Discovering the Messe area in Berlin

Photo Catherine Gras

Fans of the 1970s and fans of the 1920s and 1930s will find plenty to do in this slightly out-of-the-way district in the west of Berlin. There are three architectural ensembles, in chronological order: the Rundfunkhaus, the Radio House, the exhibition buildings (Messegelände) from the 1930s and the more recent International Congress Center Berlin (ICB).

Three ensembles, three styles!

Let’s start with the Haus des Rundfunks built between 1929 and 1931 by Hans Poelzig. The magnificent facade is covered with black brick and reddish-brown ceramic tiles.

Although located in the British sector when Berlin was partitioned in 1945, the Soviets continued to control the place until 1956, one of the oddities of Berlin during the cold war. It is easy to understand the interest that the Soviets and the Allies had to control the radio information… the radio tower, built in 1926, is located on the other side of the street (visible on one of the pictures below).

This façade is really characteristic and worth a visit. You can find another example of a building designed by Hans Poelzig in a post I wrote a few months ago about the city of Breslau

Opposite the radio house stands another architecturally interesting building: the exhibition centre. Built to plans by Hans Poelzig and Martin Wagner in 1928, its facade was designed to “respond” to that of the Radio House. Not all the original plans were followed and the bombing did not completely spare the building, but the view of the facade is still interesting. An imposing architecture!

With details to be observed closely: the checkouts with their hygienic phones and this much more recent booth for the parking attendant…

We will now take a step back in time some forty years to arrive at a particularly impressive example of 1970s architecture: the International Congress Center Berlin building. The first thing to think about is its location: a few dozen metres away from the other two buildings, but above all, it overlooks a particularly busy traffic route, an extension of a motorway coming from the south-west of the city. Ah, the 1970s! the reign of the car, the city is organised around these major roads.

This motorway, which I’ll come back to at the end of this post for a fourth place, was an important axis for West Berlin at the time, it was the way to get out of the city by car, via Dreiliden, aka Checkpoint Bravo.

This is what this “ship” looks like, sitting between the roads:

The street furniture is also characteristic of the 1970s, including the colours used in the metro station:

To finish with this district, another place, a little further south, which is difficult to reach as a pedestrian, but which you can see if you drive.

The motorway that comes from Potsdam and arrives in the district has quite a history! It was originally a private road, a racing track: the AVUS. This track was very long (today’s motorway) with a large elevated bend in the north, the scene of many accidents due to road closures. Completed after the First World War, this race track of just under 20km was in use until 1989, when the Wall fell.

Today it is a motorway and of this very particular past remains the grandstands, located at the south of the ICB and this motel which was used at the time as offices and dates from 1936, with its unobstructed view of the northern part of the circuit with its curve raised at 43°.

All in all, this district is a fine example, far from the usual routes, of the last century in Berlin. Where to find it:

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