From the Breitscheidplatz square, you can enjoy a wonderful view of Berlin’s huge architectural diversity. To my left, opposite the Bahnhof Zoo station, a modern skyscraper housing a luxurious hotel soars high into the sky. To my right is the neo-Romanesque Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. In front of me is the Bikinihaus (Bikini building), a building complex from the 1950s which, together with the Zoo Palast cinema, forms the “Zentrum am Zoo” (Centre at the Zoo).
This part of Berlin simply oozes cosmopolitan flair. Travellers from all over the world flock to the area around Kurfürstendamm, Tauentzienstrasse and Breitscheidplatz, the so-called City West, which the Bikinihaus, the Hutmacher Haus, the Zoo Palast cinema and the 25hours Hotel are also a part of. The ensemble combines modern and traditional, international and local, and is a true testament to its history: one of the main reasons why it attracts not only Berlin locals in their droves.
The Bikinihaus was built in the 1950s as a hub of ladies’ fashion with production facilities and representative offices. Its location close to Ku’damm, where the big fashion houses were based, was ideal. But the clothing manufacturers didn’t stay, instead migrating to Düsseldorf, and the post-war building fell into a slumber for a long time – until the end of 2013, in fact, when the Belgian architect’s office SAQ came up with a masterplan. They wanted to turn the Zentrum am Zoo into a place where people could work, shop and relax, complete with a cinema and hotel, and also breathe new life into the City West. Munich-based project development company Bayerische Hausbau was responsible for the implementation.
The mission of the Munich developers was to retain the typical 50s elements of the building complex and combine them with modern elements. A panoramic window was incorporated into the Bikinihaus to open up the views into Berlin Zoo and the building’s façades were faithfully restored, true to the original. Matte green elements based on the green tone that Berlin’s bridges are painted in and lots of wood transformed the listed building into an urban, inviting space. A carefully curated selection of retailers moved in and set up shop, including experienced boutique owner and businessman Andreas Murkudis, with the aim of boosting and regenerating the West of Berlin. Pop-up boxes were erected on the ground floor, offering young Berlin designers a temporary retail space. The world’s first concept shopping mall was born.
The “jungle-style” 25hours design hotel moved into the small high-rise next door and its 7,000 m² rooftop terrace became home to the Monkey Bar and the Berlin branch of Vienna restaurant Neni. As part of the renovation work, the Zoo Palast cinema was also revamped. The building underwent extensive refurbishments, was upgraded with state-of-the-art technology and three cinema auditoriums were added to the four existing ones.
On 3 April 2014, Berlin’s new concept mall was finally ready to open its doors. Four years have passed since then and a lot has happened during that time: BIKINI BERLIN has become even more international and urban. New boutiques and pop-up boxes have been added and with the opening of Kantini in January 2018, the mall is now also a foodie hotspot. Designed as a street food market, foodies can indulge in Berlin currywurst, Israeli hummus, Korean bibimbap and other culinary delights from a total of 13 gastronomes from all over the world. Staying true to the pop-up concept, two pop-up stalls in addition to the fixed food counters regularly provide fresh inspiration and seasonal food trends.
And just like on the ground floor, the view from here is also unique: the loggia faces the aviary so with a bit of luck you might even be able to hear the birds chirping on sunny days – when the glass façade is slid open, you’ll feel like you’re sitting outside.
I head to the long wooden bench at BIKINI BERLIN to observe the baboons playing. The atmosphere is cosy and relaxed as always. Sitting next to me are two friends chatting over coffee, a man in a suit who is hungrily biting into a sandwich and small children with their noses pressed up against the window, excited to catch a glimpse of the monkeys. Since 2014, BIKINI BERLIN has developed into exactly the kind of place that it was supposed to: somewhere you can wander around to your heart’s content, work, meet friends, eat and happily while away the time. Here’s to the next four years of BIKINI BERLIN!