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Studio Aisslinger reinvents an iconic cultural hub with Fotografiska Berlin

Adding a fourth location to its roster, Fotografiska unites past and present with a multi-use cultural centre within a legendary artists’ squat.

26/03/2024

2 min read

Photography: Patricia Parinejad


Transforming a much-loved fixture of Berlin’s Mitte district, contemporary photography museum Fotografiska has found its fourth international location in Germany’s capital – joining galleries in Stockholm, Tallinn and New York. Reimagined by Studio Aisslinger, the 5,500 sqm site has a storied past, including everything from wartime damage, Nazi occupation and retail bankruptcy to a planned – and subsequently thwarted – demolition. However, of its multiple iterations, the building is best known as Kunsthaus Tacheles, an artists’ squat that was home to a large group of creatives from 1990 to 2012. This earned the building a legendary reputation within Berlin’s world-famous counterculture, which now lends its graffitied, partially demolished walls to a mixed-use gallery, café and social hub.

Approaching the listed property, which first opened in 1909 as a department store, Studio Aisslinger strove to maintain a balance between the old and the new. “We wanted to look ahead to the future whilst embracing the past, and to do so in a casual way,” explains founder Werne Aisslinger, adding: “That is very Berlin.” As well as the building itself gaining listed status, the extensive graffiti within (completed by the Tacheles collective over the span of 22 years) is also protected, meaning that the vibrant artwork has remained a key, defining fixture even across some of the bomb-damaged walls.

The studio credits a “growing nostalgia for genuine, analogue spaces” as informing its multi-layered approach, combining the original stone structure and exposed concrete with contemporary additions such as plush velvet furniture, framed prints and copious indoor plants. Respecting and showcasing the building’s storied past with these original features is part of the studio’s message that public spaces are even more important during a digital age, offering visitors a real, tangible experience of arts and culture.

Despite retaining much of the building’s unique character in this way, each room within the former Tacheles has been given a fresh purpose. Some spaces will still host art exhibitions and public events, while others find new life as a restaurant, bar, café, bakery, gift shop, or even an onsite ballroom and roof terrace, with further plans reportedly in place to accommodate conferences and co-working. This varied approach helps Fotagrafiska cultivate a dynamic, buzzing atmosphere, becoming an artistic destination which – unlike most other galleries – closes its doors at 11pm. More practically, this combination of public sector and hospitality spaces was also introduced to help the museum sustain itself in the long term, without relying on public funding alone.

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