Berlin has a plethora of abandoned buildings. It is a part of its charm. What came to be known as Das Haus was once an old Berliner Volksbank in Charlottenberg. The building was left abandoned for years and was eventually taken over by Die Dixons, a local street art crew, in conjunction with Urban Art Project and other local art groups.
As an artist, imagine that you were given a whole room and told you can do anything you want with it. Destroy it, build it up, paint it, create- anything. Over 100 artists occupied the 108 spaces and 12,000 square meters- no limits.
Das Haus opened the 1st of April and remained open through the end of May. 7 days a week from 10-20. In June, it was demolished. Das Haus was an experience- a temporary one – and one that drew a crowd.
Urban Art Projects understood their audience. Berlin is a city of the arts with a lax attitude and at the right price- free. Before the exhibition would even open there was a line around the corner. Only 200 people were allowed in the building at a time. People were known to wait up to six hours. It took me two times and a total of roughly 4 hours of wait time. The second time I made sure I queued up between 8-8:30 in the morning with a book and a blanket. Second time was a charm and it was worth the wait.
Kees, a friend, and I took hours to get through the 5 floors. Keep Berlin, Berlin was a running theme as I encounter a re-crated Berlin street corner, floor to ceiling print outs of fliers found posted all over the city, stolen and reassembled train tracks, natural spaces recreated indoors, mazes, 3D paintings, black light rooms, an underwater experience, feet that could belong to a giant and a life size horse hanging from the ceiling. In every nook and cranny there was something to see. I knew I was walking through history- something soon only to be accessible in print.
There is the saying, if the walls could talk. Here, in ways, they did. If you listened closely they told the stories that circulated when the building was a bank, as they lay untouched rotting and as they were repurposed for art. They shared the comings and goings, gossip and stories of abandonment. What it feels like to have fleeting meanings.
Based off Berlin’s response this project won’t be the last of its kind. I am sure after the success of Das Haus Urban Art Project and local art groups have a few things up its sleeve. I am curious and excited to see what’s in store. My curiosity towards the numerous abandoned buildings around Berlin has also heightened.