Uncovering Berlin’s Hidden Architectural History

secret garden lava

A recent structural discovery that was recently found buried beneath 30 tonnes of rubble has the global industry abuzz.

The architectural secret, which was dubbed ‘Berlin’s best kept architectural secret,’ is a three-storey German Music Hall Theatre, designed by famous architect and business owner Oscar Garbe and built in 1905.

Discovered by Dirk Moritz of the Moritz Gruppe over 100 years later, the building is said to have fallen into disarray and buried post-Nazi wartime.

“From the outside, with its bricked-up windows and rundown facade it was hard to imagine the impressive architecture that awaited me within,” says Moritz. “Opening the front door revealed an amazing sight: I found an old hall, a grand ballroom, a 300 square metre theatre, wall paintings and metre-high stuccoed ceilings. Memories of a glorious time at the beginning of the last century.”

secret garden lava

Not willing to let what has aptly been named ‘the Secret Garden’ go to waste, Moritz has acquired the services of Australian/German architectural firm LAVA to redevelop the space. While the design team and developer will not be able to refurbish the building as a functional theatre due to current planning restrictions, they plan to re-establish the space as a mixed-use building, featuring luxury apartments for short term and executive rental, performances and exhibition space, studios, meetings and conference rooms.

“Unfortunately we can’t turn it back to a music hall due to city regulations but we will conserve interior features including the beautiful stucco,” says Moritz. “Our aim is to make a contribution to art and contemporary living – a mix of old and new. Otherwise this beautiful piece of history would just be forgotten completely and probably demolished at some point.”

secret garden lava

Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA Berlin, explains that in order to achieve this goal design inspiration will be taken from the building’s mysterious history and cultural heritage.

“The feeling inside this long forgotten space is unique as it is, so we are trying to preserve this while adding functional elements and turning it into a place suitable for multiple occasions,” Wallisser says. “We are working on proposals determining what to keep as found, what to restore and what to add in a contemporary style. We are also studying options how to furnish the space to cater for the needs of different users. Historic preservation, fire protection, and modern comfort levels need to be considered when converting this place into a ‘Secret Garden’.”

secret garden lava

This architectural find of a century has a €1.7m  price tag and is expected to bring together the best of old and new Berlin. Work on the redevelopment program will begin next year, with a 2014 completion deadline.

Image Credit: Moritz Grouppe LAVA
By Jane Parkins
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