Wilhelm Hallen opened in September 2021 with ambitious plans to become a hub for creative industries. With its location in a former iron foundry, the industrial architecture offers a truly unique backdrop for exhibitions and future developments.
Come for the art, stay for the history and architecture
The Berlin art scene has been hitherto mostly situated inside the Ringbahn, but the newly opened Wilhelm Hallen exhibition space is here to challenge that convention. While a trip beyond the Ring may sound like an ordeal, the journey to S-Bahnhof Wilhelmsruh only takes about 20 minutes from Alexanderplatz.
This former iron foundry offers an environment so unique that it's an attraction in its own right. The large expanse of structures with sawtooth roofs are protected buildings that have undergone only small changes since their construction in 1902. Heating and bathrooms have been installed, windows have been insulated, a new floor has been laid and electricity connections have been added, but this is otherwise the same building where iron foundry workers toiled over one hundred years ago.
The main exhibition space is a beautiful old soot-stained brick structure with exposed iron trusses – an atmospheric step back in time were it not for the various contemporary art pieces that grace the area. This makes for a very different experience from the usual sanitised white spaces that contemporary art installations often inhabit. As such, the space is a refreshing change for those who find art galleries too stuffy or pretentious.
More than just an exhibition space
In total, the Wilhelm Hallen facility covers 20,000 square metres. Several of its renovated halls are available for rent to use as studios, production areas or offices. It has already attracted several high profile tenants including the Canadian design and architecture company Bocci (site co-owners, in fact) and photography studio Oat Milk Studios. Other tenants range from engineering companies to music labels to art galleries to waste management companies.
A who's who of local and international artists
As part of Berlin Art Week in early September 2021, Wilhelm Hallen's opening exhibition "Yes to All" featured 30 artists from around the world in collaboration with eight different Berlin galleries, including Mehdi Chouakri and HUA International. The works came in a variety of forms: video, installation, sculpture, photography and painting.
- Swiss mixed media artist Sylvie Fleury – known for her work examining consumerism and gender – presented ÎÔ, an oversized inflatable self-portrait of herself and her cat
- French painter Johanna Dumet's 200x300cm oil painting inspired by the 1973 Marco Ferrari film "La grande bouffe" is an eye-catching commentary on consumerism and the decadence of the bourgeoisie
- Julius von Bismarck's Fire with Fire explores nature and climate change in a compelling combination of art and science
A change of pace in Wilhelmsruh
Wilhelmsruh is Berlin's smallest Ortsteil (district) and possibly one of its most overlooked. It's well connected by S-Bahn to the city centre. While it isn't overflowing with attractions, it offers a tranquillity that is often missing in the rest of the city. Among the suburban houses are two small lakes, Wilhelmsruher See and Garibalditeich. Wilhelmsruh's Lutheran church is quite the impressive and imposing structure.