ADGB Trade Union School 

World Monuments Fund

ADGB Trade Union School

The 2008 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize is awarded to Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten mbH for the Restoration of the ADGB Trade Union School. Located in Bernau, Germany, the school was designed and completed by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer.

The ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau (Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundes/Federal School of the German Workers’ Unions), built between 1929 and 1930, is located 25 miles northeast of Berlin. The school’s purpose was to provide further education to members of the trade union movement on such topics as economics, management, labor law, and industrial hygiene. 

The building reflected a functionalist view of architecture, yet was extraordinarily sensuous in its use of color and materials, including steel, exposed concrete, glass blocks, and elaborately articulated steel casement windows. Its asymmetry responds to the topography of the site; it was designed to bring the surrounding forests into constant view. 

It was constructed of yellow brick on a 12-acre forested site as connecting buildings that housed administrative facilities, a glass-block ceilinged dining hall, dormitories, classrooms, and meeting and physical education spaces. These facilities were all linked by the building’s most distinctive feature, an external glass corridor overlooking the countryside. 

The school operated for only three years until the Nazi party confiscated the building for use as an SS training facility. After World War II, the school’s new owner, the East German Trade Union Federation (FDGB), expanded the site and used it as a training facility for its members. 

The survival of the building was unknown to the West until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when architectural historians discovered that the site was largely intact. It was threatened with demolition and redevelopment, but, in 2001, the Province of Brandenburg (the owner of the site) and the Handwerkskammer Berlin (Chamber of Crafts) contracted to reopen it as a trade school. 

Since its renovation, the ADGB serves as a trade school once again. Its “rediscovery” and sympathetic restoration help shed new light on the evolution of Modern architecture.

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About the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize

World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize Winners