Karte Südkreuz


Walkabout: The secrets of the south

by Julia Cornelius / translation by Rachel Marks

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The first thing to strike any visitor at Südkreuz is sure to be the gray concrete and black asphalt of the city Autobahn and all the big box furniture stores. But only a few blocks away, an entirely different commercial world can be found behind old barrack walls, witnesses to a multifaceted history, and a jungle of urban nature awaits discovery by those looking for more than a few IKEA deals.

Arrival at Südkreuz station is sure to draw your immediate attention to all the many missteps possible in the worlds of architecture, development, planning, and monument preservation. In order to preserve the last standing relic of the original station built in 1901, they renovated and integrated the clock tower [1] into the south side's new parking garage. But take General-Pape-Straße from here to the barrack buildings, which now house a wide spectrum of tenants: from the sommelier in the Weingewölbe [2] and the master of meditation [3] to the traditional Eel and Fish Smokehouse run by the Krohnen family [4]. A huge structure rises against the sky at the end of the street - the infamous Schwerbelastungskörper, or load testing structure. Erected by forced laborers in 1941, the 12,650-ton concrete cylinder was meant to test whether the capital's sandy ground could support the megalomaniac triumphal arch planned for the end of the north-south axis of Hitler's Germania. According to Albert Speer's plans the arch was to be six times bigger than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Experts returned to the test after WWII and published their finds in 1948: the cement colossus had already sunk over seven inches. The area's sand would never have been able to bear the weight of the triumphal arch; without further ground compression the so-called Bauwerk T would have remained only an architectural dream.

The scene changes drastically as you follow Loewenhardtdamm to the garden city of Neu-Tempelhof [6], a tiny planning gem that nonetheless seems more suburban than urban. Some one thousand single-family homes here enjoyed the 1920s dictum of Licht, Luft, und Sonne - light, air, and sun - and were originally intended for injured WWI soldiers who, however, were not able to afford housing in the reform buildings. Also known as the "Aviator Colony" - the streets are all named after WWI pilots - the garden city also boasts a more modern architectural highlight: the catholic Church of St. Judas Thaddäus [7], a beautiful ecclesiastical building from 1959. Pinkish exposed concrete and turquoise mosaic stones are a lasting testament to the elegance and purity of style of architect Reinhard Hofbauer's vision.

Heading back toward the Südkreuz station you will find yet another bit of hidden history on Werner-Voß-Damm. The Papestraße Memorial Site [8] recalls the over two thousand detainees of the former SA prison, in which torture and murder were routine.

From there, by way of Alboinstraße and Sachsendamm, you can discover perhaps the biggest surprise of all - Naturpark Südgelände [9], whose dense vegetation sometimes reveals the site's original function. After war forced Alhalter Bahnhof to discontinue its use, the train station fell into a long sleep. Rare plants and animal species were able to make their homes here undisturbed over the years. Today visitors will find a thoroughly urban phenomenon full of untouched nature, rusty ruins, and modern art: train tracks lie beneath the birches, thickets conceal the engine shed, and a locomotive still lies buried deep in the forest. An erstwhile locomotive hall [10] has been transformed into an education, integration, and art center that hopes to promote opportunities for Berlin's youth. Information panels suggest various routes through the site's 44 acres and will help point the way back to Südkreuz.


1. Bahnhof Südkreuz | A clock tower in a parking garage - the last relict of the old railway building from 1901, which withstood National Socialism's megalomania, the Iron Curtain's standstill, and the construction of the new Südkreuz after the fall of the Wall | S-Bahnhof Südkreuz, Suadicanistraße, Exit Parkhaus Süd

2. Weingewölbe | A small winery in a building that once served as barracks | General-Pape-Straße 30 | www.weingewoelbe-berlin.de

3. Karunasom | Pacifism in practice: a Buddhist center and meditation institute in a former casern | General-Pape-Straße 30 | www.karunasom.de

4. Spez. Aal- und Fischräucherei Eleonore Krohnen | This family business has been smoking and selling fish since 1903 | General-Pape-Straße 52 | www.krohnenfisch.de

5. Schwerbelastungskörper | The load-testing structure weighs 12,650 tons and was built to measure the Berlin ground's carrying capacity for Albert Speer's planned buildings for Germania | General-Pape-Straße 60 | www.berliner-unterwelten.de/schwerbelastungskoerper

6. Gartenstadt "Neu-Tempelhof" | The parade and drill ground of the Prussian army was transformed into a garden city. The city's twin and row houses were supposed to be sold to veterans' families who in fact could not afford the homes' high prices. Soon it became a colony for the middle classes. The garden city is also known as Fliegersiedlung, "Aviator Colony," with streets named after World War I pilots | Manfred-von-Richthofen-Straße | www.berlin.de/ba-tempelhof-schoeneberg/.../gartenstadt

7. Katholische Pfarrkirche St. Judas Thaddäus | A wonderful church built of pink decorative concrete and turquoise mosaics, preserved just as architect Reinhard Hofbauer designed it in 1959 | Bäumerplan 23 | www.benedict-mueller-verlag.com/...

8. Gedenkstätte Papestraße | In 2011 a memorial will be opened in memory of the over 2,000 detainees of the former SA prison. Until then the Volkshochschule Tempelhof-Schöneberg and the Museen Tempelhof Schöneberg offer guided tours at irregular intervals  | Werner-Voß-Damm 54a | www.gedenkstaette-papestrasse.de

9. NSG Schöneberger Südgelände | The Südgelände (south terrain) was roused from its slumber after the fall of the Iron Curtain and, after a citizens group's successful battle, put under natural preservation. The interplay between nature and decaying railroad relics, industrialization and art, is wonderfully unique | Prellerweg 35 | www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/umwelt/.../naturpark_suedgelaende

10. Lokhalle | Today the former locomotive hall is a gallery and educational center for young people: educational opportunities and integration through culture, art, craft, and technology are the initiative's goals | Lokhalle Südgelände (next to the water tower) | www.bildungswerk-lokhalle.de

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