Beloved Berlin Mural to Fall Victim to New Construction

The mural shows German chancellors as puppets.

Berlin's doomed mural.
Photo: Arnulf Hettrich, courtesy Imago.

More and more, street art seems like an endangered species. The latest artwork faced with extinction due to gentrification, reports Germany’s Handelsblatt, is a large mural of political caricatures that has become a fixture of the visual landscape for Berlin commuters. Among its subjects are former chancellors Willy Brandt and Gerhard Schröder, dangling from strings and controlled by a puppet master.

The landlord of the building, on the Uhlandstrasse, commissioned the mural in 2004 from street artists Christian “Lake” Wahle and Gino Fuchs. Berlin is known for its street art scene, but two of its most famous murals, by Italian street artist Blu, were painted over in 2014. In New York, the loss of graffiti mecca 5Pointz stands to be followed by the destruction of Brooklyn’s love letter mural by Stephen Powers.

In Berlin, the well-known mural overlooks an empty lot behind the commuter rail track between Savignyplatz and Bahnhof Zoo stations.

The land between the mural and the tracks was once home to an unexpectedly hip gas station. Thanks to its proximity to a trendy hotel, the Shell station, which opened some 40 years ago, saw more than its fair share of movie stars and celebrities filling up their tanks. It also sold cold sparkling wine 24 hours a day, slaking night owls’ thirst when other shops were closed.

Despite its unlikely popularity, the gas station was demolished in 2004, and the lot has stood empty ever since. Construction is set to begin in April or May, with a seven-story hotel set to be completed by 2017, obscuring the mural—although the project’s lead architect, Andreas R. Becher, told Handelsblatt that he may commission street art for the new building.

For now, street art-loving Berliners will just have to hope that something comes along to thwart construction. Reportedly, an abandoned 2013 design would have erected a residential building on the spot, and the lot has been sold twice in the years since.

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