An empty, tumble-down, sprawling complex sits amidst handsome new apartment buildings in Berlin’s Weissensee neighborhood. Though an intrigued passerby probably wouldn’t guess it, this crumbling graffiti gallery was once a cutting-edge pediatric medical facility, abruptly banished almost 20 years ago to a bizarre limbo that continues to this day.
Planning for the Weissensee Children’s Hospital (Kinderkrankenhaus-Weißensee) began in 1908, undertaken in an effort to combat rising infant and child mortality rates. Inaugurated in 1911, it was the first municipal hospital of Prussia, and incorporated novel concepts like a 2.8 hectare (6.9 acre) park surrounding the hospital and an onsite dairy that produced milk for the young patients, their mothers and the surrounding neighborhood. The hospital survived two World Wars and the Cold War, even being enlarged in 1987 when the East German government added a new wing.
The facility even survived German reunification for several years, but was eventually closed in 1997. Empty since then, the buildings and grounds are protected as historic monuments under the care of the municipal government. In 2005 the property was sold to a Russian investor and medical cooperative that proposed converting it into a new clinic. After years passed without any construction or even basic maintenance at the site, curious journalists found the new ownership led only to a sketchy location housing multiple shell corporations.
Further inquiries yielded a fantastical tale of Russian doctors who had discovered a method of curing cancer and AIDS with radio waves. The hapless spokesman associated with the bogus address claimed that this method had already cured many people in Russia. Unfortunately, their results proved difficult to verify, as the patients they cured were all quickly killed thereafter by mismanagement by conventional doctors..
After years of lawsuits, local courts ordered the fraudulent Russian owner to return the property to the municipal property management authority. The future of the former landmark children’s hospital is as yet unclear.
Today, Weissesee’s abandoned children’s hospital is frequented by homeless people looking for a place to sleep, as well as graffiti artists who have used the site to create some astonishing street art. It also remains an attractive target for curious urban explorers, but it is not hazard-free by any means. Intrepid visitors should be very careful, as it is a very old and decaying building.