Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Kunsthaus Tacheles




Oranienburger Straße  Mitte




Arts and Crafts




commune, Gallery former luxury department store Friedrichstadt-Passage
Kunsthaus Tacheles

One of Kunsthaus Tacheles walls. The graffiti says "Where is Captain Nemo?"The Kunsthaus Tacheles is an art center and nightclub that was opened in East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down in the spring of 1990. Tacheles is a large (9000 square meter) building on Oranienburger Straße in the district known as Mitte. The exterior of the building was damaged from shelling in World War II, and much of the damage was never repaired. Huge, colorful graffiti-style murals are painted on the exterior walls, and modern art sculptures are featured inside.

Tacheles was originally occupied by a number of international artists, performers and musicians before becoming an art centre with a cafe, cinema, performance space, workshops and exhibition space. In the beginning it was run by well-known curator Jochen Sandig who expanded the building considerably. In its early days, Tacheles provided both housing and work space for its artist residents. In 1991, the associated housing burnt down, and there was considerable suspicion that the fire was started deliberately in order to pave the way for a new art centre. Among the early exhibitors were artist Mark Divo, sculptors the Mutoid Waste Company, musicians Spiral Tribe, theatre group DNTT, performance artist Lennie Lee, dancer/ choreographer Sasha Waltz, Ramm Theater, and many others.

Tacheles provided inspiration for a scene in the German film Good Bye Lenin!!, according to commentary by director Wolfgang Becker on the US DVD release.


View to the back side of the Tacheles. The Tacheles (Yiddish = talk turkey) is a multi cultural self-governing culture project. This former luxury department store was saved from demolition due to squatting by about 50 artists. Up to 1981 the building was the only repertory cinema of the former capital of the GDR named Camera. The future of the dilapidated building is uncertain.

The History of TACHELES

“Tacheles” is an old Jewish word meaning to disclose, to reveal or to speak clearly. The slang meaning of the word was bringing to an end.

The Art-Centre Tacheles is situated in a ruin in Berlin Mitte. Located in former East Berlin, the area was a Jewish quarter in the past and has now become a meeting point for people interested in arts and culture and for those who think they are.

The building itself was the entrance of the Friedrichstadt-Passage, a huge shopping mall built in 1907.

Within a relatively short time, the department store went bankrupt, and in 1928 the house was taken over by AEG, that founded the Haus der Technik, a display and marketing space for their products.

In Word War II parts of the building were used by the Nazi Party for administration and organization departments, and in the 5th floor French prisoners of war were detained.

Between 1943 and 1945 during the allied air raids the building was hit by bombs several times and got partly damaged, but not completely destroyed.

After 1948, one side of the building was still used for many different purposes, but the other side was slowly torn down, step-by-step, as the East Berlin government had no funds to restore it properly and for the distant future they had other plans for this area. So meanwhile, the house became just a storage for building material. The very last structure still standing was planned to be demolished in April 1990.

In Febuary 1990 the building was discovered and taken over by a group of young artists from all over the world and in the meantime it has been declared a historical architectural monument, regarding its special steel construction.

After the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, a subculture which had its main focus on autonomy, spontaneity and improvisation arose in the former East Berlin areas Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. Artists and individualists from all over the world used the plurality of available free spaces to put alternative lifestyles to the test.

Due to the individualistic character of the building and the mass of creative activities taking place, the Tacheles soon became famous. Right from the start, Tacheles was a centre of development and realization of individual ways of thinking, of the creative contamination of art and living as well as the testing of artistically and urban ideas. Many international artists staged performances or concerts here, exhibited paintings, sculptures and installations. This essential thought still exists today and the program was even extended further by staging and organizing performances, theatre, various workshops, poetry and special events.

During its existence, Tacheles in its function as an international arts centre has greatly influenced and formed the surrounding area in a positive as well as in a negative sense. By now the once creative surrounding area has mutated to a napless trend quarter.

Tacheles also attained recognition from the Berlin government and receives a varying amount of subsidy every year in order to help finance a part of its many projects. Other money is raised through commercial enterprises such as the cinema and the bar.

Because of its special architecture and the “ruin appearance” of the rearside and due to its 13 years of activities in the international arts field, “Kunsthaus Tacheles” became quite a celebrity on a national and international scale and is also listed in many travel guides of Berlin.

In the course of changes since the wall came down, Tacheles has been confronted with the difficult challenge of remaining true to its roots and ideals without becoming too sentimental about the old squatter times.


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