Teufelsberg

On the 10th of June 2017, a group of us from GLS ventured out to Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), a man-made hill named after the nearby Teufelsee.

The hill is relatively new, constructed in the aftermath of WW2 and built with layers upon layers of rubble and debris. After Berlin and the surrounding regions were divided into East and West in 1948, cooperation between West Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg ended, and combined with the ensuing fuel shortage, all the debris from the war had to be dumped within West Berlin. In 1972, after tonnes of rubble was deposited on the site, the West Berlin Magistrate decided to invest in a beautification project by planting greenery on top of the mound of rubble.

The hill itself has been used for a variety of purposes, most famously as a spy centre and listening station for American and British troops during the Cold War. As the highest point in West Berlin at the time, the domes provided an ideal vantage point for tapping into confidential calls. Interestingly, we found out that the Americans and British didn’t actually cooperate much and were very apathetic towards each other. 

Our guide, Chris, provided us with many intriguing facts and stories, including the fact that Nazis has planned to use the site for their military-technical college (Wehrtechnische Fakultät) designed by Albert Speer. Attempts were made by the Allies to destroy the college by blowing it up, but it was too sturdy that it was covered in rubble instead.

At the top of a (pitch-black) staircase we entered a radar/echo dome, which had the most astounding acoustics (and likely the envy of many a concert hall!). The geodesic form of the dome means that sound is amplified and travels in a way that means that sounds are louder nearer the walls than in the centre (whispering arches function in a similar way). rays across the length of the dome. travels in a eerie and otherworldly spiral.

Today, Teufelsberg is a flourishing hub for artists (some of whom live on site), who decorate the walls of the former listening station with thought-provoking paintings and text. The ever-changing street art gallery provides a fitting parallel to the continually evolving state of the buildings, which are filled with precarious floors, and objects that jut out of the walls and floors.

An artist's home? 

The trip has certainly been a highlight of my time in Berlin, as it offers a unique combination of street art, a fascinating history, and a dome with truly amazingly ethereal acoustics.