Historical Urinals of Berlin

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Nearly no other city had more of those ludicrous, flashy strange small houses near city train stations or places like Berlin in the past.

The herein meant small houses are somewhat high, their classical form is the octagon with an added paravan, and they are normally green and really rusty: urinals. Besides of the other known memorials of Berlin, the urinals are the more spread and most typical sights of the city. Within Berlin cartoons by Zille or Seyfried they were recorded and can be found, and even some historical postcards are showing them. One of the maybe in the early history most often photographed by travellers and city photographer is the removed one at the former Stettiner Bahnhof:

Stettiner Bahnhof, Colored Postcard

For one or another reason the toilet houses are dying out, although they are under architectural protection. One reason might be the digging and construction works in and on Berlin. A clean city is obviously more compatible with marble faced automatic self cleaning city toilets with integrated advertising screen than with rusty, historic shaped and sometimes still smelling steel urinals. At least the automatic city toilets are a contribution for emancipation - the octagonal pissoirs were for men only.

The historical toilet installations of Berlin were privatized in the mid 90ies, but for many of them this meant only the locking of the location. A restauration of one of them costs about 100,000 to 125,000 € ($75,000 to $100,000). While these costs should have been paid with the granted installation of giant advertisement screens, also the nearly doubled usage fee for the automatic toilets from 50 Pfennig to 50 Eurocent was reasoned with the reconstruction of the historical objects.

The still visible green toilets are originally from the 19th century only. They were installed in the time when the population of Berlin was growing exponential and the hygenic problems did likewise. Although already discussed in 1834, the first urinal was installed in 1863. It is said that after emperess Viktoria had seen someone peeing on the street it was the start of the installation of public toilets. Until 1876 more than fifty were built at streets and places of the city. One of them was probably placed on the Alexanderplatz before the turn of the century:

Alexanderplatz at around 1900, color modified photo

These small houses have some variants in form and function, but the octagonal base form is nearly always the same. A special Berlin phrase for these urinals is "Cafe Achteck" (cafe octagon) because of the base form. Today there are about thirty still preserved, but some of them in a deconstructed state. Following some photos of selected historical toilet buildings within Berlin:

Mariendorf, U-St. Mariendorf Tegel, S-St. Waidmannslust Charlottenburg, Goslar Bridge Charlottenburg, Goslarer Bridge, Detail
Alt-Moabit, Wiebestr. Alt-Moabit, Wiebestr., Detail Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, At Humboldthain with AEG buildings Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, At Humboldthain
Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. in front of S-Train-Bridge Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. under the S-Train-Bridge Wedding, Malplaquetstr. / Utrechter Str. Kreuzberg, U-St. Schlesisches Tor

Picture Collection to Berlin Toilet Houses (1)

Mariendorf, U-Bhf. Alt-Mariendorf Mariendorf, U-Bhf. Mariendorf (39kB JPEG) - In the backyard of the underground station Alt-Mariendorf aside of the entry of a Biergarten is one of a few renovated classical toilets of Berlin. It is not only new painted and derosted, it is also one of the few walkable and usable Cafe Achtecks at its time. The photo is from autumn 1998.

Tegel, S-Bhf. Waidmannslust 1993/4 Tegel, S-Bhf. Waidmannslust (53kB JPEG) - At the inner city train station Waidmannslust at the street Waidmannsluster Damm in Winter 1993/4 was a Cafe Achteck with a lowered center roof. At the time of the photo the state of the urinal was relatively good. It was at least walkable. (At that time I didn't knew that once I'll make a webpage with urinals, so I didn't visited it.)

Charlottenburg, Goslar Bridge Charlottenburg, Goslarer Brücke (Goslar Bridge) (71kB JPEG) - The Cafe Achteck at the Goslar bridge is placed at the border between Berlin-Charlottenburg and Alt-Moabit. It stands near the bank of the Charlottenburg connection channel between Westhaven channel and Spree. The Goslar bridge leads the Kaiserin-Augusta-Allee over the channel. In the early year 1996 the small house was still free to walk in. The photo was mainly the model for the rendered urinal, mainly with the simplified center roof and the raw metal colored windows.

Charlottenburg, Goslarer Brücke, Detail Charlottenburg, Goslar Bridge, detail (75kB JPEG) - "The Imprisoned Condome Machine" - At the end of 1997 the Cafe Achteck at Goslar bridge was closed. While the embankment of the channel was renovated for the nearby high class bureau buildings and appartment blocks, for the pissoir only some fences at the entries were arranged. Even in fall 2000 the situation for the small house at the Golarer Ufer (212 kB JPEG) was the same.

Alt-Moabit, Wiebestraße Moabit, Wiebestraße (164kB JPEG) - You'll see this house when driving by bus 126 through Moabit. Its placed at the corner Wiebestr./Huttenstr. near BMW, and in 1998 it was walkable, but not in a pleasant estate. In the background of the picture industrial halls of Siemens (formerly of AEG) are visible. In general this is one of the most industrial areas of Moabit. Only one busstation away there was the original location of the Pixelpark internet services firm. - From the picture the most annoying graffiti at the small house were electronically removed at the image. Besides of the slot machine on the paravan (nearly identical to the slot machine at Goslar bridge) holder for outer gas lights and the outgoing gas pipe for the inner light (not present anymore) are visible as details on the photo.

Alt-Moabit, Wiebestraße, Detail Moabit, Wiebestr., Detail (99kB JPEG) - The roof of the cafe octagon in the Wiebestr. has the classical roof top with lamella windows, partly adapted from Chinese architecture. Within this roof top once a ventilator might had been. Also visible is the holder for the missing gas light.

Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, At Humboldthain with AEG buildings Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, at Humboldthain with AEG buildings (142kB JPEG) - Around the Humboldthain at least two toilet houses were placed, but only the one at the south corner Hussiten-/Gustav-Meier-Str. is left. At the image from late fall 1998 with snow the former AEG buildings are visible, which now host the Technique and Innovation center Berlin (TIB), which was formerly the Berlin Innovation and Founder center (BIG). The snow covered area stripe in front of the image was a industrial railway leading to the factory buildings.

Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, At Humboldthain Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, at the Humboldthain (100kB JPEG) - The remaining Cafe Achteck at Humboldthain is (1998) surrounded by a construction fence, one roof segement is completely crushed and also in other aspects this house in a bad condition. On the other hand it is one of the few with a roof gutter, maybe installed later.

Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. in front of the city train bridge Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. before the S-Train-Bridge (143kB JPEG) - Only about twohundred meter away from the urinal at Humboldthain a very similar Cafe Achteck is install at the the roundabout traffic with Gartenstr., Liesenstr., Gerichtstr., and Scheringstr. leading to the place and the Ackerstr. separated from the place. Over the place the bridge of the city train railway is leading from Nordbahnhof to Humboldthain. The photo is also from late fall 1998.

Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. under the city train bridge Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Liesen/Gartenstr. under the city train bridge (76kB JPEG) - Also the toilet house at the Liesen/Gartenstr. was shutt off. The roof of the house (also with gutter) is in a better condition than the one at Humboldthain, but here a 6-gangster, widely present within Berlin had done his ugly things with the house. Nowadays (2003/4) its removed. - The street at the left side of the picture (Liesenstr.) leading to the point of view was formerly border street to the Soviet sector of Berlin. At the left side of the street at that time the wall was present. A small and crumbling rest of it had remained near the city train bridge.

Wedding, Malplaquet / Utrechter Str. Wedding, Malplaquet / Utrechter Str. (58kB JPEG) - Another cafe octagon with a fence around itself was standing on the place where the Malplaquetstr. is crossing the Utrechter Str. within the Berlin district Wedding. The small house was heavily marred with tags and was deconstructed in 1999. One of the motivations for this photo collection once was more or less the press announcement of the deconstruction of this Cafe Achteck.

Kreuzberg, U-Bhf. Schlesisches Tor Kreuzberg, U-Bhf. Schlesisches Tor (57 kB JPEG) - The toilet house near the underground train station Schlesisches Tor is special in many ways. It is classical green and it is build with the same elements as an octagonal Cafe Achteck, but its rectangular and one side is for men and the other side for women. The night shot with the overhead railway station in the background is from late fall 1998.

Neukölln, Karl-Marx-Str. / Kirchhofstr. Neukölln, Sonnenallee / Elbestr. Wedding, Pekinger Pl. (Beijing Place) Wedding, Pekinger Pl. inside
Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. inside Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Str./Schönhauser Allee Alt-Moabit, Siemensstraße at the Westhafen
Kreuzberg, Am Kreuzberg Prenzlauer Berg, Gruentaler Str. Kreuzberg, U-Bhf. Schlesisches Tor Tegel, Alt-Tegel

Picture Collection to Berlin Toilet Houses (2)

Neukölln, Karl-Marx-Str. / Kirchhofstr. Neukölln, Karl-Marx-Str. / Kirchhofstr. (146 kB JPEG) - At the Rixdorf church one of the renovated Cafe Achteck of Berlin is to find. It is only a few meter from the city train station Neukölln away. At the time of the photography there was really no graffiti on the outside of the house. The only larger manipulation on this image is the removement of an advertisement at the advertising pillar (Litfaßsäule) beside of it.

Neukölln, Sonnenallee / Elbestr. Neukölln, Sonnenallee / Elbestr. (118 kB JPEG) - At the Sonnenallee on the median strip of the Elbestr. a toilet house made of stone is placed. It is usable for both gender. On the other hand it still has the octagonal shape and if anyways it is only a bit larger than a normal Cafe Achteck. At the backside of the house there still an eigthth of a classical urinal. Some sprayings on the masonry were electronically removed on the image. As the other snow photos above this picture is from late fall 1998.

Wedding, Pekinger Pl. Wedding, Pekinger Pl. (163 kB JPEG) - The Beijing place in the Berlin district Wedding is spanned by the Nordufer street and the Kiautschoustr. The Nordufer is north of the Berlin-Spandauer-Schiffahrtskanal, which is already part of the district Moabit/Tiergarten. The square exists since the first half of the 19th century and is divided into a child's playground and a small garden. The urinal at the corner of the square was built in 1880.

Wedding, Pekinger Pl. inside Wedding, Pekinger Pl. inside (93 kB JPEG) - Also the cafe octagon at the Beijing place was circled by a fence. While the window plates vis-a-vis of the entry are complete, the windows at the entry and next to it were bend and partly stolen. The lamina of the central roof were completely removed. The outer walls of the toilet house are very rusty, and the cafe octagon at Beijing place has no slot machine. The pictures are from the winter of 1998/9.

Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. by Night (58kB JPEG) - This Cafe Achteck at the Chamisso place in Kreuzberg was one of the first which became renovated in 1996. For this the windows were modified and restaurated, an electric illumination were installed, the walls were painted and derosted...

Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. inside Kreuzberg, Chamissopl. inside (113kB JPEG) - ...but most of all the normally white painted inner areas were replaced with black marble and... in fact... a permanent water flush! The images are from the winter of 1998/9 (December 1998).

Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Str./Schönhauser Allee Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Str./Schönhauser Allee (65kB JPEG) - The photography of the little green house at the end of the Schwedter Str. going into the Schönhauser Allee was made in winter 1996/7 and this was before the time of this web page. At the street corner also the underground station Senefelder Str. of the line 2 is located. This urinal is one of the few (if not the only one at that time) within the former Eastberlin.

Alt-Moabit, Siemensstr. at the Westhafen Alt-Moabit, Siemensstr. at the Westhafen (104kB JPEG) - The cafe octagon at the Westhafen in the Siemensstr. was one of the imprisoned Berlin architectural monuments at the beginning of 1999. It stands on the Unionplatz near the end of the Oldenburger Str. The roof of this small house was undamaged, but one window element was missing completely at the date of the photo. One special thing of the object was that there were two installed slot machines on the inside of the paravan. In the background on the photo you can see the main building of the Westhafen.

Kreuzberg, at the Kreuzberg Kreuzberg, at the Kreuzberg (179kB JPEG) - The Kreuzberg is a green park within the center of the city, where on the top of the hill in 66 meter height stands a monument designed by Schinkel. From the hill top a pump driven waterfall is going down (if the district has got enough money through donations for running this waterfall). At the foot of the Kreuzberg hidden within the green there is a classical Cafe Achteck, which was closed by a fence in late spring 2000 but otherwise in a good condition.

Prenzlauer Berg, Gruentaler Str. Prenzlauer Berg, Grüntaler Straße (176kB JPEG) - One of the historical rectangle based toilets with two section is placed at the Grüntaler Straße near Osloer Straße. On the image (photo: DD) from late spring 2000 it is still surrounded by a fence and in reconstruction, but nowadays it should be in duty.

Kreuzberg, U-Bhf. Schlesisches Tor Kreuzberg, at Schlesisches Tor (159kB JPEG) - The already presented rectangle based toilet house near the upper ground underground station Schlesisches Tor was in the same condition in the summer 2000 (here seen from the other side of the street and at daylight) as about 1 1/2 year ago. (I have never tested whether this location can be entered although I'm worked in the vicinity to it for some time.)

Tegel, Alt-Tegel Tegel, Alt-Tegel (44kB JPEG) - At the end of 2000, beginning of 2001 next to the bus stop at the northern terminal undergound station Alt-Tegel a restaurated Cafe Achteck was placed. According to a common map of Berlin of 1997 - in which also some other classical WC's are marked - at this place was no toilet to find. But maybe in a far more distant past around this place there was an urinal or similar to find, because already at the time of the turn of the century this place was probably a bus stop of horse busses traveling to the lakes and locations further North of Berlin...

Tegel, Alt-Tegel, viewing to U-Bhf. Alt-Tegel Charlottenburg, Goslarer Brücke/Goslarer Ufer 2003 Kreuzberg, Yorckstr. Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Straße - Schönhauser Allee 2003
Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Platz Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Platz, viewing to S-Bhf. Hermsdorf Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt
Alt-Moabit, Westhafen, Siemensstraße at the Unionplatz, renovated Alt-Moabit, Stephanplatz

Picture Collection to Berlin Toilet Houses (3)

Tegel, Alt-Tegel, viewing to U-Bhf. Alt-Tegel Tegel, Alt-Tegel, viewing to U-Bhf. Alt-Tegel (132kB JPEG) - Anyone who knows this page for a long time knows, that the first picture of the Cafe Achteck in Tegel replaced another picture (44kB JPEG) made in the winter 2000/2001, where the colors were distorted by film and photo print. All pictures from the new Tegel photos on are made digital and made from the year 2003 on. - Nevertheless it seems that the newer renovated urinals like the one at the underground station Alt-Tegel are really somewhat darker as the previously installations.

Charlottenburg, Goslarer Brücke/Goslarer Ufer 2003 Charlottenburg, Goslarer Brücke/Goslarer Ufer 2003 (164kB JPEG) - One historical urinal where I was passing regulary was the one at the Goslarer Brücke. So I also was taking pictures of it now or then. After seven years it still was within the same sad state, even more there seem to be some more damages and the condome machine was missing. At the start of 2004 it was removed.

Kreuzberg, Yorckstr. Kreuzberg, Yorckstr. (180kB JPEG) - At the end of 2002 I found the Cafe Achteck at the Yorckstr., which is somewhat in the same state like the one at the Goslarer Ufer. This house is also surrounded by a fence and damaged in many ways. There was still a condome machine at the paravan visible on this photo, but the frontside of the paravan was covered with a very large graffiti. The urinal got removed at the beginning of September 2003 without any planned replacement.

Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Straße - Schönhauser Allee 2003 Prenzlauer Berg, Schwedter Straße - Schönhauser Allee 2003 (124kB JPEG) - This renovated urinal which was probably newly installed in the year 1996/7 is still in a good shape after seven years. The illumination was working although it was also used as a power source for some nearby construction works at the time of the picture.

Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Pl. Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Pl. (156kB JPEG) - between 2002 and 2003 there was the introduction of a new modification of the restaurated urinals: Even the octogonal were modified for the usage of both, men and women. While this is not revolutionary as seen by the brick-made toilet house at the Sonnenallee, for the newly renovated urinals this is more a historizing than a historical original modification. The urinal at the place Fellbacher Pl. in Hermsdorf is possibly the first one of this new kind. It has two paravans with lanterns and entry-plates (HERREN=men/DAMEN=women), and the entries have also a lockable glass door, which is hiding extremely modern sanitary equipment (of which some Berlin school could dream of).

Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Platz looking towards S-Bhf. Hermsdorf Tegel, Hermsdorf, Fellbacher Platz looking towards S-Bhf. Hermsdorf (180kB JPEG) - If there was a historical urinal on the Fellbacher Pl. in Hermsdorf, ever, this is another question. At least the location next to the local city train station Hermsdorf is somewhat typical. One train station away the Cafe Achteck in Waidmannslust was removed without any substitute.

Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt (172kB JPEG) - Another new cafe octagon on the Gendarmenmarkt is placed at the side of the French Dome and its identical build like the one on the Fellbacher Pl. The inauguration on the Gendarmenmarkt was celebrated in the late Spring 2003 with a widely press echo. So it was underlined that these historical like urinals still shall be used for free. The problem is that exactly this one on the Gendarmenmarkt entered competition with another automate toilet with costs on the other side of the place.

Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt Mitte, Gendarmenmarkt (136kB JPEG) - As for the Fellbacher Pl. also for the Gendarmenmarkt its questionable that there was ever a Cafe Achteck / cafe octagon on this place, even more considering that the Gendarmenmarkt was always a cultural important area. At least within the time of the former GDR there was probably no urinal here. So this new object might be (after the objects at the Grünthaler and the Schönefelder Straße) another step of a re-urinalization of the East. ;-)

Alt-Moabit, Westhafen, Siemensstraße at the Unionplatz, renovated Alt-Moabit, Siemensstraße at the Unionplatz next to the Westhafen (212kB JPEG) - at a time after 2001 the toilet house at the Siemensstraße next to the Westhafen was renovated and newly installed, but even until mid of 2003 (146kB JPEG) a fence was around the area of the Unionplatz, which also got rearranged. At the end of 2003, start of 2004 the fence was removed.

Alt-Moabit, Stephanplatz Alt-Moabit, Stephanplatz (139kB JPEG) - The pissoir at the Stephanplatz is of the same kind as the renovated toilet houses at the Siemensstraße, at the Chamissoplatz and at some other places (that is classical only for men, with dark stone and permanent flushing inside). The photo of the beginning of 2004 shows the paravan without lamps in the front, where a plate is added which says: 'Die Restaurierung und Modernisierung des "Café Achtecks" wurde von der Wall AG durchgeführt und der Stadt gestiftet. Berlin im Dezember 2000'.


Who likes to visit a Cafe Achteck (cafe octagon) without any odor and with no rust might go to the top of the page and click the introducing image for a tour to a virtual urinal. ;-) The images for the views were rendered in 1999 with PoV-Ray 3.0 under Linux 2.0.


Kurt Wolterstädt
"Spaziergang durch die Geschiche Berlins"
Berlin Information 1985

Rainer Elwers
"Berlins unbekannte Denkmäler"
L&H Verlag 1998

-- jd --