Walking along the Spree you’ll find an ever decreasing amount of crumbling factories and halls. All are destined to make way for the MediaSpree Project, for luxury Hotels and Offices in the name of Urban Renewal. Yet one of these rotting factories has managed to temporarily evade this fate. The Eisfabrik.
Since private homes had no access to electric or gas-powered refrigerators (they hadn’t even existed yet at that time) people relied on giant Ice Factories to keep their goods cool.
*Warning – Eisfabrik History and Berlin Trivia*
The Norddeutsche Eiswerke AG was founded in 1872 by Carl Bolle. Bolle had purchased several plots of land throughout the city 1893- among them a piece of land on the Köpenicker Straße along the Spree. In 1896 construction for a brand new Ice Factory had begun. The Factory was completed within the same year and started producing ice rods and blocks to supply the breweries, pubs, grocers and homes with. An additional office building and 2 residential buildings were completed in 1910. In 1914, a new Ice Machine was installed, which greatly increased the production capabilities.
Now for those of you living in Berlin – here’s a nice piece of trivia. The Districts of Berlin Mitte and Kreuzberg werent always called that, nor were they separate districts (or even part of Berlin – they belonged to Cölln). They used to be joined together under the name Luisenstadt. A Canal used to run through Luisenstadt – known as the Luisenstädtischer Kanal. It was laid dry in 1926 – and the City Gardendirector wanted to build an Indian Garden – with palm trees and all – reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. The warm water from the Eisfabrik was supposed to feed into a giant Indian Pond.
City officials then changed their minds and wanted to build a Thermal Bath, but apparently the local catholics protested against the idea so that idea was dropped. Who would have thought that german catholics would prefer a heathen garden compared to a sanitizing bath.
Based on the original idea, the city built the beautiful garden and the Indian fountain. But not the pool. So now when you walk through Kreuzberg, you know why there’s a beautiful rose garden and an Indian fountain in a dried up canal. (I’ve got a separate post coming up about this part of town soon)
Back to the Eisfabrik.
We now reach the inevitable point in German History when everything goes to shit. A bomb destroyed the right-wing of the Residential Building and had to be torn down. The Red Army took charge of the factory and put it under forced administration until 1948 when it was handed over to a “Consumer Cooperative”. Over the years the names of the owners changed, and the demand for ice dropped – yet surprisingly the Eisfabrik continued to produce Ice until October 1991. As with most factories from the DRR – after the wall came tumbling down, people soon realized they were operating at a substantial loss and were forced to close down.
The Factory was meant to be torn down in 1995 – but that never really materialized.
Shady deals were made and the land was handed over to another Trust Firm – which did nothing. It just sat on the land waiting for the property to gain in value.
The Eisfabrik became a popular party location, until a fire broke out under the roof of one of the buildings ruining the fun for everyone (SOUND FAMILIAR?). Parts of the property were sold off including the Engine House, Boiler House and the ice Production Machinery.
Despite the property being upgraded to a Listed Building – giving it a protected status – and against the will of the German Union of Architects, The Bundesstiftung Baukultur, Politicians from all Parties – the Trust Firm decided to tear down the Hochkuhlhäuser (the Cold Stores) – which at that point had been the oldest of its kind in Europe. There even had been an Investor who wanted to keep the Buildings intact, but the trust firm decided that it wanted to push through its own plans.
The Fate of Eisfabrik (or whats left of it) is still in Limbo. The trust firm which has refused the upkeep of the Listed buildings has been legally forced to do so by the City. It still plans on building something on the piece of land, but can’t fully do so while the rest of the buildings still stand there.
It is no longer patrolled by guards so it’s freely accessible to anyone and everyone. My suspicion is that the Trust Firm is turning a blind eye to all the illegal activity in hopes that someone will “accidentally” set another fire and burn the whole place down. Then they don’t need to bother with having to cough up the money to restore the place.
Heres my verdict.
The place was packed with people. from teenage girls, to film students, an advertising agency was shooting a commercial, there was even a dance crew practicing on one of the floors. This place was far from abandoned.
Sadly there isn’t much to see. Of course there’s the giant Ice/Cooling Machine, some cool graffiti – and a crane on the roof, but that’s about it. The Eisfabrik is filled with trash and dear good it stinks like piss and shit. If you thought the staircase in Tacheles smells bad, that’s nothing compared to this. The Eisfabrik doesn’t even give your imagination the chance to come up with an explanation as to where the stench might be coming from. While im usually more focused on trying to avoid needles, or glass – or trying to avoid crashing through a rotten floor – I was rather busy dodging human excrement. There are stairs leading to the cellar – but the smell only gets worse there. I passed on the chance to explore that part.
On a more positive note, probably one of the more rewarding aspects of visiting the Eisfabrik is the view from the roof. There is access to another floor from the roof, but that is occupied by some squatting punks (that would explain the aforementioned smell) who don’t look too kindly on trespassers waltzing in their occupied living room. As long as you don’t bother them, they wont bother you.
The larger of the 2 Buildings is bricked up. If you do want to gain access, there is a way in – but I wouldn’t recommend it (Hint – it’s not the broken up entrance on the left hand side, the staircase is closed up midfloor). As most of the windows are bricked up its pitch black inside and god knows who or what is lurking inside. You wont be able to take any decent pictures inside so don’t even bother trying to get in. It’s not worth it.
For more pictures of the Eisfabrik, check out the Flickr Album – Eisfabrik