The Best and the Worst. The East and the West. Freedom. Yesterday and Forever. Any sentient human on the globe has a reaction. These simple words take on special meaning when related to Berlin. In the battlefields of global history, Berlin is the front line.
It has not always been so. At one time, our greatest challenge was to not allow our food to rot in the summer. To make ice from fire can be considered impossible. But not so, human ingenuity knows no bounds. A successful business built up from culling and delivering ice from the adjoining Spree River to customers during the winters of the 1880’s developed into selling ice during the summers in the early 1900’s, with new (and often dangerous) technologies. As you can imagine during that time, it was like minting money. They quickly built larger, more beautiful and better facilities right up to the 1930’s, but then viable residential refrigeration was invented. The property continued to decline through the decades since, but substantial portions, including machinery, remain. Considering the history, size and scale of this structure dedicated to only making ice, few like it (if any), remain in the world today.
Our involvement began with the decision by Lone Star to auction off the property. They had recently bought TLG, who were given the property en masse with 800 other formerly East German properties on German Reunification. As would be appropriate with a historic structure with national significance, a development plan was required.
Any casual observer quickly learns this property is unique. It’s location, just outside Berlin Mitte and along the Spree, contributes value. As what was technically No Man’s Land, along the Berlin wall (across the river) it lends global implications. It’s remaining historical structures, including machinery, speak to challenges long overcome but impart lessons for the future, and cannot be lost. It’s workers housing, as remaining, speak to a progressive future beyond the the industrial age. The large open land from dedicated structures already demolished presents opportunity. Too much of our collective history is written and lost to future generations. As recent demonstrations have shown, another luxury hi-rise is not an option. Adaptive reuse for obsolete structures presents too large a problem for simple analysis. As is so often the case, a significant portion of our history is lost over the lack of a good idea.
Our concept would be to commit to use the entire complex as the first mixed-use net-zero community in the world, certainly none so close to a city center. The first floor of the Cooling tower would serve as a museum for the structure as a whole, its location and significance to history, and present the hope for the future. The upper floors of the cooling towers would be used for architectural firms and builders at the forefront of the net-zero community, showcasing to the world the rightful German position at the forefront of the war on Global Warming. The concept works well with Telamons desires to turn their portion of the Eisfabriks structures into an Arts Center. The remaining workers units would be renovated to include low impact housing choices like LED lighting and LEEDS sustainable living options already available today. The open spaces would be used to create not just net-zero modular units for short term rentals, but minus-zero, technology already available, showing the world it is possible to not just live with no impact, but to enjoy contributing more than you use. Stay for a night, enjoy for a lifetime. Only from the ashes can rise the phoenix. Berlin has had it’s share of ashes. The ability to believe is humanity’s greatest gift.