Mäusebunker: Berlin’s Mouse Bunker

Jan 26, 2021 2 comments

Sitting squarely in the middle of Berlin is a monstrous-looking building with façade of solid grey concrete, punctured by long ventilation turrets that sticks out in all direction like some sort of a beached battleship. This is Mäusebunker, or “Mouse Bunker”, a Brutalist former animal research laboratory that at some point held over 45,000 mice and 20,000 rats along with a variety of other rodents.

Officially the Central Animal Laboratory of the Free University of Berlin, the Mäusebunker was completed in 1981 as part of the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology. It’s connected to the latter via an underground tunnel. The sinister-looking building was designed by the husband-and-wife duo of Gerd and Magdalena Hänska. Construction of the bunker began in 1971, and would have been completed at least three years earlier if cost had not gone spiraling out of control.


Photo: Thomas Ernst/Flickr

The Mäusebunker was built to look like a fortress, although it is more often compared to a warship because of its inclined walls and blue-painted ventilation shafts that protrude from the sides like cannon barrels. The roof is crowned by several large chimneys, and on the side facing the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, there are rows of recessed windows that give the impression of a command bridge. The German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt once called Mäusebunker “the most sinister building of German post-war modernism.”

The use of the building is just as uncanny as the threatening appearance of the building: The mouse bunker was built by the Free University to carry out scientific experiments with live animals and to breed the animals required for this on site. For safety reasons, the animal testing laboratories are located deep in the building and are ventilated with cannon-like air intake pipes.


Photo: Gunnar Klack/Wikimedia Commons

The building was closed in 2010, and since then has been lying vacant. It was long derided as an eyesore and was slated for demolition, along with the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology building that stands nearby. But a few years ago a couple of residents, architects and other activists launched a campaign against its destruction and successfully stalled the demolition. The building will now be reviewed to explore reuse options.


Photo: Robert Freitag/Flickr


Photo: Berlin-Knipser/Flickr


Photo: Gunnar Klack/Wikimedia Commons


Photo: Rodib6950/Wikimedia Commons

# "Mäusebunker" animal testing laboratory, FU-Berlin, Bürger Für Denkmale
# Save the concrete monsters!, Der Tagesspiegel
# Berlin preservationists halt demolition of the threatened “Mouse Bunker”, The Architect's Newspaper


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