piece of local historical trivia for your next pub quiz: Tietz´s first Berlin location, in Leipziger Straße, was co-designed by the same architect duo, Lachmann & Zauber). “Aryanised” by the Nazis, it became a Hertie department store, followed b “Union Vereinigter Kaufstätten” between 1938-1945, and after the war served East Berlin as its Haus der Mode, or Fashion House, where new trends were developed and turned into highly desired new pieces of clothing. At the time, Jandorf´s store was considered to be the best fashion show venue on this side of the Iron Curtain.
Today it is still used as a venue, however, it is not limited to fashion only. The building, bought and pepped up by a Frankfurt-am-Main investor after the Wende, can be rented for exhibitions, shows and events by anyone prepared to invest in having it at their disposal. Those, who like the author, could not possibly be able to do so without selling a kidney or two, can hope to get a sneaky peek at the old but not aged beauty of Lachmann & Zauber´s design by having their name put on the guest lists for one of the said events. Or you can visit the site virtually by going to the following web page.