ADGB Trade Union School

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ADGB Trade Union School
Gewerkschaftsschule-Bernau 2007-08-19 AMA fec5.JPG
The Trade Union School after restoration
Alternative names Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund School
General information
Status Renovated
Type Education and Training Complex
Architectural style Bauhaus
Address Fritz-Heckert-Straße
Town or city Bernau, Berlin
Country Germany
Coordinates 52°42′23″N 13°32′38″E / 52.7065°N 13.5440°E / 52.7065; 13.5440Coordinates: 52°42′23″N 13°32′38″E / 52.7065°N 13.5440°E / 52.7065; 13.5440
Construction started 1928
Completed 1930
Cost ~EU 28 million (1999 renovation)
Client Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund
Technical details
Structural system Steel, Glass
Design and construction
Architect Hannes Meyer

The ADGB Trade Union School was a complex of teaching and administrative buildings in the north of Bernau in a forested area just outside Berlin (Bernau bei Berlin), Germany, constructed for the former General German Trade Union Federation (ADGB). It was designed by the Bauhaus architect Hannes Meyer with his partner Hans Wittwer between 1928-1930, at which time Meyer was the director of the Bauhaus school in Dessau.[1] The former ADGB School is a preeminent, but little-known example of Bauhaus-designed architecture.[2]


The ADGB required a facility to educate and train members of the union in a variety of areas including labour law, industry, management and economics. The scope of the project therefore meant different facilities were required such as classrooms, accommodation, catering and a sporting complex.[3] The ADGB Union set up a competition for the design of their new complex and wrote to six architects, Meyer's design prevailed.[1] [4]



The architecture reflects the teachings intrinsic to the Bauhaus ideologies and is a 'paradigmatic example of functional architecture'.[5] The functionality taking precedent over anything else, the school was stripped back of any unnecessary decoration. Meyer's design is composed of separate, individual structures that come together cohesively in the surrounding landscape. The design came directly from the functional diagrams that Meyer had developed where all the lounges are oriented towards the landscape and the nearby lake.


The overall complex is difficult to comprehend and can only be properly understood from the air, which is a similar execution to Walter Gropius' Bauhaus in Dessau. Each separately functioning building is positioned to form a Z-shape.[6]

The reception building bares a resemblance to the entrance of a factory site, which keeps in line with the purely functionalist design. There are three chimneys which constitute the heating system and are accompanied by a block-like cube of the auditorium, creating a dominating entrance scene to the complex.[4] Immediately behind the entrance are the public buildings, positioned to create a square plan, which is exacerbated by the square auditorium in the middle. This form is intended to create an expression of unity, the unity of a community.[4] The auditorium is a windowless room, the strong introversion allowing maximum concentration on the action. Sophisticated technology supported the lecturers: A push-button would reduce the light band and dim the lights, while all three wall elements at the front hung with maps and graphs were moveable.

Around the auditorium lined the administration building to the west, while south and east was the kitchen, dining room, sun room and recreation rooms together. The restrooms were opposite to the auditorium. All of these facilities were designed so that they allowed a digression of thought, and a relaxation of the mind.

The remaining facilities can be accessed by a covered glass transition corridor, accentuated with red coloured steel. Five residential wings are lined to the south giving a clear view to the landscape in the north.[7] The course follows the terrain profile and thus has a slope of five meters. The recessed edges of the accommodation wings form niches that serve as communication nooks and lounges. Meyer created not only a development, but also a public space that can be used in rainy weather as a movement zone. Each housing unit had a colour (e.g. red) assigned to each floor and was then differentiated further once on the floor (e.g., carmine, vermilion, pink).[4]

1933 closure[edit]

The ADGB Trade Union School operated for three years with its intended use until May 2, 1933 [4] when the building was confiscated by the Nazis in World War II.[6] Once occupied by the Nazi SA soldiers the building was used as a school by the NSDAP and later in 1936 it became a school to train the leaders of the SS (Schutzstaffel), SD (Sicherheitsdienst) and Gestapo.

When World War II was over, the Soviets and the Red Army seized the building which served as a military hospital until the spring of 1945.[4] After this time the school was returned to the East Germany trade union (FDGB) until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.[1] For many years the school remained empty until the Berlin Chamber of Commerce bought the site.


Throughout its varied life, the complex was altered drastically, in 1999 the new owners, the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, placed a competition for its Building restoration to reflect Meyer's original plans.[3] Berlin-based firm, Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten won the competition and carefully reinstated the original architectural features and details of the complex.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Foundation for the ADGB Trade Union School (German)
  2. ^ Deutsche Stiftung Denkmal Schutz, originally published on 11th October 2007, archived from the original on 17 October 2007, accessed on 20 June 2013 (German)
  3. ^ a b World Monuments Fund
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundes (German)
  5. ^ Bauhaus-online archive
  6. ^ a b ADGB Trade Union School on Architectuul
  7. ^ a b Sokol, David. "An Architectural Gem in Germany is Reborn, Architectural Record, 13 August 2008, Retrieved on 21 June 2013.