Dinner under the Vaults of a Former Brewery in Berlin

by Valentin Schipfer

Apparently post-industrial sites – especially former breweries – are becoming quite en vogue for cultural initiatives as well as for private investors. Unlike my recent post about the Kindl brewery in Neukölln, the decisions for Bötzow brewery in Prenzlauer Berg are not made by an artist’s collective but by one man – Hans Georg Näder. His plans are motivated by New York’s Chelsea Market  and London’s Camden market.

Näder’s not only the owner of this post-industrial area but also of the internationally renowned corporation Ottobock Health Care. Producing high-tech prostheses and manufactured wheel chairs since decades, Näder now wants to adventure himself in creating another urban hotspot in Kreuzberg. On his way home after a party the fifty-year-old art collector passed by this relic of past times and immediately fell in love with these historically loaded 23 400 square meters.


After Germany’s Unification in 1871 its cities started to grow vastly, and so did its beer consumption. Julius Bötzow therefore did well in setting up the brewery in 1885, and made a fortune with selling beer to the emperor as well as to Berlin’s and the rest of Germany’s beer-loving population. For a short period the brewing process was continued as a private stock company after WW II, till it’s closedown in 1949. Until Germany’s turn in 1989 parts of the area were used as storage which then were purchased by the supermarket chain Metro AG. But not even together with a private group of investors new plans could be realized. Since 2010 Näder’s the new owner and his visions are different.

Especially the 5000 square-meters basement vaults will show a busy and fragmented mix of cafés, restaurants, boutiques and small retail shops. At New York’s Chelsea Market in a former baking factory and at London’s Camden Market this small-section-mix’s been working great for years now, with positive effects on its neighborhood’s life quality. Näder is up to invest 100 million Euros in the brewery’s development and reconstruction. Unlike many other investors around the globe his main intention is not to sell but to preserve and redesign. He doesn’t see himself as a property investor. That is why he hired the architecture-duo Eric van Geisten and Georg Marfels  who are known for their gentle way of reconstructing historical and heritage-protected industrial buildings.


Thus Bötzow brewery’s brewhouse will keep its basic structure and contain lofts for living. At the front side in the former beer garden the 6000 seats will be replaced by five new buildings and one hotel. If you’re an artist or making your living in creative industry, Näder will favor you as a tenant. In between, a recreational park will invite urbanites to relax and chill-out. According to his attitude as a prostheses-producing entrepreneur, everything at the area will be handicapped accessible. Bigger than the one at Otto Bock Science Center a futuristic colonnade will connect the brewery’s different levels with the basement vaults – easily accessible for everybody.


In my eyes, these plans reflect the creative industry’s power of Berlin once again. It is just to be hoped that city planning in my hometown Vienna will also make a change soon. Why is it a wheelchair-constructer who understands that filling up a city with numerous malls and  office-buildings doesn’t make sense? Why do many city planning departments not notice the urban value of spatial, small-scale mixes? Why do they prefer mono-functionality by separating living, working, shopping and relaxing? Why do I have to ask these questions more than 50 years after Corbusier’s suggestions?

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