This is a guest post by Ella Kay. It is the first part of what we hope will be an ongoing series looking at parking buildings that have achieved a second life as something else.
At first glance you wouldn’t imagine that the kindergarten on Dresdenerstraße in Kreuzberg, Berlin was once a parking building. But it doesn’t take much of an inquisitive eye to spot a car-sized ramp and identify quite a modular type of construction, well suited to housing multiple rows of metal boxes.
So, how did this parking building become a kindergarten?
The story goes that the parking building was initially conceived of as a part of the new Kreuzberg centre at Kottbusser Tor (location of a busy u-bahn station). It would also strongly compliment the future autobahn expansion through West Berlin, which included a planned interchange at Oranienplatz (which Dresdenerstraße connects to). The parking building is marked in red and Kottbusser Tor is marked in blue here:
Following completion of parking building construction in 1974 it became clear that its dimensions outstripped the needs of the area and went far beyond the forecast demand for private vehicle parking. It was never put into use.
Demolition was initially considered but was going to be a relatively expensive exercise. Instead the building was tested for its suitability for other uses and considered to have potential value. A renovation project got underway in the early 1980s, resulting in the successful conversion of the parking building into a kindergarten by 1987.
Some quick history on Berlin’s planned autobahn expansion provides useful context
The junction at Oranienplatz is only one small piece of the planned autobahn expansion in West Berlin. Following the build of the Berlin Wall in 1961 the question of how West Berlin should develop became a crucial consideration. It is little surprise that the swift development of a comprehensive zoning plan for West Berlin was a priority, and one that would ideologically reflect post-WWII auto-centric urban development patterns.
The resulting Flächennutzungsplan (zoning plan) from 1965 (reconfirmed in 1985) identified some serious roading network expansion within West Berlin and spatially aligned to the then divided city. Given its location in West Berlin, Kreuzberg would have been a particular ‘benefactor’ of the delivered infrastructure had it eventuated.
Notably, the planned junction at Oranienplatz was especially sizeable and intended to function as a key interchange between routes from the West to the South and South-East of then West Berlin. With its location close to the boundary of East Berlin, this location could be futureproofed to enable expansion of the network to the east should the wall one day fall.
While the planned autobahn expansion progressed in West Berlin over the late twentieth century, its final form never fully eventuated. The Kreuzberg segments were spared – and fortunately so, given that Kreuzberg would ultimately become a very central district of a reunified Berlin.
Back to the parking building that is now a kindergarten
And what a dreamy kindergarten it became. The three storey steel frame and concrete construction evolved into a four floor kindergarten, complete with:
A roof garden and play area:
…with an incorporated green facade
…and a glass house and covered inner courtyard
…which also functions as a ‘climate zone’ and is supported with a solar storage system
Interestingly, the conversion of the parking building into a kindergarten took place in the 1980s, at a point in time where a reunified Berlin would not have been predictable and the planned autobahn expansion was still live. Despite this, the parking building was still considered obsolete.
I didn’t mange to locate detailed cost information for the conversion, only a broad description that it was ‘kostintensiv‘ (cost intensive). Despite this it seems like a worthwhile endeavour, especially given that the cost of demolishing the building was also estimated to be relatively expensive. And it looks like they got it right – 34 years later the reimagined parking building lives on as a wonderful kindergarten.