History of the Podewil
A Baroque palace through the ages
Our building at Klosterstraße 68 is located on one of the oldest streets in Berlin and has undergone a number of transformations over the past three centuries. Originally built in the early 18th century, it has been used exclusively as a site of culture since the 1950s.
The Podewil was erected as a “city palace” in 1701-1704 by a baroque architect named Jean de Bodt, and the building changed hands several times in the course of its history. It was named after Count Heinrich von Podewil, who bought the palace in 1732 for a mere 12,000 thalers and proceeded to have it lavishly furnished. The value of the palace grew considerably over time. In 1874, when the magistrate of Berlin acquired the property for 215,000 thalers, the era of the private use of the palace came to an end.
In subsequent decades, the palace became home to a number of different institutions: the museum known as the “Märkisches Provinzialmuseum”, the Sparkasse bank, the Berlin “Wasserwerke” waterworks, the Berlin “Stadtreinigung” sanitation department, the Magistrate military office and the Bezirksamt (administrative office) of the district of Mitte.
Badly damaged in WWII, the palace was rebuilt by 1954 and converted into a “Klubhaus”. On 7 March 1954, the governing mayor of East Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, officially handed over the “Zentrale Klubhaus der Jugend” (central youth clubhouse) to the youth organisation known as the Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth, FDJ). The site became known as the “home of young talent” with events such as the “Festival of Political Songs”. It was also known as an important home for jazz music in the GDR.
The era of the Podewil as a cultural centre came to a brief end two years after German reunification with a decision made by the Berlin state government. In 1991, the newly founded, state-operated organisation known as the Berlin Kulturveranstaltungs-GmbH (BKV) took up residence in the building. The company was entrusted with the organisation and coordination of cultural exchange projects between Berlin and partners abroad, and it operated a number of venues, including the Theater am Halleschen Ufer, the Theater im Podewil and the Schaubude Berlin. By 2003, the Podewil had established itself as an internationally renowned address for dance, new music, theatre, performance and media art.
In 2004, a re-tendering took place under the auspices of Thomas Flierl, Berlin’s Senator for Culture at the time. The contract was awarded to the association known as Tesla Berlin e.V., which operated a lab for media arts of the same name from 2005 to 2007. At the same time, the museum-education organisation known as the Museumspädagogische Dienst Berlin (MD Berlin) took up residence in the Podewil. This marked the first step in preparation for a fusion with the BKV. On 1 September 2006, the state-owned, non-profit organisation known as Kulturprojekte Berlin – which represented the merger of BKV and MD Berlin – took up operations here.