New Open Spaces
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, new open spaces emerged overnight which quickly filled with new life: clubs, art houses, and illegal raves. Tresor, Tacheles, and Tekknozid were prime examples of a thriving subculture.
At the time of the fall of the Wall, 3,409,737 people lived in Berlin, of whom 2,130,525 were in the western part of the city and 1,279,212 in the east. In the middle of it all, the former Berlin Wall death strip formed a mile-long wasteland.
Berlin grows together
While hundreds of construction sites were working on Berlin's structural coalescence, reunification within the party scene happened virtually overnight. Clubs, art houses and unannounced parties in forgotten places formed the foundations of a lively subculture.
Berlin, Potsdamer Platz 1992Original Source: Geoportal Berlin
On Open Spaces and Freedoms
A labyrinth was created for the Nineties Berlin exhibition with dead ends concealing seven example institutions from around that time. Many of the newly established locations, scene magazines, and parties from back then helped build the legendary reputation of the global met
Stefan Schilling and his son Gustav Sonntag were responsible for the design of the labyrinth. Schilling lived and worked in the legendary Kunsthaus Tacheles which was also part of the labyrinth.
Gustav Sonntag lives and works in Berlin. His works are influenced both by street art and graffiti as well as classical paintings. Together with his father, he created a spatial artwork for Nineties Berlin that was truly unique.
Jugendradio DT 64
The GDR radio broadcast, which was also an independent station from 1986, was moderated live and played a lot of songs from the West. From 1990, DT 64 broadcast 24 hours a day under the slogan Power from the East Side. In the Dancehall broadcast, techno music found a platform.
Music for the Records
Some of DT 64's broadcasts played their tunes so that they could be cleanly and fully recorded on tape at home.
Navigate freely in the 360° view and discover the hidden anecdotes and graphic footnotes of the artists.
Reunification Spells the End
With the Radio Network Reform Act (Rundfunküberleitungsgesetz) as part of the Reunification Treaty, this scheduling continued until the end of 1991. Afterward, the broadcaster had to switch to public broadcasting or wind it up altogether.
SAVE DT 64!
May Day 1991, Germany's largest indoor rave in Die Halle in Berlin-Weißensee, was held in support of the broadcaster. By the end of 1991, however, USW frequencies were gradually being switched off.
Mayday AddNineties Berlin
DJ and music producer Marusha rose to fame through the DT 64 radio broadcast Dancehall and later released multiple albums to huge commercial success.
Radio DT 64 broadcast from the broadcasting studio on Nalepastraße. This is now a workshop and studio for musicians, photographers, painters, multimedia artists, concert promoters, publishers, and designers.
The broadcasting studio was located directly opposite the amusement park which was still open at the time, Spreepark Berlin. After its closure and years of neglect, it would later become famous worldwide as a ghost town and filming location for multiple movies.
Aerial View 1992Original Source: Geoportal Berlin
Dimitri Hegemann, Achim Kohlberger, and Johnnie Stieler stumbled upon a long-forgotten strong room. Hundreds of safety deposit boxes that had been broken into and underground walls that were several feet thick became the trademarks of legendary techno club Tresor, which opened in March 1991.
The club was hugely popular and quickly rose to international fame. It hosted both local DJ giants such as Jonzon, Tanith, Wolle XDP, and Rok, as well as international stars mostly from Detroit such as Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, and Blake Baxter.
On April 16, 2005, the last ever party was held at Leipziger Straße 126a. The building was demolished and a new office building was constructed in its place. The new Tresor club opened on May 25, 2007 in the former Berlin-Mitte thermal power station in close proximity to the old site. It took the characteristic safety deposit boxes from the Wertheim vaults to the new location with it, along with its long-standing name.
The Wertheim building on Leipziger Platz was constructed from 1896 to 1906. In 1991, the Tresor club opened in a long-forgotten strong room in the remains of the former department store.
The nearby wastelands of the Berlin Wall's former death strips were almost completely redeveloped over the years.
Tresor, Aerial View 1992Original Source: Geoportal Berlin
Art House Tacheles (Kunsthaus Tacheles)
Art House Tacheles (Kunsthaus Tacheles), named after the artist initiative of the same name, was the hotspot for alternative art in Berlin from 1990 until its closure in 2012. In February 1990, the dilapidated building was occupied and saved from imminent destruction.Radio DT 64 broadcast from the broadcasting studio on Nalepastraße. This is now a workshop and studio for musicians, photographers, painters, multimedia artists, concert promoters, publishers, and designers.
The Tacheles housed around 30 workshops, exhibition spaces, and salesrooms for contemporary art, an arthouse cinema, bars, a club, and large halls for theatrical events. Even the free space behind the building was regularly used for action art.
However, the huge building along with its 13,500 ft² plot of land at the center of the city sparked major interest and was sold to an investor group in 1998 for almost 3 million German marks (approximately 1.8 million US dollars). The artist collective who had settled there in the meantime were able to arrange a 10-year rental contract until December 31, 2008 with the new occupiers. Afterward, the space was finally emptied and shut down in September 2012 to great protest. Art House Tacheles (Kunsthaus Tacheles)
Oranienburger Straße 54–56a
Although the building was only moderately damaged during the Second World War, it would soon be demolished as it had never been renovated, despite intensive use. Demolition started in 1980. The section that remains today was planned to be taken down in April 1990.
Tacheles, 2018Nineties Berlin
In January 1990, the first big techno party was held in East Berlin under the name Tekknozid. For its two founders, Wolfram Neugebauer, commonly known as Wolle XDP, and Matthias Johnnie Stieler, techno was a collective term for particularly hard-core electronic sounds.
"Tekknozid isn't a new word for disco. The most hard-core techno beats from house, industrial, hip-hop, electronic body music (EBM), new beat, and acid, together with psychedelic light and effect installations, break into your subconscious." So read one poster.
DJ Wolle XDP, aka Wolfram Neugebauer, hosted the Tekknozid parties together with Johnnie Stieler, who would later become the cofounder of Tresor.
Spirit of the Times
Tekknozid was in line with the spirit of the times. While some took their minds off the imminent end of their own state while dancing on the ruins of the GDR, others celebrated their newfound freedom by dancing euphorically.
Reduced to the Essentials
The dance floor was completely blacked out. There were no bars, no tables, no stools. The light effects were reduced to holographic projections, laser installations, and stroboscopes, based on the acoustic foundation of the powerful magic bassline.
Tekknozid PosterNineties Berlin
Amusement Total—Sans Regret (Total Amusement—No Regrets) was spelled out in huge letters on the wall of the Frontpage office of Chief Editor Jürgen Laarmann in Berlin. It was the perfect mantra for the eventful years of the most influential techno magazine of the 1990s.
From Frankfurt to Berlin
In May 1989, the first edition was released for Frankfurt discotheque Dorian Gray's techno club event series. In November 1989, circulation had already doubled to 10,000 monthly. Editor Laarmann had already moved to Berlin in the summer of 1989.
Number 1 Scene Magazine
Frontpage continued to grow alongside the techno movement. By 1994, approximately 60,000 copies of the publication were already being sent out monthly. The magazine was a permanent fixture of the scene.
Free of Charge
The magazine was available free of charge in clubs, record stores, and clothing outlets and was financed through advertising. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco became a lucrative sponsor from April 1994.
Frontpage Cover, 1994Nineties Berlin
Alongside record coupons, each issue had event news, regular columns, and party and scene reports.
Big names in the scene like Talla2XLC, Mijk van Dijk, and Tanith worked as editors from the very first issue.
Frontpage Cover, 1994Nineties Berlin
Frontpage had increasing problems financing its many projects. In April 1997, the last edition of the magazine was published, and Laarmann temporarily disappeared without a trace. Various attempts to revive the publication later on fell through. Despite its relatively short life, Frontpage defined an era and helped create a surge in the techno movement.
The graphics and layout changed constantly. From 1992, art director Alexander Branczyk was responsible for its unconventional, unmistakable style.
Alongside Frontpage, publisher Laarmann and art director Brancyk were also involved in the Love Parade. The logo and lettering were designed by the pair.
Frontpage Cover, 1996Nineties Berlin
Kunsthaus IM Eimer
The Eimer at Rosenthaler Straße 68 stood out among the many occupied buildings and art projects in 1990s Berlin. It was a place where art and culture could freely unfold in total autonomy—a creative breeding ground and collective artwork.
On the ground floor, a part of the floor had been ripped up to leave a stage which looked down at the crowd in the basement.
Kiss Freak Steven - I don't like freedomNineties Berlin
The ever-changing artist group Interflug Galaktika began with Peter Rampazzo as the captain. The whole building with its many wall murals and installations was a living artwork designed by multiple scene artists.
In 1993, Line Maaß and Peter Rampazzo bought a KrAZ truck from the Russian Army for 1,000 German marks. It weighed 12 tonnes, measured over 8 feet wide, was powered by a six-wheel drive, and had no power steering.
Love Parade Float
For the I.M. Eimer it served as a stage for concerts at its legendary courtyard parties. It was also driven as a float in the Love Parade.
KrAZ at the LoveparadeNineties Berlin
North of Alexanderplatz
The uncertain ownership status of the building was a constant issue. The owners of the I.M. Eimer were only offered short six-month rental contracts which they couldn't accept. As a result, the building remained official property.
I.M. Eimer, 1992
IM Eimer, Aerial View 1992Original Source: Geoportal Berlin
On July 1, 1989, a group of 150 people danced to acid house on Kurfürstendamm, West Berlin's famous shopping avenue. It wasn't just an arranged demonstration. It was the first few hours of life of the Love Parade. (Image: 1992)
Germany's reunification sparked unexpected levels of optimism. While the whole world was rearranging itself, the unified club scene used the situation to celebrate a new spirit of the times with the Love Parade.
Passersby watched the loud crowd on Kurfürstendamm from the sidewalk—some with amusement, some with scepticism, some dancing along with them.
The first Love Parade took place on July 1, 1989. It was a Saturday rife with shoppers.
People watching the Loveparade from the sidewalk.Original Source: Mike Trobridge
Love Parade 1989–1995
The number of participants at the Love Parade quickly grew, and in 1995, around 35,000 people came together on the narrow Kurfürstendamm avenue. The parade had to relocate.
Love Parade 1996–2006
People argued over where the Love Parade should take place for some time. Eventually they settled on the Straße des 17. Juni with the Berlin Senate. Later, in 1999, 1.5 million people from around the world danced on this street
Lovaparade, Aerial View 1992Original Source: Geoportal Berlin
Party Versus Trash
While everyone was partying hard outside, discussions over the costs of the subsequent cleanup were taking place behind the scenes from 1993. Since the parade was registered as a demonstration and public gathering, the city had to cover the costs.
Because of this, Love Parade's status as a demonstration was repeatedly called into question. While on the one hand hundreds of thousands of people came to Berlin to party, on the other, nobody wanted to take on the costs for cleaning up the city.
People dancing at the Loveparade 1992Original Source: Mike Trobridge
Loss of Demo Status
In 2001, following a litigation process, Love Parade Berlin GmbH lost its status as a demonstration and had to take responsibility for the safety and cleanup of the parade from then on. By 2003, funds had run out.
(Viewable in image: DJ Westbam on the Low Spirit Truck)
The Bitter End
The brand was sold in 2005. In 2006, the Love Parade took place for the last time in Berlin before moving to the Ruhr district. There was no longer any of the spirit from the first year. In 2010, the story of the Love Parade ended in Duisburg with a disaster resulting in 21 fatalities.
DJ Westbam on the float of his music label Low Spirit at the Loveparade 1992Original Source: Mike Trobridge
Cofounder Danielle de Picciotto said in an interview: "The Love Parade started from this feeling that something had to happen. Basically, in Berlin, all the clubs and parties were held in some dark basement where you emerged the next morning totally filthy. We didn't want to be mainstream, but we'd had enough of those basements. The idea of dancing on the streets somehow was absolutely fantastic, we thought."
End of the Road?
The nineties are over, but their spirit still lives on in raves, performers, and other explorers of the time.