Shellhaus with original signage

If you’re planning a visit to the excellent Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin’s Tiergarten district then don’t miss the opportunity to see the nearby Shell-Haus. Elegant, eloquent, organic – its imposing wave-like structure, designed by architect Emil Fahrenkamp and completed in 1932, is one of the jewels of Berlin’s architecture. Like so many of the modernist buildings we have visited in Germany it was badly damaged during World War II (in this case the Battle for Berlin), badly neglected in the post-war era through lack of funds, and expensively restored in the affluent decades of the late 20th Century. That’s history of course, but as in Dessau this means that what you are seeing, while true to the original, may appear somewhat ‘scrubbed clean’ to fellow patina enthusiasts. 

Fahrenkamp won the competition to build a headquarters for Rhenania-Ossags (a Shell Oil subsidiary) in 1929. It would be interesting to learn who the other entrants were.

It seems the Reich’s Naval High Command requisitioned the building at some point during the war and the basement was converted to hospital facilities. The photo below from 1945/6 show the upper floors completely burnt out following the Battle for Berlin (Imperial War Museum collection).

Shell Haus IWM collection

The building’s current occupier is the Federal Ministry of Defense and hence it is not easy to gain access. The following images are from a small collection of images displayed in a street level window outlining the history and renovation of the building (German only).

When the façade was restored during the late 1990’s the Italians had to reopen the original quarry in order to supply the replacement travertine marble. Personally we’d have preferred Fahrenkamp to have worked in good old concrete but it was a corporate headquarters after all and they like that sort of thing.

© Modernist Tourists 2016