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Teufelsberg radar station

a sign on the side of a building

From top-secret NSA field station to street art mekka

In the middle of Grunewald forest is a former US Army intelligence facility that has been turned into a big adventure playground for artists. If you have any love for the beauty of decay and for art, this is your place and you should definitely make the trek out there. Facts at the bottom.

One thing that sets Berlin apart (other than it’s history, people and general wickedness) is the amount of trees we have. About a million trees line streets and parks. And then there is Grunewald a 3000 ha large forest on the western edge of Berlin but well inside the city limits.

If you exit the S-Bahn at Grunewald station you stand at a crossroads leading into the forest (Saturday at noon there’s a meeting for mountainbikers if you’re interested). From there it is a 10 minute ride or half hour walk to Teufelsberg (devil’s mountain, named after the small lake nearby; Teufelssee). After a while, a hill appears between the now leafless trees. Like everything that’s higher than a curb we named a mountain even though it is just 150m above sea level at the top – making it the second highest elevation in Berlin.

The dome at Teufelsberg radar station

The dome at Teufelsberg radar station

a large building

Tape Art at Teufelsberg radar station

Tape Art at Teufelsberg radar station

a large brick tower with a clock on the side of a building a graffiti covered wall Ist das Kunst oder kann das weg? Grafitti a close up of an old building

Plotbot Ken grafitti at Teufelsberg radar station

Plotbot Ken grafitti at Teufelsberg radar station

a large building

Obey the Giant/Shepard FAirey at Teufelsberg

Obey the Giant/Shepard Fairey at Teufelsberg

a painting of a graffiti covered wall

Plotbot Ken auf dem Teufelsberg

Plotbot Ken auf dem Teufelsberg

graffiti on a wall a graffiti covered wall

Tobo

Tobo

Plotbot Ken grafitti at Teufelsberg

Plotbot Ken grafitti at Teufelsberg

Marshal Arts

Marshal Arts

Judith auf einem Fitnessgerät auf dem Teufelsberg

Wir halten uns fit. 🙂

a truck is parked in front of a car a close up of a brick wall a building that has a sign on the side of a road a large building

Plotbot Ken

Plotbot Ken

History of Teufelsberg

Even though both ‘peaks’ – Teufelsberg and Drachenberg – are artificial, there was always a smaller hill. On this hill, the Nazis started to build an elite military university right after the 1936 Olympics that were held in nearby Olympiastadion. A hospital as as a replacement for the Charitè was planned as well. Like so many other parts of the planned “World Capital Germania” those projects thankfully never saw their completion and after WWII the Allieds were left with a half-finished complex filled with Nazi-symbolism. So they blew it up and covered it with debris.

Berlin like other cities was heavily bombed and overall about 60% of the houses were destroyed or badly damaged. The materials that couldn’t be recycled were dumped in large landfills that over time became artificial hills. When the first of those were filled to capacity, they opened the Teufelsberg site. In total about 26 Million cubic metres of rubble were dumped here.

In the meantime, the US Army discovered the location and in 1957 the ASA (Army Security Agency – precursor to the NSA) set up the Field Station Teufelsberg from which they started controlling air traffic and listening to radio signals from the east. Over the years they built a veritable high-tech spy city in the middle of the woods. In hindsight it seems strange, that this was completely normal for us as kids. When we let our kites fly there, we never stopped to think how weird it is, that so many people were having fun there, when just a few steps further 300 military men were spying on the Warsaw Pact. But so much, that sounds absolutely ridiculous now, was just a regular part of life. And even though they added soil and planted trees, you still see rebar or broken bricks poking up from the ground after heavy rains.

What the NSA actually constructed on site looked like a sci-fi headquarter of a Bond villain. There were five white fuller domes in different sizes for the antennae and a very unwelcoming superstructure. The whole thing was a fortress and it looked the part. On the other hand, people were walking their dogs along the fence and in winter we would take our sleds there to race down the former ski track (there was a lift and everything at one point and even a world-cup level event in 1987 for Berlin’s 750 year anniversary).

Moe

Moe

Caro Pepe

Caro Pepe

Marshal Arts

Marshal Arts

a person standing in front of a building a group of people standing in front of a building

Alaniz

Alaniz

Marshal Arts

Marshal Arts

graffiti on the side of a building a graffiti covered building map a graffiti covered building a painting on the wall

Vertical Dance at Teufelsberg radar station

A bit hard to see but we came on a group practising a vertical dance at the side of the radar station.

Dome of Teufelsberg radar station from inside a group of people walking on a bridge calendar

Joiny

Joiny

View from the top of Teufelsberg radar station

We could have picked a better day but you can also get stunning views from the top of Teufelsberg radar station.

a close up of a round mirror the dome of a building

After the fall of the Berlin Wall US and British forces left the site early in the 90s, although the radar dishes were in civil use until 1999 at which point city officials sold the whole thing to an architecture firm from Cologne. Von Gruhl & Partner paid 5.2 million Deutsche Mark (about 4 mio. € in today’s money) and they had big plans. Hotels, appartments, a clinic for plastic surgery and a wellness centre were in the making. The thing is, while the city supported the project, the district didn’t, and conversationists went bonkers considering the idea of a hotel in the middle of a Nature reserve. Long story short, after years of back-and-forth, the Cologne architects went bankrupt, the district rezoned the whole area, so nothing new and permanent can be built up there and for a couple of years the place was left to itself. And like always in Berlin, artists and party-people took over. Unorganized at first, but since 2015 the area has a new leaseholder who steers a development that created one of the most exciting places for Urban Art in Berlin, if not worldwide.

Teufelsberg today – a streetart paradise

Whatever I may write about this place, words won’t do it justice. It is just too marvelous to properly describe, so I will refrain from waxing lyrically and try to be objective and rational in my praise. Teufelsberg station is a giant adventure playground, a wet dream for every artist on the lookout for a truly unique canvas for his/her work. Yes, there are quite some industrial compounds that have a lot of art in them like Eisfabrik or the old brewery in Schöneweide or even RAW, but none can compete with Teufelsberg. First of all it is in the middle of the forest, like a space-ship that landed out of town. Most artists choose spots in the city centre to make sure as many people as possible see their pieces. Here people have to spend considerable effort just to get there. Even if you come by car, you still have to climb the hill, so you have to actually work to get there. And secondly the structure itself is so extraordinary. The buildings themselves are typical utilitarian box-design cubes, but on top of them are still the original antenna domes. The one all the way on top of the tower is completely intact. Make sure you have a flashlight or your phone ready for the ascent. Once inside, you will be most impressed by the sound. If you’ve never experienced the sound inside a perfect sphere, you will freak – at least I did. Standing in the centre of the dome, every whisper you make comes back to you amplified, a hand-clap echoes for seconds.

Amidst the decaying structure every surface is painted. There is so much art, that it’s hard to properly take in all of it. From tiny stencil to giant murals. From completely unknown newbies to stars of the international street art scene, they are all here; El Bocho, Elfkunst, Obey, Tobo, Plotbot Ken (with a whole series of post-apocalyptic characters) and many more we haven’t even identified yet.

a person sitting on a bench with a mountain in the background a bird sitting on top of a body of water

Tobo piece at Teufelsberg radar station

Tobo

Marshal Arts

Marshal Arts – Kim Jong Un, Trump & Death Star

a train is parked on the side of a building a sign on the side of a building a graffiti covered building a sign on the side of a building a graffiti covered wall a graffiti covered wall a truck with graffiti on the side of a building a graffiti covered wall a painting of a graffiti covered wall a graffiti covered wall

El Bocho

El Bocho

a graffiti covered wall a person with graffiti on the side of a building a sign on the side of a snow covered slope a building that has a sign on the side of a road

Teufelsberg quick facts

Website: https://teufelsberg-berlin.de/

Address:

Teufelsseechaussee 10, 14193 Berlin (Google Maps)

Opening hours: 10-17.00h, last entrance 16.00h

Entrance: 8 €; 15 € including a historical tour (Friday at 1300, Sat/Sun at 1400)

If you get thirsty easily, remember to bring you own drink, at least in winter since they don’t offer anything, although that might be different in the summer.

teufelsberg-radar-station-berlin-street-art-PIN

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