Mini Maus and the Giant Space-Slug

Space station grounded. ICC see no sea nor anything anymore. The International Congress Center holds no congress, just a lonely mouse waiting in the corner for her ticket to another world. Mini will be waiting for a while.

Abandoned after defeat in the interstellar wars of 2014, the ICC licks its sorry wounds and wonders where the city’s compassion has gone. It’s gone to the highest bidder, dear ICC! To the same people pulling Berlin’s strings toward building on Tempelhof. Money is king in this town, and if you ain’t got it, you’ll be left to rot in Westend.

And so the ICC has been rotting since a Daimler shareholders’ meeting on April 9, 2014.

It has thrown open its doors to the public on a couple of occasions since, most notably in 2021 for an event called “The Sun Machine is Coming Down” that proved to be aptly named, then again last September for 48h ICC Berlin, teasing visitors with its retro-futuristic charms before being locked away again forever more.

It did house refugees from 2015-17 when Germany still cared about refugees, and it served as a coronavirus “Impfzentrum” in the heady early days of the pandemic, so it’s unfair to say the ICC has been abandoned for ten years. But in reality, it has. It sure hasn’t been doing anything to justify the 924 million DM it cost to build. Apparently that’s around 1.3 billion euros in today’s money. It was the most expensive building ever built in West Berlin.




















This brutalist behemoth, perhaps the brutaliest brutalist behemoth of them all, was designed by wife and husband team Ursulina Schüler-Witte and Ralf Schüler, the architects also responsible for the Bierpinsel in Steglitz. I don’t know what substances they were imbibing back then, but it must have been wacky stuff to think a massive space-slug was just what the city needed. Maybe it was. These were crazy times and people had crazy needs.

Ursulina and Ralf won a competition in 1965 to build a multifunctional hall on the fairgrounds of Messe Berlin, which had been hosting events, trade fairs and exhibitions going back decades before. Albert Einstein attended a Funkausstellung there in 1930.

Plans for the ICC changed again and again before construction finally started in 1975, and it took another four years before it opened on April 1, 1979 – April Fools’ Day.

Folks, stop launching your megalomaniacal projects on April Fools’ Day. It’s asking for trouble.

The ICC was Europe’s biggest conference center, 320 meters long and 80 meters wide, with 12,000 square meters of floor space, including two large halls and around 80 smaller rooms off to the sides. The two halls can be joined to form a conference center with 9,100 seats.

It’s designed like a great ship suspended from its silver anodized steel framework. The main “deck” sits over three basement floors that are punctured by two rows of 13 round supports. Each support is 2.5 meters thick, with soundproofing at its ends. Neoprene bearings between the framework and external stairwells dampen sound and vibrations – but not the hype.

All this sits on an island surrounded by the Autobahn, Messedamm and Kantstraße. Traffic buzzes around the ICC like flies around a carcass. Only this carcass has neon lights.

The ICC was supposed to elevate West Berlin into the location for great international showcase events. And for a while it did. It housed loads of events, loads of them! All the important people flocked to the ICC to be informed about all the things they needed to know.

Messe Berlin still hosts events. (Arguably the most important was the ITB Berlin travel trade show of 2016, when Abandoned Berlin was honored with a BuchAward!)

Despite its colossal size, however, or maybe because of it, the ICC was deemed too small, too uneconomical. It cost a fortune to run and it made losses every year.

Then they found it was contaminated with asbestos. That was the death knell for Palast der Republik, the pride of East Berlin, but the ICC had the good fortune to be West German and so it survived. It was declared a listed building in 2019, so that should prevent the wrecking balls from swinging into action.

At this stage though, the ICC is thinking any action would be better than none at all. Mini Maus is thinking the same. It sure gets lonely when you’ve a whole massive abandoned space station all to yourself.





















  • What: The ICC, short for Internationales Congress Centrum Berlin, apparently the biggest congress center in the whole wide world. It’s so big there isn’t enough room for it and that’s why they built it like a space station so it may float off some day. People got tired of waiting, however, and so it’s been abandoned for the last ten years.
  • How to get there: This is the first abandoned place on this here site with its own S-Bahn station! Yes, it’s called Messe Nord/ICC, and it’s on the Ring, so you’d have to say S-Bahn is the best way to get here. Of course, if the drivers are on strike again, or someone has stolen the tracks, best to use your bike again. Here it is on a map.
  • Getting in: This is the hard part. There are no broken windows or open doors and when I went there today there was a security guard from Ghana on site. He seemed pleasant enough but he wasn’t letting me in. And he seemed to think Ireland took part in Britain’s colonization of Ghana. I told him we were colonized too, but he wasn’t buying it. And he definitely wasn’t letting me in. When I asked him how one gets into the ICC, he told me to check the internet, so if that’s what brought you here, I apologize. And I also apologize to Ghana. Your best bet for getting in is to keep your eyes and ears open for the next events to be hosted by the ICC. Follow AB on social media (links at the bottom of the page) and you’ll be kept up to date.
  • When to go: Well, if you read the point above, you’ll know to go when the ICC is open for events.
  • Difficulty rating: 10/10. I honestly couldn’t find an unofficial way in. I do not recommend or encourage breaking anything to get in. That shit will get you in a whole world of trouble.
  • Who to bring: Someone to sing David Bowie songs in your ear.
  • What to bring: Your ear.
  • Dangers: There are none as long as you don’t do anything foolish.

Brutalist brutes

La Pyramide

La Pyramide

Among all of Abidjan’s skyscrapers, none tickles the heavens more than La Pyramide, Rinaldo Olivieri’s brutalist beauty.



A strange UFO perches on a mountaintop in deepest darkest Bulgaria. Buzludzha, the country’s former communist party HQ, has to be seen to be believed.



Perhaps the weirdest of Berlin’s buildings, abandoned or not, is the hideously attractive Bierpinsel in Steglitz. It sticks out like a walrus in a tutu.

1 Comment

  1. David Cox

    We lived just across the street from this. The view from our windows was of the ICC and the Funkturm. I’ll always associate the ICC with Berlin.


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