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Today we continue with our series about unrenovated buildings in Berlin, where a sense of the city’s past still lingers in entryways, courtyards, and stairways. You can read the introduction and find all posts in this series here. Or subscribe to receive future installments.

Corner of Danziger Straße and Senefelderstraße
September 2013 & 2008

I’ve passed this building countless times during 5+ years of living in Berlin and I’m sure I’m not the only one struck by its unusual presence. The door was open when we walked by a few weeks ago, so we snuck inside. Unfortunately, significant renovations were underway—renovations that seem to threaten the building’s original details that have managed to survive so much over the years.

Rooftop access

Evidence of “old” Berlin is usually found in the architectural details, but there is something else going on here: in the photo above, there are two people hanging out on the roof. Back before almost every single Berlin attic space was turned into luxury rooftop apartments, tenants had keys to the attic where it was possible to access the roof via a ladder and skylight. I’ve been told that before neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg were filled with cafes and bars, these were the regular spots for massive dinner parties and long summer nights.

In the unusual case that a building still has its attic intact, the locks have been changed and access is off limits. We live in such a building. Once, however, a friend of a friend, who had lived in his building for a very long time and still had the keys, let me up for a look. It was spectacular and I love it that these guys in the photo are still living that dream.

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Original detailing in the entryway

You can see in the photos that the ornate ceiling is being replaced with plain old drywall. The walls along the stairways were decorated with breathtaking, hand-painted detailing that had to be original to the building. Based on the holes in the walls ringed with neon spray paint, the whole thing is being prepped for new paint.

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Live/work storefronts

Like all of the buildings profiled in this series, this building has storefronts on the ground floor and apartments above. One of these storefronts was a favorite after I first arrived. It was a live-work space for someone who took delight in creating odd narratives in the front window. The “shows” stopped a few years ago after the person moved out and the storefront went through a series of vacancies. It’s recently been gutted and painted white and is for rent again. I’ve included a couple of photos of favorite scenarios from back in the day aka 2008.

Berlin window display via Field Office

Berlin window display via Field Office

Keep reading this series:

>> Part 1: Introduction, How to Find Old Berlin
The past lingers in the entryways and courtyards of Berlin’s unrenovated buildings. This is how we find it.

>> Part 3: Stargarderstraße
Personal touches in common areas set the old buildings apart from the new.

>> Part 4: Winskietz
The courtyard of a crumbling old building in the Winskietz, Berlin.

Find the series archive, here.