When I visited Berlin with a friend in 1985, we went for a unforgettable day in former East-Berlin. There we haphazardly stumbled upon a gloomy dark monolithic building that we photographed extensively because of its stunning and uncanny beauty. 23 years later this long lost building suddenly popped up in the art-world news.
The history of the building is like a rollercoaster. The bunker was built in 1942 to protect Berlin citizens against air strikes. The thick walls and the 120 rooms, spread over 5 floors, ensured that 3000 people could find a safe place in this Reichsbahn bunker in Berlin-Mitte, unusually constructed above ground due to the geological limitations of the area. A look at the interior wall plan of the square shelter reveals a carefully and meticulously symmetrical design, based in part on the Italian Renaissance master Andrea Palladio’s Villa Capra, Italy. In Nazi-era Berlin, however, Palladian precision and symmetry served not the humanist values of the Italian Renaissance, but rather the expedient movement of crowds into and around the building’s interior during Allied bombings.
After WWII the Russians used the bunker for some time to lock up prisoners of war. After that, the building was given a completely different purpose as storage of textiles and later exotic fruit (bananas from Cuba to be more precize). Shortly after the reunification the bunker became home to one of the most infamous night clubs in Europe, the dense labyrinth of rooms becoming the site of fetish, fantasy and thumping techno dance parties throughout the 1990s. After that it was empty for some time. Until Christian and Karen Boros dropped their eye on it.
They had architects Jens Casper and Petra Petersson rebuild it into an exhibition space of 3000 square meters. On top of the bunker they built a 450 m2 glass penthouse where Christian and Karen Boros live. In 2008, the Boros Bunker opened to the public. They regularly change the collection that consists of international works since 1990.