Some 25 kilometres or so to the north of Berlin as the crow flies, is the small town of Oranienberg. A little further still into the Brandenburg countryside, passing the infamous Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp on the way, is the beautiful lake of Grabowsee, surrounded on all sides by dense pine forest and bordered to the south west by the deep, wide Berlin - Stettin canal.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the newly emerging nation of Germany was desperate for man power to drive its exponential industrial expansion however the world Tuberculosis epidemic of the time meant that the nation was struggling to maintain a sufficiently large workforce. As many as 1 in 3 deaths at that time were directly attributable to the disease which proliferated in the highly populated and insanitary accommodation of the poorer people in society; the very people so necessary for the industrial growth. In order to fight the disease state of the art treatment sanatoria were built all over the country and Berlin, being as large as it was, needed more than one.

Below right - The East Building in 1910.                  

Surgeon Gotthold Pannwitz from the Imperial Health Office began planning the construction of a Lungenheilstätten - literally a “lung sanatorium" - in 1895 with architect Arnold Beschoren taken on to design and oversee the work. In 1896 work began on a 35 hectare site and by completion there were a total of 34 buildings in the complex, the main ones linked by corridors to form a layout along three sides of a square. The wards were aligned to the south in order to make best use of the sun. An underground railway linked the buildings at the front of the site to those directly opposite in order to facilitate the rapid movement of stores etc. from area to area. The underground railway also had two separate branch lines running at right angles off the main tunnel. As with all German architecture of that period functionality was combined with beautifully aesthetic architecture. Lungenheilstätten Grabowsee later became known as the "Red Cross Sanatorium for the Working Class" and in 1920, ownership was transferred from the Red Cross to the State (Brandenburg) Employees’ Insurance Company who also constructed various other sanatoria in Brandenburg. including the enormous Beelitz Heilstätten some miles away on the other side of Berlin.

Below left - another view of the East Building in 1910.


Below right - the Bed Pavilion in 1910

Before the advent of antibiotics the treatment of TB was very experimental in nature, and if you would like to learn more about how the problem was tackled at that time then please visit our Beelitz Heilstätten page by clicking on this highlighted word link. Suffice it to say that despite advances in surgical intervention the main treatment was, and would remain for at least another 4o some years, prolonged bed rest in quiet, peaceful surroundings, with above all, lots and lots of fresh air. To that end the sanitaria of the time were always constructed in the countryside away from the city in order to avoid exposing the patients to air born industrial pollutants. Beelitz Heilstätten was built in a similarly isolated forest area for the same reasons, and whilst Lungenheilstätten Grabowsee is much smaller than its brother sanatorium on the other side of the city, it still has many similarities. The principle difference is the fact that Beelitz’s buildings tended to be completely separate from one another in a four quadrant layout, whilst Grabowsee’s are almost all joined together with communicating corridors to form in effect one large and sprawling building. Heating and ventilation was achieved at both sanitaria in a remote plant situated away from the ward blocks. Steam was raised in huge boilers then piped to each building where the heat from the steam was used via calorifiers to heat water for washing etc. and to warm filtered air for the heating of the buildings. Grabowsee has a unique arrangement where the water tower, built to maintain a sufficient head of pressure for domestic water supply, had a hollow core which is the chimney for the boiler room. The immense height of the Grabowsee tower ensured the boiler fumes were adequately dispersed.   

Below left - the administration building in 1910.


Below right - a postcard from 1915.

Exercise was very important for patients once they were sufficiently over the worst of the disease, and as at Beelitz, a large exercise hall was built. This is situated in the main block which faces the access road running down to the hospital. In addition to being an exercise hall it doubled as a function hall with a large stage, and even a cinema projection booth. Forward of the exercise hall is a large kitchen complex and it is here that the primary access to the underground railway can be found. A large dumb waiter communicates with the railway loading bay directly below the kitchens; thus the food cooked in the kitchens could be moved across to the wards on the south of the site very quickly.   

After the fall of Germany in World War II the Russians occupied much of Berlin and this hospital went the same way that Beelitz did, becoming a military hospital. It was finally abandoned after the reunification of Germany in the mid 1990’s and has rotted away quietly amongst the forest ever since with no maintenance what so ever upon the site. Fairly recently some of the outlying buildings at Grabowsee were used for an urban street art project. Rooms within these buildings were allocated to individual “artists” and they are now festooned with spray paint graffiti of an extremely high quality and not inconsiderable artistic skill.

There is also evidence that parts of some of the buildings have been used as film sets, not least the main hall where the carcass of a baby grand piano sits upon a square of red carpet on the stage and deep scarlet curtains frame the pros arch. Four week after our visit we received a link to a You Tube video. -  CLICK ON THE PHOTO LEFT  - It is a music video by a Scandinavian band called, Euzen, and considering the somewhat "aesthetic" nature of the video - which appeals greatly to us! - there's no real point in explaining what it appears to be about! Perhaps it's best if you just go see it for yourself and enjoy the content which was shot in and around the Grabowsee sanatorium!

As of the beginning of 2012 it appears that a large charity called Kid's Globe own the site, or are at least in negotiation to buy it, and they are planning to turn it into a large residential academy where their intent is, "to discover and pursue new approaches to education with children, young people, and grown-ups".

The access into Grabowsee was relatively easy despite the use of steel temporary airfield runway sections arranged on their edges to form a wall. Once within the complex we were able to wander freely as there did not appear to be any form of security – indeed we were not alone in our exploration, meeting two girls filming some sort of project/production on a Handicam, and two other small groups of explorers! We shot round the place fairly quickly and as a result we must have missed some areas, however the level of dereliction at Lungenheilstätten Grabowsee means that the interior is very much of a much ness, so our visit  was probably of a suitable duration and intensity. That said we would not hesitate to return!


Below is a selection of the photographs we took in and around Lungenheilstätten Grabowsee...


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Inside the walls of Heilstatten Grabowsee, many of the ancillary buildings have been heavily graf painted as part of the urban art project.
Clearly it's been a scheme with approval as a guy on a ladder with a can of spray paint will stand out like a sore thumb!

We saw a very similar artwork of the same character in the Barenquell Braueri in Berlin.

And again, this graf artist has also worked at the brewery.
Stencilling doesn't do it for me but this is pretty impressive.
We were NOT alone!

We entered the main complex through an entrance into one of the east side linking corridors.

The usual damp blown plaster litters the floors.

Lots of peely paint doors!

Barred windows? It's more like a jail than a hospital in places!


This strange staircase arrangement meant the stairs could not be directly accessed from the corridor!

We worked around to the staircase and had a little mooch up it.

To find yet another corridor of peely paint and doors!
Back down again and onwards...
Only to find our progress barred!

Another work around and the tile colour scheme changes to an appealing black and white.

Fortunately this barred corridor was unlocked.

Into the gloom!

This magnificent staircase in a main building has had all it's balustrades removed.
What is he taking a photo of?

Stair porn of course!

Quite a drop!
This area is a ward block.
Making the best use of natural light.
Quite an exquisite piece of graf!
The painted walls here have been badly water damaged.
Ever upwards...

On the top floors the windows are often topped with a triangular light much as at Beelitz.

What's she interested in?

The view through the pointy window!


Many of the same ideas from Beelitz can be seen here too such as what looks like staff accommodation within the roof supports on the top floor.

Not quite as pleasing to the eye as the buildings at Beelitz though.


The water tower can be seen from many windows due to it's enormous height.


Here it is again!


Looking across towards the north end of the site and the main building.

An abandoned briefcase in the rafters!

One of the warm air heating control baffles.
Back to the centre of this building and the staircase.
More wanton stair porn!

What's that behind you !?! Oh don't worry... it's only a bright red rat wearing a gas mask - nothing unusual!

A lonely typist's chair in the middle of a derelict room?

We had a quick look out of the front door of this part of the site...

...and found we were looking up the main entrance drive.
This is the side of the main building at the back.
Beyond the huge bay window is the recreation hall stage...
...and the baby grand piano.


In all likelihood a film prop, it still makes for exquisite photo opportunities!

Look! Is it Marry Banilow? No, the nose isn't big enough!

Situated behind the recreation hall is the kitchen block.

Adjacent to the kitchen is the cellar and the railway access.


The railway tunnel runs from north to south with a crossing east-west tunnel part way along.

An empty carriage still sits on the rails part way in.

This odd room is situated just before the tunnel roof level drops and has two steel cabinets, one still stacked with what look like specimen jars.
There is a pronounced curvature to the tunnel as it heads off southwards.

Here she comes!
And we're back on the south side once again.
More wards opening off long corridors.
Grabowsee Lake seen through a ward block exit.
Heading along another of the connecting corridors.
This tiled area looks like it was an ablutions block.
Up a level now on one of the few corridors with two floors.
Gratuitous stair porn as we enter another ward block.
I like the light at the end of the gloomy corridor on this pic!

An abandoned bed stead, designed low to the floor and almost certainly Soviet in origin. We have seen one much the same before at Beelitz.

A change in corridor and a change in wall colour!

A crude wooden stretcher abandoned on the first floor.

Backing paper, Soviet style!

I reckon we have seen this artist's work at Beelitz too.


And we have worked our way back, above ground  this time, almost to the recreation hall and kitchens once more!


Crossing the gap between buildings towards the middle of the north (front) end of the site.

Ornate decor, if a little gaudy!

I wonder what happened to the sculpture?

Decoration at the side of the entrance door.
The Director's Villa sits in isolation in the woods.
And we are back inside again!
Looking west to where we have just come back in.

Another film prop?


A view of the central garden area from inside a building in the north wing.

And off to the upper floor now - one of the few staircases with metal balustrades at Grabowsee.


Another large open hall is situated above the recreation hall however we could not find any means of access to the projection room for the hall below, try as we might!

An odd door with a "serving hatch" leads into a narrow corridor running off towards the west end of the building...

...where we found a large balcony with a wonderful view.
Heading up to the top floor now.
We're not quite roof topping but we can't get much higher!
One of the better roofs at Grabowsee, most are full of holes now.

On the way back down again.


Another ward wing with wonderful south facing windows to make the most of the natural light.

This flight of stairs leads up and over the recreation hall where it meets a similar flight of steps on the other side to drop you back down again!
We would never tag our names with paint or pen however writing them in the dirt on a window seems fair game!

That magnificent water tower again! Sadly we were unable to get up it to take photographs as the access has been meshed off.

It would have been nice to get up there!


On the way back down again - we have just crossed over the top of the recreation hall!

Time to head off downstairs...

Through one of the endless connecting corridors ...
...and another!
Then off to the first of the street art project buildings.
Probably a nurses home or the like?

Some of the graf is nightmarish in the extreme!


A view from another of the ornate windows so redolent of German architecture of that period!

See what I mean about nightmarish???


If I had to guess I'd say this work was the product of an acid dazed mind mid bad trip!


This photo does not begin to do this room justice - it was a real visual treat, especially with the southern window pouring in natural light!


I love the realism of the eye colours.
Well then, there you go! What can you say???
This reminds me of the butcher zombies in "Blood"!!!

Beauty in Decay?


I think this is yet more of the same artist's work we saw elsewhere at Grabowsee AND at Beelitz. Remember the hollow head man?

Quite childlike and very cheery!


How's this for the tale of a salty sea dog??? I'm not sure about the hairy lighthouse and I'd be thankful not to meet the fish that is leaping out of the water!

A new slant on graffiti art - this papier-mâché fish hanging off the light fitting adds a real third dimension!




There are several of these silhouettes dotted about the building, but none are quite as "perky" as this one! It has a feel about it of Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess.



...and finally!

This graf was tiny, so much so that we almost didn't see it. I'm really rather glad we did though because she's so cute!


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