Can the Mouse Bunker be saved?

The former animal research lab was slated to be torn down. Politicians and architecture fans would rather it be repurposed for more pacifist uses.

A brutalist building with a cute name.
A brutalist building with a cute name.imago images/Jürgen Ritter

Berlin-A perennial Instagram favourite – the Freie Universität's brutalist former central animal testing lab – has won a one-year reprieve from the wrecking ball.

The Mäusebunker, or Mouse Bunker, in Lichterfelde is part of a "competitive dialogue" about the future development of the Benjamin Franklin medical campus, Steffen Krach (SPD), an official in the city-state's science ministry, said in answer to an inquiry by parliamentarian Katalin Gennburg (Die Linke).

Urban planners and historical preservationists are part of the procedure, Krach said. 

"Initial, reliable conclusions should be available in the third quarter of 2021," his response reads. The current process is considering whether continued use is "structurally, substantively and economically worthwhile and possible".

The concrete building on Krahmerstraße was designed by Gerd Hänska and built between 1971 and 1980. It was taken over by Charité in 2003 and used for experimental medicine but the hospital recently applied for a demolition permit in hopes of expanding its Benjamin Franklin research campus.

The current process will look at whether the Charité should incorporate the Mouse Bunker into its plans, relinquish the unique building or tear it down.

Architect Gunnar Klack and art historian Felix Torkar both launched an online petition against the demolition earlier this year and received several thousand signatures from all over the world.

The Mouse Bunker is seen as a key example of brutalism, though it doesn't enjoy any type of state protection. Krach, together with the Charité and historical preservation officials, agreed to give the building a stay.

In turn, the local historical protection office agreed to not yet grant it protected status. 

"The Mäusebunker is one of the most important architectural monuments in Berlin and should not be demolished – numerous experts have made this clear since the spring," parliamentarian Gennburg said. She warned against treating the building like the International Congress Center in Charlottenburg, which has stood empty for years despite the desperate need for cultural spaces in the city.

While she welcomes the review of the building's future, Gennburg says it shouldn't stop the government from a "clear commitment to protecting this spectacular building and to open it to new uses."

Cost is also no excuse because the building itself has a value, she says.

"Previous concerns about usage have been resolved, since half the local architecture scene has weighed in with concrete solutions," Gennburg says.

Art warehouses and studios are just some of the proposed ideas.