When compared to other major European cities, Germany’s capital doesn’t have many old buildings. It’s no mystery as to why: World War II bombs, the construction of the Berlin wall, poor urban planning, modernisation and many other reasons have all contributed to this.
The first iteration of the Deutschlandhalle was built in 1935. It held up to 16,000 people and was frequently used for shows, sporting events and even Nazi propaganda events. It was mostly destroyed during the war, but was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1957.
The new building was a hot spot for international musicians driving the rock and pop revolution: Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones all played shows there. The Deutschlandhalle ceased concert operations in 1998 and was converted into an ice rink. In 2011, the building was demolished and the modern trade fair and congress hall City Cube was built on the site.
- Messedamm 26, Westend
Palast der Republik
This is probably the most famous of Berlin’s vanished buildings. The Palast der Republik stood where the old Stadtschloss (City Palace) used to be. It served as the seat of the DDR People’s Chamber beginning in 1976, but celebrations and concerts also took place there. East German bands such as Puhdys and Karat gave guest performances, and Udo Lindenberg also played in front of DDR audiences.
As a cheeky nod towards then-GDR leader Erich Honecker, the Palast was nicknamed Erich’s Lampenladen (or Erich’s lamp shop), because of the opulent interior lighting.
After the fall of the Wall, the building was closed and completely gutted because of the asbestos used in its construction. Despite widespread protests, it was finally demolished in 2008. The Humboldt Forum, which itself is not without controversy, now stands at this site
- Schloßplatz (then: Marx-Engels-Platz), Mitte
The Gloria Palast was one of the most important cinemas in Berlin from 1925 to 1998. The original building was destroyed during the war and rebuilt on the same site, and in the 1950s, it was the venue for the Berlinale. However, the venerable institution couldn’t quite keep up with modern cinemas and finally packed it in in 1998. The building was used as a fashion shop for a while, but it was demolished in 2017. The Gloria Berlin business and office complex stands here now.
- Kurfürstendamm 12-15, Charlottenburg
This unusual building resembled a gigantic maple leaf, and it was originally used as a restaurant for the DDR’s Ministry of Construction. In later years, the restaurant’s use was expanded to host staff from other government agencies. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, techno parties were held in the building, but it stood empty after 1994.
Despite fierce protests from the activists in the cultural and art scene, it was demolished in 2000 and replaced by a miserably plain hotel.
- Gertraudenstr./corner Fischerinsel, Mitte
The multi-purpose hall opened in 1910 in Schöneberg. It held 10,000 guests and was used for sporting events such as speed skating, ice hockey, equestrian tournaments, boxing matches and the Six-Day Race, as well as balls and concerts. Following severe war damage, the Sportpalast was rebuilt and continued to function as a venue for sports and concerts by jazz and rock artists. However, after 1973, it was no longer profitable to continue operating the venue, so the Pallasseum housing complex was built in its place.
- Potsdamer Str./Pallasstr., Schöneberg
This Protestant church, built in 1892, sat on the border between the Wedding and Mitte district. After WWII ended and Berlin was divided among the allied forces, the church found itself stuck right between the French and Soviet sectors. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, the church was located inside the so-called ‘Death Strip’ and remained closed for over 20 years. Border guards sometimes used it as a watchtower until in January 1985, the DDR government demolished it. In 2000, the Chapel of Reconciliation was constructed on the remains of the old foundation.
- Bernauer Str. 4, Mitte
The Bauakademie was designed by Berlin’s superstar architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The façade and interior design were revolutionary at the time, and the building served as a college where architects were trained from 1832-1836. The Bauakademie was damaged during the war, then demolished to make way for the DDR’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which stood opposite the Palace der Republik. The Foreign Affairs office didn’t stick around for long though, and was demolished in 1995.
Coming full circle, a structure made of a printed canvas attached to steel scaffolding was built to recreate the old Bauakademie. In 2016, the German Bundestag announced plans to build an expansive museum of architecture, with the style of the building using “as much Schinkel as possible”.
- Schinkelplatz, Mitte
You can hardly get more West Berlin than this. This futuristic, Lego-like department store building on Ku’damm was built in 1973, and it housed numerous shops, cinemas, the Berlin Panoptikum, a bowling alley and the Café des Westens. The highlight of the building was an enormous light grid screen with moving images and text. The intention was to evoke the visual experience of New York’s Times Square.
However, in spite of its popularity and bold design, the building never received cultural heritage protection and was demolished in 1998. Today, the prominent corner is occupied by the Neues Ku’damm-Eck.
- Kurfürstendamm/Joachimsthaler Str., Charlottenburg
In 1895, the Skladanowsky brothers brought their moving pictures to Berlin. They showed them to the public first in Pankow’s Tivoli and then in the Wintergarten. In the beginning, films were only part of Tivoli’s entertainment, but it established itself as a modern cinema in the 1920s.
The building survived WWII bombing and GDR rule, but it was finally closed in 1994, after almost exactly 100 years. It was demolished in 2003, and a Lidl now stands on this historic spot.
- Berliner Str. 27, Pankow
Stadtbad Wedding was once one of Berlin’s large public baths. In 1907, bathing in your own apartment was a luxury, but here you could bathe, take a shower and even swim. The building was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in the 1950s for use as a swimming pool with a wide range of facilities for children and schools.
The pool closed in 2002 for structural and hygiene reasons, but it reopened in 2009 under the name STATTBAD as an art venue and club. STATTBAD was a key feature in Wedding’s culture scene, until it was shut down in 2015 and the building demolished a year later.
- Gerichtstr. 64, Wedding
The Palasthotel was a five-star hotel in the DDR – the concrete façade was interspersed with eye-catching amber windows, and there were several bars and restaurants inside. It hosted important officials in the DDR and foreign guests, and the Stasi monitored everything that happened inside. During demolition in 2002, an American aerial bomb was found under the foundations.
- Karl-Liebknecht-Str./Spandauer Str., Mitte
Stadion der Weltjugend
The stadium was built in 1950, and was named the Walter Ulbricht Stadium after the DDR head of state and SED party leader. It was the largest stadium in East Berlin with a capacity of 70,000 spectators. After the World Festival of Youth and Students, it was renamed the “Stadium of World Youth” in 1973. The stadium hosted athletics, propaganda marches and the FDGB Cup finals. The derbies between 1. FC Union and the serial champions BFC Dynamo also took place here in order to keep the bitterly hostile fans apart.
When Berlin applied to host the 2000 Olympic Games during the reunification frenzy, the old stadium was demolished. However, Berlin botched the bid, and the sports hall planned for the stadium was never built. Today, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service) has it’s headquarters here.
- Chausseestr. 96, Mitte.