by Maria Klimenko
As a child – perhaps because of my active imagination – hospital buildings always scared me. From the outside, most of them seemed to be old and terrible, with ragged walls, secret rooms, ghosts, and nurses looking like witches. 15 years ago, in my native city, Sochi, this was actually so. Though I’ve grown up, an enigmatic feeling arises whenever I come across an old hospital building. In Berlin, I have this feeling every day when I get home and pass by the Hospital of the Queen Elisabeth Herzberge.
The first time I saw the Evangelische Krankenhaus Königin Elisabeth Herzberge, just a month after arriving in Lichtenberg, I thought it must surely have been a residence of Prussian Kings, so majestic and splendid as this edifice was. Very often, I scrutinized the sharp tip that rises above the trees from my window, but knew neither that it was a hospital nor that it would become second on my list of favorite buildings in Berlin.
This hospital was named in honor of Elisabeth Ludovika von Bayern, wife of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1840-1861). In 1838, under her protection and in place of the present-day hostital, a house for the custody and medical treatment of children was founded. The main building is the most beautiful, and the one that caught my eye. Behind it are more modest and small buildings, where medical departments are located nowadays. All buildings are designed in a neo-renaissance style (Renaissance Revival) and with brickwork of two colors, yellow and red.
Characteristic features of the Neo-Renaissance are strong symmetry and careful proportion. These attributes are connected with the fact that the movement grew from the scientific observation of nature and human anatomy. All the hospital buildings of Queen Elisabeth Herzberge are strictly symmetrical and formed in equal style; their facades and windows are decorated with geometrical ornaments of yellow bricks, such lining is called rustication.
Above the central three-storied entrance – a relic from the 19th century – is the motto ‘Dem Geisteslicht zum Schutze, gemeinem Wohl zum Nutze’, which is a precept from the hospital’s forefathers to contemporary doctors. On both sides of the entrance are two turrets with pointed roofs. The years 1889 and 1892 are mentioned on these turrets. During this period, a multitude of hospital edifices were built on the 95 hectares of Landscape Park Herzberge. The architect was Hermann Blankenstein (1829-1910), who made a lot of city plans for Berlin. He occupied the position of Stadtbaurat for 24 years and, under his leadership, the office produced a series of late Schinkel-school monuments, which are characterized by the use of light and ochre-glazed brick with terra cotta ornament. Besides Krankenhaus Königin Elisabeth Herzberge, Blankenstein also designed a lot of hospitals and churches in a similar architectural style.
As far as the architectural design of the Queen Elisabeth Herzberge hospital is concerned, there is one design feature that does not appeal to me: Two modern constructions with white stones were built between the brick-red edifices. At first, such a mixture of styles disappointed me. But here, as an architectural critic, I need to consider the fact that this building is actually a hospital with a specific function; not a cultural area. In this way, it should be functional and convenient for patients. Besides, these constructions are hidden among old-fashioned and beautiful structures and don’t catch the eye. My criticism, then, is fairly trivial.
What do I like about the Krankenhaus Königin Elisabeth Herzberge’s main building? The answer is simple: Everything. I like the combination of its copper-green tip and the horologium with the red roof. The absolute symmetry of its arch windows is also aesthetically pleasing. I like its fountain and location, being in close proximity to a tram station, but – at the same time – hidden on the leafy property with a huge park, pond, neat-planted vegetation, and quiet narrow walkways. It is an ideal place for patients of this hospital. There are also a great number of activities for people to pass the time: Café, library, a museum of boilers (!), and two chapels, where prayer services and organ concerts take place.
In this building, pointed-style tips, which vaguely resemble the Gothic style, are in harmony with Ionic Greece columns on the balcony above the entrance. In this way, I like its eclecticism, that is, an architectural style in which a single piece of work incorporates a mixture of elements from previous historical styles to create something new and original. This building exudes beauty, especially by the standards of Berlin. To be honest, I don’t like Berlin because of the carelessness of its design and its dispersal. While there are surely many lovely and beautiful places here, Berlin is forever a city of punks, poor districts, and strange music. I don’t like it, because I don’t understand it. But in the park Herzberge, I can forget that I’m in Berlin and, instead, imagine I’m strolling through a nice English suburb.