Hi everyone! Welcome on page of the team in which unhealthy enthusiasm is in regular struggle with common sense. Here we present our research about Berlin urban spaces on the example of Kinderklinik Weißensee. What we tried to say with our work is that horror places are suitable for horror films, but not for people. Something usually goes wrong, when a dangerous territory becomes a public space, doesn’t it?
Before we start, I would like to give a brief description of the place and its history.
In the beginning of XX century, child morality sharply increased, and, as a consequence, in 1909 the first municipal hospital for children was built in Prussia to tackle this problem. It was one of the best places of a kind, and it remained so for almost 100 years, until the closure on the 1st of January, 1997. Since that moment, a padlock appeared on the gate. A building without the owner was crumbled away with age, when in 2005 it became property of a Russian investor. However, the company could not perform its renovation duties, so there was no progress in the situation.
Currently hospital buildings are a really dangerous place to visit. There are ceilings, that are always about to fall down on your head, there are stairs, that are crumbing into dust under your feet. Broken glass is everywhere, as well as schoolkids and tourists with cameras. Several accidents took place on the territory in recent years, and God alone knows, what happens next.
Broken fence, five old ruined buildings, missing doors and windows, walls with graffiti, rubbish everywhere — this was the picture we saw after getting inside. Every day we spent there filming we met young people walking in those ruins just for fun or making cool underground photos.
Huge holes in collapsed roof, black burned beams, falling down stucco were everywhere. We were brave enough (or crazy, better to say) to run and jump there in shoes with high hills for the needs of our movie. Although, to be honest, I felt that it was a risky trick. Our camp leaders were also not inspired by this idea.
We were lucky not to get into accident, but, as we got to know later, many of them happened here not so long ago. For instance, a guy from the USA came to this former hospital to take some pictures. He was on the 3rd floor when a beam immediately broke, resulting in his falling down and getting a lot of injuries.
We also read about regular fires and arsons in the hospital — only during 2013 it was being alight 17 times. Apart from that, it is a favourite place for homeless to stay at night.
For sure, all this horror stuff above creates really great and exciting atmosphere that looks attractive for young people. But as you see the place is not safe for its guests at all.
The problem is vital for the residents of surroundings, because the area is absolutely unsafe, dirty, and fire-dangerous.
So the main message of our short film is that such horror places are suitable only for filming horrors. At the same time, they are dead and not useful for the city and its citizens.
From our point of view it is not a sustainable way of city planning when areas with such a rich history and potential are becoming excepted from urban development process.
DANYA, common sense of a group
As the researchers of urban space, we always pay attention to the areas that are lively and energetic. For example, places where social initiatives exist and where local communities take an active role in making their city better. At the same time, we noticed during our work process that there are many abandoned, unused or just “frozen” places in Berlin, and in most cases nobody cares about it.
Speaking about our particular case with the Children Hospital in Weißensee, we suppose that its future is actually vague. The question of its renovation or possible dismantling is important to the Berlin government, but legal issues, such as insolvency of the owner, create serious obstacles on the way to the new life of the place.
In general, there may be different scenarios for the place. The first and highly probable is that the territory will stay without a responsible owner and continue its decay. It is a usual destiny of many similar abandoned objects in Berlin. For instance, the same dangerous situation can now be observed in the case of Eisfabrik on Köpenicker Straße: falling ceilings, small fires, injuries, and all this right in the centre of residential areas.
All other outcomes are possible only if property problem is solved. This is what one can see in the example of another well-known abandoned place of Berlin — Spreepark, which will start a new life in the nearest time because of the interest from an investor. This should work with our case, Kinderkrankenhaus in Weißensee, too: finding a responsible owner or turning the land back to the city — these are the main options for the place. In my view, no matter who becomes the new proprietor, it is reasonable to redevelop the biggest part of the land plot for either residential property or renewed hospital. At the same time, at least a part of this area should definitely be transformed into an attractive public space for the locals — the district may seem really dull for visitors, and it is worth creating a lively place there.
Anyway, the hospital for sure should not stay in the current condition, and that is the message of our short film: abandoned places, although attractive and interesting, should not look like horror film decorations, and safety of visitors should never be neglected.
ARTEM, producer and operator
Back off, guys, I have been editing for all the night. Let’s just watch a movie.