The Hamburger Bahnhof building, Source: David von Becker / Berlin State Museum

Historic day for culture in Berlin: City buys back Hamburger Bahnhof

Historic day for culture in Berlin: City buys back Hamburger Bahnhof

The old train station and former gallery is the last surviving late 19th-century railway terminal in the city

On 15 November, Berlin authorities were able to buy back the Hamburger Bahnhof and the Rieckhallen – two century-old buildings that are supposed to become a permanent part of the city’s cultural scene. Berlin’s Mayor Franziska Giffey attended the signing and went on to describe the event as a good day for culture and a historic moment.

The purchase cost the German Federal Government and Berlin’s local administration around 170 million euros. This is because the Hamburger Bahnhof was purchased at 66 million, while the Rieckhallen was acquired through a very lucrative land swap valued at 100 million euros.

Art in times of crisis  

As the DPA reported, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Claudia Roth, emphasised the importance of culture during times of crisis, highlighting the government’s role in the deal.

With the new development, authorities claim that now there is a clear path for the preservation of the complex, despite its tumultuous history. The station only worked for 38 years after it was originally inaugurated in the 19th century, permanently closing down in 1884.

In the early 20th century it housed the Transport and Building Museum. During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged and remained unused until 1984. In 1996 it started functioning as a Museum of Contemporary Art for the National Gallery, however, in 2007, it was acquired by the real estate company CA Immo Deutschland.

At the same time, Rieckhallen was supposed to be demolished, prompting many private collectors to withdraw amid mounting uncertainty for both spaces.

The future

The city has great plans to integrate the new site into the local museum infrastructure, as a National Gallery of the Present. Hamburger Bahnhof was the railway station for the Hamburg-Berlin connection and was constructed in the mid-19th century – currently the only surviving station building from that period in the city.

The new curators of the space Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath explained that they plan the Hamburger Bahnhof and the Rieckhallen as a space well integrated into the art scene, a sort of never-ending exhibition, contributing one commissioned piece per year, expanding the art installation on and around the buildings.



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