Wallstrasse - architectural gems and a surprising history

Historic architecture in Wallstrasse, Berlin

Berlin's historic heart - the place where the city began - lies just to the east of Alexanderplatz.

Tragically, WWII bombing and subsequent GDR redevelopment largely put paid to the area's former charm, but if you can ignore the traffic-clogged highways and grim, characterless concrete, a surprising number of hidden highlights are just waiting to be discovered.

One of them is an entire street: Wallstrasse, which was once a bustling centre of commerce and still retains much of its former grandeur.

Number 15, for example, was constructed between 1910 and 1911 for Lebram, a business trading in gold and silver articles.

Sculpted likenesses of two of history's greatest goldsmiths - Peter Henlein and Benvenuto Cellini - flank the impressive entranceway.

Another former commercial building is at Wallstraße 27 (below left). Dating from 1913, its imposing height and Jugendstil-influenced decoration is typical of Berlin's small department stores of the time.

Former retail store in Wallstrasse, Berlin
Deatil of historic architecture, wallstrasse, Berlin

Almost opposite, the neoclassical facades of Wallstraße 84-85 (1872 - below) appear more like grand residences than business premises, and the upper levels were certainly used as such.

The combined ground floors, however, once housed the hardware store Lademann, and still harbour one of Berlin's most evocative hidden spaces, an extraordinary 19th century showroom complete with imposing mezzanine gallery.

Neoclassical facades in Wallstrasse, Berlin Mitte

Hidden architectural gem in Berlin's wallstrasse
19th century showroom in Wallstrasse, Berlin

Long scheduled for redevelopment, the crumbling interior is only occasionally open to the public, and may, finally, be restored and privatised by 2015.

A little further down Wallstraße you'll find one of the street's most spectacular buildings.

Number 76-79, with its lavish, pink-hued ceramic facade, was once home to storage and manufacturing facilities for the clothing industry. Today, the 1912/13 edifice provides a suitably grand location for the Australian Embassy.

Ceramic tiled facade in wallstrasse, Berlin

The urban landscape changes yet again at 61-65, where a block of offices designed by modernist architectural luminaries Max Taut und Franz Hoffmann seem almost as contemporary today as when they were first built between 1922-23.

Finally, at 42–48, the remains of Berlin's first ever grammar school, the Köllnisches Gymnasium, provide a typical (though none the less impressive) example of German 19th century brickwork.

And from here, Wallstrasse leads into Köllnischen Park, with its various attractions including the high-profile Märkisches Museum, and one or two lesser-known sights, such as Berlin's real bear mascot, and a collection of wonderful city scale models.

Wallstraße, 10179 Berlin

See also:
Berlin's real bear
A hidden Jugendstil classic
The old/new Town Hall
Not quite what they seem: Berlin's historic docks

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