Haus des Deutschen Metallarbeiterverbandes
The German Metal Workers’ Union Building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district was designed by Erich Mendelsohn and Rudolf W. Reichel. Inaugurated in 1930, this simple and unadorned building is one of the best-known symbols of Germany’s labour movement. It was built to house the trade union’s headquarters, its administrative offices and the union’s own print shop.
At the end of the 1920s, the Deutscher Metallarbeiterverband, or German Metal Workers’ Union, had decided to move its headquarters from Stuttgart to Berlin. The trade union wanted a dignified official headquarters within close proximity to the city centre and held a design competition for its construction. Two architects with similar proposals were selected as the winners: Erich Mendelsohn and Rudolf W. Reichel. But Mendelsohn effectively implemented the design on his own.
The building, which has a structural frame of reinforced concrete, comprises two side wings that converge at an acute angle, where they are held together by a taller block at the front. The space between the wings is split into two courtyards by a curved, two-storey connecting wing for the print shop. The front entrance is accentuated above by a prominent, curved bay window topped by a flagpole that adds a dynamic touch to the otherwise unadorned façade clad in natural stone.
From the front entrance, one passes through a low-ceilinged hall into a glazed stairwell and then up a spiral stair to reach the upper floors. The numerous brass elements on doors and railings were part of Mendelsohn’s design, as was all the furniture in the conference room.
When the National Socialists came to power, the building was co-opted by the German Labour Front. Although the interior was entirely destroyed by fire during the Second World War, enough of its original structure survived to allow for its post-war reconstruction. In 1952 the metalworkers’ union IG-Metall moved their Berlin administrative offices into the building, where they remain today. The building has been listed as a historical monument since 1971. [DB/DK]