Secret Garden - Lost Ballroom in Berlin
Text: Florian Maier
The project developer Dirk Moritz had the right intuition that day in 2008, when he suddenly took a turn on his way for a swim, into the courtyard of a dilapidated rear house with bricked-up round arches and a steel door in a still visible portal. On first inspection he discovered carved banisters, wall paintings and a ballroom with a stage and gallery – a jewel which, according to the records, had fallen into oblivion since 1934. The international architectural firm LAVA has been entrusted with the planning of the revitalisation project entitled "Secret Garden".
The three-storey building in Berlin-Mitte (Central Berlin) was originally built by entrepreneur and architect Oscar Garbe. It was an established venue of the Berlin ballroom society of the day, according to Moritz, who suspects that many fat men went there, with even fatter women. After some considerable further investments, documented in the land register by mortgages taken out on the property on numerous occasions, the decline commenced in the 1940s. Once the interior was gone, the venue soon disappeared under rubble and junk. It could well have been rediscovered earlier, had the boundary of the redevelopment area "Rosenthaler Vorstadt" not been located 100 meters short of the ballroom.
After reaching an agreement with the Czech owners to sell the rear building, 30 tons of rubbish had to be cleared away first. About 300 living and many dead pigeons made the presence of pigeon ticks very likely. Since the bite of such ticks may be fatal for humans under certain circumstances, the waste disposers protected themselves with breathing equipment and special air-tight suits.
Construction work is scheduled to begin in March 2013, with completion planned for mid-2014. The utilisation concept includes several small rooms for exhibitions, artistic performances, studios, meeting and conference rooms, as well as luxury apartments for short-term rental, especially by business travellers. Dirk Moritz would like to market the property under the name of "Secret Garden".
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