What is the Haus der Statistik?
The Haus der Statistik is a former socialist office building that was scheduled for demolition, then saved by a protest by a group of activist artists.
Haus der Statistik History
To those willing to listen, there’s a fascinating story waiting to be discovered behind each of the eclectic bunch of buildings that frame Alexanderplatz – a former East German hub that still today proudly bears the wear and tear of its past. At the northeastern corner of this zone sits a layered building complex that appears to carry the weight of its history particularly heavily: its walls are worn out and many of its windows destroyed. Yet it was once a totem of socialist ideals, intended to embody East Germany’s vision for a flourishing future.
The mid-rise building complex, with more than 40,000 square metres of usable space, was built between 1968 and 1970 as part of East Germany’s modernisation agenda for Alexanderplatz. The State Central Administration for Statistics – its name the stuff of Western propaganda about the East – duly moved in, along with a miscellaneous assortment of restaurants, two of them named (with similar mystery) Hunting Den and Mocha Corner, as well as shops selling fishing supplies or goods imported from the USSR. The building’s surrounding areas served as a showcase for the East German government’s utopian visions, including Karl Hillert’s five-part sculpture entitled History of Mathematics. Inside, meanwhile, was the colourful mural In Praise of Communism by Ronald Paris, a work which German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht described as ‘simplicity that is difficult to make’.
Following German reunification in 1990, the federal authorities made use of the building, supplementing its former official function as a site of colourless gathering of statistics with the office tasked with revealing the true nature of East German information-gathering: the Federal Commission for Stasi Documents. In 2008, both offices emptied out, and plans to tear the complex down and construct new private apartments and offices in its place were drawn up. In a somewhat miraculous feat, however, the protest efforts of a small group of artists and activists fighting for affordable housing under the name Alliance of Threatened Berlin Studio Houses managed to succeed in preventing the demolition and redevelopment from going ahead. A fake construction banner reading ‘Here Arises for Berlin: Room for Art, Culture, and Social Space’, attached to the building in 2015 in an attempt to raise consciousness, seems gradually to be describing reality. Having convinced public officials that the Haus der Statistik is worth saving, the Alliance and a wide range of collaborators – from grassroots organisations to esteemed architectural bureaus, supported by €140 million in state funding – have embarked on the process of implementing a participatory urban regeneration plan for the complex.
Now in the context of a formal cooperative – named ZUsammenKUNFT, a playful fusion of the German words for ‘together’ and ‘future’ – plans are shaping up for half of those 40,000 square meters to be dedicated to affordable housing for a mixture of refugees, senior citizens, students and families. A quarter is set to become live-and-work spaces for artists, and the remainder will host educational and cultural initiatives, including a new district town hall. Once those in the building measured their society through statistics; now they’ll represent it and understand it through The Power Of Art.
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