Photographer Leila Morrissey received a Cultural Trust grant in 2014 to undertake a one-month residency in Olafsfjördur, where she explored and captured on camera the glorious landscapes of far northwest Iceland.
Her latest exhibition From Inside Looking Out chronicles her ongoing fascination with an abandoned children's hospital in Neukölln, Berlin:
In the depths of Neukölln- a suburb in West Berlin inhabited by Germans, artists and Turkish families- is an abandoned children’s hospital. I used to live nearby and became fascinated with photographing the two buildings.
The first time I went there, armed with my camera was in 2012. The front gate was wide open, and the glass of the front door was smashed so you could easily climb through. I found the place eerie and desolate; pipes ripped from the walls, windows smashed and evidence of people partying and homeless people living there.
The second time, I had to climb over a wall, and walk in a different entrance; it was slightly harder to get in. By my third visit in late 2015, only a small area was accessible, and when I was leaving the building I saw workmen starting to renovate.
In October 2017 I revisited the site, and found one building completely demolished, and the other under construction. What’s left today is just a shell of the original hospital.
The hospital - Krankenhaus (in German) — has an interesting history. It was opened 1917 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, under the leadership of Professor Sigfrid Hammerschlag. By 1928, it had treated over 50,000 women, and seen 20,000 babies born. Unfortunately, in 1933 Professor Hammerschlag, who was Jewish, was forced into early retirement. He moved to Iran to work, and died in exile in 1948.
The hospital’s leadership was taken over by Nazi-backed Professor Benno Ottow. As with many other buildings in Berlin, it was badly damaged during the Second World War. It was repaired post-1945, and an extra building was built by 1969. By 1978 there were newer facilities for surgery, and for the care of newborns and premature babies.
At this time over 3,000 babies a year were being born in the hospital. It remained the largest hospital of its kind in Germany for many years, but a newer, bigger facility was built nearby in 2003 and the clinic eventually closed in 2005. It lay abandoned for years, but eventually its potential for redevelopment attracted corporate property developers and it was demolished. This work has particular significance now, at a time when much of Berlin’s architectural heritage is being erased in the name of corporate greed.
From Inside Looking Out is showing at Alternating Current ArtSpace until December 23.