The first skyscraper built in Berlin still stands today and is one of the relics of the industrial era in the city. It was not built in the middle of the city, but stands in Berlin-Tegel. Today, the building is known only by the name Borsigturm.
In 1827, August Borsig founded the Borsig Works in front of the Oranienburg Gate. This was once home to countless factories that manufactured machinery and cast metals. In Berlin vernacular, the area was called “Fireland.” The Borsig company quickly became the largest locomotive producer in Europe and the existing factory space was no longer sufficient.
In 1894/95, the Borsig works moved to Tegel. The new, larger factory site was even expanded piece by piece. On this site, Borsig created a future location with modern work organization. For example, there were work tokens that monitored punctuality and working hours, similar to today’s time clocks. Meal times and break times were fixed and the work process was rational and productive.
Many individual buildings were erected on the site in Tegel, as well as a separate works harbor and the Borsig Tower.
In 1929, the economic crisis hit the family business hard. The group did not survive the economic crisis and insolvency loomed. The takeover by AEG saved the company for the time being, but locomotive production in Tegel ended soon after.
There were subsequently several new owners and on a small scale the company continued to survive in Tegel. Now as a specialist for process engineering.
Borsig Tower Architecture
The Borsig Tower was built in 1922-24 due to the cramped conditions on the factory premises. The footprint of the tower is 20 x 16 meters and it is 65 meters high.
Eugen Schmohl is the architect of the first high-rise building in Berlin. Presumably he had the Siemensturm built in 1917 in the Wernerwerk in Siemensstadt (architect Hans Hertlein) in mind as a model. However, the Siemensturm was not built as a high-rise building, but was merely a covering for a chimney and a water tank. Today, the Borsig Tower is considered a novelty of Berlin modernism and was used in its time as an office building for the Borsig Works.
Seen from the outside, the tower is divided by cornices into three sections of three stories each. The windows are each grouped into groups of three. The roof structure is very striking. It is not as rectilinear as the lower facade, but rather jagged and has a small castle tower character for me. Schmohl was the first to use the so-called brick expressionism in Berlin’s industrial culture.
A steel skeleton building with a brick facade was created. The staircase is located on the south side. Innovative for the time was the construction inside. There are six studs that support the internal structure These make it possible for the floor areas to be freely subdivided. This made it possible to accommodate open-plan offices or smaller rooms on the individual floors.
The roof housed the water reservoir for the factory premises.
The Borsigwerke site today
In 1996, the former factory site was redesigned in terms of urban development.
The Borsig Gate, the former entrance to the plant site, still exists. It was the first building to be erected on the new site in 1889. It looks a bit like a medieval city gate. If you stand in front of the gate, you can see massive round towers with pointed roofs and battlements above the archway. In two round arch niches to the right and left of the archway there are two figures. A blacksmith and an iron founder in traditional working clothes clearly show what kind of company is behind the factory gate. The company name A.Borsig is written in the center above the gate.
Directly behind it, a locomotive reminds us of the original purpose of the site.
The Borsigturm has since been renovated several times and is still used as a high-rise office building. Since 2009, three levels have been open to the public as event spaces. At the top of the tower is a two-story lounge from which one can enjoy a view over the former company grounds.
A shopping center has been built in the former factory building. Here, only the facade reminds of the Borsigwerke. Other buildings have been renovated in accordance with the preservation order and are used by a wide variety of companies.
Berliner Str. 27