It all started 171 years ago in Berlin, in a rear courtyard in Berlin-Kreuzberg, where Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske founded the company that has long been at home throughout the world. A few decades later, at the end of the 19th century, the “startup” – as it would be referred to today – at Schöneberger Strasse 19 became a corporation that began planning a new, much larger site: Siemensstadt. Siemens was setting out for a “wilderness on the outskirts of Berlin,” as it was called in the company history.
The move took until 1913. A thriving district was created on the Nonnenwiesen with thousands of jobs, residences, cultural and social institutions and, above all, a clear vision in mind: shaping the future – in full accordance with the motto that Werner von Siemens was already writing into his company’s DNA as early as 1854.
There is powerful magic in the words ‘I want,’ if it is meant in earnest and if there’s conviction behind it!Werner von Siemens to his wife Mathilde, 1854
This vision is now going to be revitalized on historical ground. On the company premises in Berlin-Spandau, Siemens AG is planning one of the largest single investments in the company’s history. Over the next few years, up to 600 million euros will be invested in a new working and living environment: The new Siemensstadt.
The project covers a 70-hectare area and has an ambitious objective: to transform the largely listed industrial area in western Berlin into a modern, multi-use, urban district of the future. In a collaboration between science and economy, selected key technologies and fields of innovation will be invigorated through on-site encounters between research centers, centers of expertise, and incubators, as well as extramural and scientific institutions and their partner companies. Here, at this important site in company history, all participants will find a new home.
In other words, Siemensstadt will once again be the district in Berlin that attracts people from around the world. But how did it all start? Let’s take a look at the past, which is also a look at the future.
The founding concept behind Siemensstadt in 1897 was to unite working, research and living and thus create an intact symbiosis for a successful future. […] And that's what Siemensstadt 2.0 is all about.Joe Kaeser, President and Chief Executive Officer at Siemens AG
A "wilderness on the outskirts of Berlin" becomes SiemensstadtAt the end of the 19th century, when Siemens & Halske could find no more space within the city limits of Berlin, the fast-growing company began looking for a new location. The company’s future home would be at Nonnenwiesen, a remote area north of the Spree River, between Charlottenburg and Spandau. Siemens took action in 1897 and gradually acquired over 200 hectares of building land. Siemens architects Karl Janisch and Hans Hertlein turned these areas into a modern industrial campus that left nothing to be desired – and included everything from a transportation infrastructure and social institutions to a residential area. The district was officially named “Siemensstadt” at the beginning of 1914. Construction was largely completed by the 1930s, when the location’s reputation as a symbol of the modern working environment already extended far beyond Berlin.
Siemens architecture is setting the styleUp until World War I, Siemensstadt owed its unmistakable appearance to Karl Janisch. With buildings such as the Westend cable factory (1898), the Wernerwerk I telecommunications equipment plant (1903), and a dynamo factory (Dynamowerk, 1906), the engineer built numerous factories that facilitated efficient production. The individual buildings could be flexibly utilized according to need and could also be easily enlarged. The Siemens architect based his design on knowledge he had gained during international study tours. For example, he had specifically analyzed the manufacturing processes in the U.S., which he then integrated into his concept of highly functional, socially compatible production facilities capable of being expanded over decades. But that’s not all: In addition to production facilities, Janisch was also responsible for the construction of the chemical-physical laboratory (1906) and the administration building erected at Nonnendamm/Rohrdamm between 1910 and 1913. Together with the Wernerwerk II (1922), which was gradually upgraded and expanded by his successor, Hans Hertlein, and the Schaltwerk high-rise building (1928) built by Hertlein, this remarkable administration building set the style for the coming decades and was considered a model of modern architecture on an international scale.
Learn more about the history of Siemensstadt in Berlin in our History News:
The development of a locationFrom the beginning, Siemensstadt was more than just a production site. Following a future-oriented corporate policy, Siemens invested considerable sums of money in the construction and expansion of the infrastructure on the Nonnenwiesen. One of the first major challenges was to connect the new district to the city’s public transportation system. Thus, for example, the company financed the construction of streets around the Nonnendamm. It also built the first bridge across the Spree River and a power plant that, among other things, supplied power to the first private residences at Nonnendamm. Even more important, however, were measures taken to make Siemensstadt appeal to new employees. To attract Berlin’s most qualified workers, in 1904 Siemens began building modern, company-owned housing while at the same time supporting the construction of cultural and social institutions such as churches, schools, recreational facilities, and parks. The efforts were successful: In 1914, the growing community already had 7,000 inhabitants – and the trend continued.
A full 100 years later, the company is emphatically renewing its commitment to Berlin and playing a decisive role in creating a location that congenially joins the past and the future – for the benefit of the company, the city and, above all, the people who live here.
Dr. Johannes von Karczewski