It was whilst on the trail of a giant portrait by street artist Vhils that I finally walked into the RAW-Gelände.
I found the Vhils.
Suddenly, I realised that the place was a hotbed of street art. Not just small pieces of street art. Gigantic pieces of street art too.
Art that covered entire facades.
And the array of facades seemed endless. The whole was a massive graffiti gallery.
As this couple and their photographer recognised. Good luck in the years ahead, guys! But hang on, were those railway tracks?
After some digging online, I discovered that this collection of buildings was a disused railroad workshop. As the full form of “RAW” indicated: Reichsbahnausbesserungswerkstatt.
When the workshop was established in 1867, though, it was known as the Königlich-Preußische Eisenbahnhauptwerkstatt Berlin II. It served the East Prussian railway, which ran up to the Russian border.
A century after the workshop's formation, in a completely different era, the workshop was renamed after Franz Stenzer, a communist who was murdered by the Nazis.
Post-Cold War, German reunification saw the workshop lose its relevance.
But in typical Berlin fashion, today, the RAW-Gelände hosts an array of recreational options, from a massive skateboarding hall to nightclubs and workshops. As well as – of course – really cool street art. ω
The historical information for this essay was garnered from the now-defunct homepage of the RAW Flohmarkt, a former flea market located on the RAW-Gelände grounds.
Street artist Vhils’ style is unique and tracking down his giant portraits in Berlin led me also to a riverside area that used to house the city’s municipal gaswork and once bordered the Berlin Wall.