Bierpinsel: The Landmark ‘Beer Brush’ of Berlin Steglitz

the-iconic-bierpinsel-tower-in-berlin-steglitz (Image: A. Savin; the iconic Bierpinsel in Berlin Steglitz)

Towering above Berlin’s Steglitz neighbourhood is a strange sight. According to some, it’s an eyesore. Others believe it’s a bold example of modern architecture, perhaps even a work of art. No one has yet been able to revitalise the neglected brutalist building.

The building, which resembles an observation tower in appearance, officially opened as the Turmrestaurant Steglitz (Tower Restaurant) back in the 1970s, but it quickly became more popularly known as the Bierpinsel.

the-iconic-bierpinsel-tower-in-berlin-steglitz-2 (Image: ANBerlin)

When the doors of the bizarre 46-metre-tall restaurant swung opened to the public after four years of construction (between 1972 and 1976), the neighbourhood was invited to celebrate with jugs of free beer. That, combined with its distinctly brush-like shape, gave rise to its more popular nickname Bierpinsel, which translates as “Beer brush”.

the-iconic-bierpinsel-tower-in-berlin-steglitz-3 (Image: Kai Wegner)

andBerlin reports that the original inspiration for the building – which was designed by Ralf Schuler and Ursulina Schuler-Witte, the architects behind the ICC Berlin – was supposed to be a tree. Unfortunately, however, tenants have come and gone with lightning speed, and turnover within the Bierpinsel has been high.

The brutalist building has, at various times, been home to restaurants, nightclubs and bars. Closed in 2002 for extensive renovation, it reopened briefly before closing its doors again in 2006. The current owners are still looking for a permanent purpose for the building, and renovation plans have been criticised by those who worry that the reworkings will destroy the bizarre pop-art appearance that made the Bierpinsel an icon of post-war Berlin.

the-iconic-bierpinsel-tower-in-berlin-steglitz-4 (Image: Jorbasa Fotografie)

In 2010, the abandoned landmark’s 2,000 square metre facade served as an outdoor canvas for four graffiti artists during the Turmkunst project. The project was geared toward turning the building into a modern street art installation, and featured a temporary cafe known as Kunstkaffee (Art Café) on the third floor.

The Bierpinsel’s transformation, however, wasn’t loved by everyone in the neighbourhood. But as a result, the reimagined structure challenged perceptions over the meaning and role of art, facilitating a lively debate among Berliners and those outside the German capital.

the-iconic-bierpinsel-tower-in-berlin-steglitz-5 (Image: Martin Teschner)

Having been neglected and largely empty for a decade, the Bierpinsel is, unsurprisingly, showing its age. With its owners working to secure the long-term future of the building amid the wear and tear that’s arisen during its years of disuse, including serious water damage, it’s unclear what the future holds for the brightly coloured Berlin ‘Beer Brush’. There may be hope on the horizon, however, thanks to the suggestion that it could reopen by the end of 2017.

If you love modern architecture (including brutalism), don’t miss this series of striking structures made from concrete.


About the author: Debra Kelly



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