Lucid Then & Now: A Cowshed for the History Books

With the celebration of our 5th anniversary this January 31st, we see this as a perfect opportunity to introduce ourselves (and the cowshed Lucid calls home) in a series entitled, “Lucid Then & Now”. This three-part series will observe the transformation of our cowshed from its place in the history books, right through to the way we know and love it today.


If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Lucid. Berlin, you will know our space is a far cry from that of a typical office. At first, the unfinished façade and exposed plumbing may resemble the common “derelict-chic” look somewhat familiar to post GDR Berlin. But upon closer inspection, and perhaps the fact that we do our washing up in a trough, it is easy to see Lucid has a history.

Originally built in 1909 by master mason Herman Grassow, and operated by local dairy farmer Conrad Braun, what is today the Lucid office, was once the site of a much different neighbourhood trade.

 

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Niederbarnimstraße / Boxhagener Straße, 1912
Niederbarnimstraße at the corner of Boxhagener Str. To the right, “Haselbach Kino” founded by Emil Haselbach. The oldest existing cinema in Berlin known today as “Intimes Kino”.
Photo Credit: Collection Rainer Gräbert

 

With 40 cows, one horse and no more than two employees, the Melkerei located at Niederbarnimstraße 10, was a fully functional stable, operating within the city-housing complex it was built.
Starting daily at 5am sharp, the farmers would feed and milk the cows preparing the milk for delivery to the neighbourhood by 7am. The Melkerei provided the residents of Niederbarnimstraße and the close-by areas of Simon-Dach Straße and Boxhagener Platz with milk and butter. Other family run stables supplied the surrounding areas of Friedrichshain and other Berlin districts, both east and west.

In the early days, many of Friedrichshain’s residents, most of which moved to the city from more rural areas, were able to cope easily with the neighbouring cowshed. The noise, smells, and customer traffic brought upon by the Niederbarnimstraße dairy was nothing new to them, perhaps even a comfort of sorts. In addition to dairy supply, the Melkerei acted as a local trading post, where neighbours could exchange potato peelings used as cow feed, for small bits of firewood. A good system for what it was, but unfortunately as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

Early into the 1920s, more and more urban city dwellers began calling Friedrichshain home. And coincidently, more and more complaints began to surface with regard to poor hygienic conditions and excessive noise caused by the neighbourhood cowshed. By the 1930s, in addition to dealing with community outrage, the cowshed began to see the rise of commercial dairy companies, such as Meierei C. Bolle. With fleets of trucks, cutting-edge advertising tactics, and far more manpower, it was clear such companies were able to meet the dairy demand much more efficiently. And though in the 1940s, in an attempt to save the family dairy tradition the Melkerei Niederbarnimstraße saw a change of owner, sadly by the 1950s (early GDR) the neighbourhood dairy had closed its doors for good.

 

 

In the years to follow, up until the end of the GDR in 1989, the former dairy acted as a warehouse, eventually transitioning into a community space for the residents of the building post fall of the Wall. Less than 25 years ago, at least 7 barns similar to the dairy at Niederbarnimstraße 10 existed in Friedrichshain. Today, our cowshed, in its originally preserved state, is the last of its kind in the area.

 

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Cowshed, Berlin Friedrichshain, 2004
Photo Credit: Christoph Rokitta

 

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All historical facts found in this article were kindly provided by Wanja Abramowski, in association with the Friedrichshainer Geschichtsverein Hans Kohlhase e.V.

 

In our next installment of “Lucid Then & Now”, find out how we managed to transform a historical cowshed into the Lucid. Berlin space we know today, when we interview Lucid owner and resident architect, Felix Matschinske.

We will uncover the design process from start to finish, discovering what it takes to refurbish a cowshed into a working office without compromising original detail. And find out why even today, our space continues to inspire and enhance our projects and daily office life.

 

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