The Berghain nightclub building
|Location||Friedrichshain, Berlin, Germany|
|Former name(s)||Ostgut ( - 2003)|
Berghain is a nightclub in Berlin, Germany, named after its location near the border between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Philip Sherburne described it in 2007 as "quite possibly the current world capital of techno, much as E-Werk or Tresor were in their respective heydays."
Berghain is the reincarnation of the "legendary" Ostgut club (1998–2003) and emerged from a male-only fetish club night called "Snax", which was held in different locations before it found its permanent home at the Ostgut. The Ostgut became a focal point of the Berlin techno subculture after the venue was opened to the general public on regular nights—the exclusive Snax nights were still held six to eight times annually.
Ostgut eventually closed on January 6, 2003, following a 30-hour farewell event, and the former railway warehouse that housed the club was subsequently demolished. Berghain then opened in 2004. The name "Berghain" is a composite of the names of the two quarters that flank the building's south and north sides: Kreuzberg (formerly West Berlin) and Friedrichshain (formerly East Berlin)—the literal meaning of the German word berghain is "mountain grove". The Snax event is still held once a year on Holy Saturday (March 30) and Minneapolis, US DJ and producer Dustin Zahn performed a DJ set that lasted over three hours at the 2013 Snax party. Zahn explains: "Once a year in honor of the old Ostgut tradition, Berghain closes its doors to the straight crowd and unleashes a no-holds barred gay marathon where anything goes."
The club is located in a former power plant (rented from the energy company Vattenfall) in Friedrichshain, near the Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station. The building is distinguished by its enormous dimensions, which accommodate an 18-meter high dance floor and space for 1500 guests. The interior's minimalist design is dominated by steel and concrete.
The club contains a "cavernous" main room, as well as a smaller upstairs space called the "Panorama Bar," which is decorated by large-scale Wolfgang Tillmans photographs and features tall windows with a view of East Berlin. In 2007 only half of the building was in use.
Over the course of its existence, Berghain has become associated with decadence and hedonism. A 2006 New Zealand Herald article describes "people openly indulging in sexual acts" inside the club, with the building, at the time, containing several dark rooms specifically set aside for such activity. Guardian writer Helen Pidd stated in a 2008 article: "walk past the booths on the ground floor and you're sure to see a bare bottom or 10". Photography is strictly forbidden inside Berghain, and no mirrors or reflecting surfaces can be found anywhere in the club.
Berghain is also renowned for its lengthy opening hours—Pidd wrote in 2008: "no one arrives before 4am, and most stay until well past teatime". Jesse Rose, whose "Made To Play" music label ran a residency at the club in 2011, explained his appreciation of the club for the DJMag magazine's 2011 "Top 100 Clubs" list:
Still the best club in the world for me because it doesn't care about being the best club in the world. The guys do what they want, the way they want and it continually works. No VIP, no mirrors in the bathroom, no expensive cocktails, just a good sound system and great crowd.
In 2005 the club's owners started a record label named "Ostgut Ton". The label's first releases were by Berghain/Panorama Bar residents such as Marcel Dettmann, Cassy and Ben Klock. The music released by the label is mostly techno, tech house, Detroit techno and minimal techno. Nick Höppner, a resident DJ who founded and manages the label, stated in 2007: "The simple division is that Panorama Bar more or less caters to house ... and Berghain is really the platform for purist techno." The label's first CD is Berghain 01, mixed by André Galluzzi and released in 2005.
In 2007 Berghain collaborated with the Berlin State Ballet to create "Shut Up and Dance! Updated", a ballet for five dancers that was performed at the club in late June and early July. The ballet's soundtrack, released on Ostgut Ton on May 29, 2007 is made up of five specially composed tracks by prominent minimal techno artists, such as Luciano, Âme, Sleeparchive and Luke Slater (The 7th Plain). The soundtrack received some positive reviews, including a five-star review in The Guardian, while the ballet itself was panned by Resident Advisor (RA) magazine.
In October 2010, the label released a five-year anniversary compilation titled Fünf, for which field recordings from within the club were used as the basis for the two-disc collection. Höppner further explained the concept behind the compilation in an August 2010 interview:
Well, it wasn't really my idea ... I didn't like the thought of doing it like everyone else–maybe a mix through the back catalog and a few exclusive new tracks by some key artists... I wanted something more special. Then a while ago I met Emika, she’s making music herself on Ninja Tune. We sat together one day last summer and she told me about her last visit to Berghain. It was a regular Sunday morning and she noticed how everything in the building was resonating and vibrating and swinging and humming–she realized that there were lot of sounds coming from the building itself. That led to the idea of doing field recordings within the building while it's not open to the public ... It took about two or three weeks ... It was a four gigabyte library.
Höppner also spoke about the label's artist roster and sales performance, stating that many people who submit recordings are turned down due to "so many in-house artists", while the label, at that time, was selling more product than other labels, but was not generating a large profit margin. Regarding the period from 2010 to 2015, Höppner said: "Everyone has his tastes and a very high standard of quality. Just maintaining this level of quality is our ambition I guess. Keep it interesting, and whatever that might actually mean remains to be seen."
Berghain first entered DJ Mag's Top 100 Clubs list in 2008, ranking at number 20, and reached the top position in the following year. In 2014 the club was ranked number 14 in the magazine's list.
- Panoramabar: Berlin's Underworld | XLR8R
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- This article incorporates information from the revision as of 8 January 2006 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.