The 1970s Architects weren’t kind to Berlin. While the cityscape of the east was dominated by myriads of Plattenbauten – the western half was turned into an architects playground who tried to do the exact opposite of what the east was doing, but somehow ended up doing the exact same thing. While the majority of the Plattenbauten in the east survived the German reunification, the Wests excursion into poparchitecture was almost completely wiped out of existence. But not the Bierpinsel in Steglitz- an architects middle finger to aesthetic design.
*Warning – Bierpinsel History*
The Bierpinsel – also known under its original name as the Turmrestaurant Steglitz (Tower Restaurant Steglitz) was designed by the Architects Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte (the same duo who designed the ICC Berlin) and built between 1972 and 1976. The 47 Meter high, bright red building – apparently inspired by a tree – was initially designed and built to offset the dominant presence of the overpass expressway and integrate it into the cityscape.
The tower officially opened on the 13th October, 1976 and had 3 levels which were used by the Wienerwald Fast Food Chain and housed a Disco. As with almost every landmark in Berlin, the Turmrestaurant received the lasting nickname “Bierpinsel” (Beer Brush) due to it being mainly used for gastronomical purposes, its brush like shape, and because free beer was served for its opening. Who said Berliners weren’t pragmatic? None of the business in the Bierpinsel lasted though, causing a heavy rotation in occupants and causing some financial woes for the owners.
The Bierpinsel was closed in 2002 as it desperately needed to be repaired and modernized. It was sold off in 2006 to a Mother-Daughter investor couple who had found several sponsors to fund the renovations, but were still on the lookout for someone suitable to run the restaurant inside. In April 2010 an artists cafe opened up inside and the new owners hosted a street art festival (Turmkunst 2010) and commissioned the graffiti Artists Flying Fortress, Honet, Sozyone and Craig „KR“ Costello (at the cost of €500,000) to “redecorate” the tower facade. The City initially agreed to this project, but only under the condition that the tower be painted back to its original red after one year. 3 years later the Bierpinsel still hasn’t returned to its original color.
During the cold winter of 2010/2011 a water pipe broke, and caused substantial damage to the tower. Arguments between the owners and the insurance company has delayed any repairs and the possible reopening. Ironically – the arguments have delayed the repainting of the Bierpinsel as the owners and insurance company aren’t sure to what extent the outer facade has been damaged.
Apparently the museum “The Story of Berlin” is currently in talks with the owners about moving their exhibition into the tower – but it would be too small for all the exhibits, which would in turn force them to build a new annex to the tower. No plans have been officially announced – and until the insurance company and the new owners can come to some sort of agreement, the Bierpinsel will remain vacant.
Like quite a few places in Berlin, Steglitz has never been at the top of my must see list. Its got a rather dire reputation (and looks rather dire as well) so ive never been in a rush to check it out. But the whole point of the 111 Places in Berlin project is to see new corners of the city that I would have otherwise overlooked.
Getting off at the U9 Schloßstraße is an interesting experience in itself. The whole station is designed after the Bierpinsel – lots of yellow, blue and red. Its like getting off in the 70s. The station is fantastically ugly – but in a charming way. Its like your grandmother bathroom, hideous but full of nostalgia. Depending on which exit you get out of you will either end up directly under the tower (and the expressway) or just down the street. We got out at the exit down the street to get a better view of the Bierpinsel. I felt a sudden rush of excitement when I saw the tower for the first time, but I didn’t really know what to say about this building. It just seems so alien, so obscure.
After a few flights of stairs you’ll reach the base of the Tower. It’s somewhat ironic that the Bierpinsel was built to hide the expressway, which you barely noticed in the first place. Instead you now have a bright red monstrosity sticking right out of it. The view off the Joachim Tibutius bridge (the expressway) isn’t unpleasant, but its the same view you’d get from anywhere else in Berlin.
As the Tower is closed, you’ll only be able to walk up an additional flight of stairs and all you’ll be able to see from here is C&A across the street (but you will evade the smell of urine coming from the U-Bahn)
Its worth walking along the bridge to get a better view of the colorful facade, especially since because sooner or later its going to be painted over again (I only just noticed when writing this that one side of the building has a vampire face painted on it – rather fitting for Berlin).
Its architecture, the colors and style just seem so out-of-place and outdated. But then again it’s so Berlin. Its uncomfortable, its awkward and its flawed. Its broken and its closed. But I would swear – if they ever thought about tearing it down, half the city would erupt in protest.
I can only hope that the building will be refurbished and reopened again soon as it seems a shame for such an interesting location to be closed and lost. Despite its ugliness, the Bierpinsel has character and will outlast all of its bland modern counterparts.
Public Transport: U9 Schloßstraße