Cité Foch: The shopping center that's bucking the trend

Filed 4/5/2015 |
Closing, closing, everything must go! Everything must go! Even the Cité Foch shopping center itself has to go…
It’s the only thing left now, everything has gone, but Cité hangs on like a death row prisoner waiting for the day the waiting is over. It repents in vain, fate sealed, days numbered.
No one knows yet what that number is. Construction workers were already measuring the doomed shopping center complex when I passed by for the second time in February. But the dude with the orange sticks didn’t think demolition would get underway for a good while yet.
“We have to get the measurements together and then they’ve to go the Bürgeramt to be approved. You know how long everything takes at the Bürgeramt,” he said. He didn’t think demolition would begin before the end of the year.
Quite why they need to measure a building slated for destruction is another matter. Welcome to Germany. Anywhere else they’d just assume it’s the same size as when it was built and knock the damn thing down.
The Cité Foch complex in Wittenau was built as a living area/settlement for French military personnel and their families from 1957. The first building, for French gendarmes, was actually built there five years previously near Camp Foch. (Ferdinand Foch was a feted soldier from the First World War.) The French were in charge of the northern sector of West Berlin, the part served by Tegel airport.
The Cité settlement was constructed in various stages on around 47 hectares of former industrial land, or cornfields, depending on who you want to believe.
It was initially called Cité Toucoulou after the brilliantly named Lt. Tucoulou Tachouères. Tachouères was the son of the chief of French forces in Germany but he was killed fighting in Indochina in 1948.
Perhaps because they misspelled Tachouères’ name, Cité Toucoulou was renamed Cité Foch after the previously mentioned Ferdinand Foch – also a great name! – and it has remained so to this day. They were careful not to misspell Foch.
There were 785 apartments in 80 buildings, the Sainte Geneviève church, schools, a youth center, cinema, Kindergarten, swimming pool, sports facilities – and the shopping center with a cinema and leisure center, built in 1975.
Mauerfall spelled the end of the French mission in Berlin and so they moved home (or somewhere less expensive) in 1994, when Cité Foch came under the state’s jurisdiction. The state, being the state, did very little with it and left it until it was in, well, a state.
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s not-so-secret secret service, used one of the buildings across the road on Rue Montesquieu for a while. It had been used by the French as a listening post like the Americans and British used Teufelsberg – West Berlin was all ears – but they had to move out when one of their spies mistakenly wrote BND on an envelope containing his shabby espionage report.
The jig was up – suddenly the postman knew who the characters trying to look shady and cool were – and so the BND moved out, though they were secretly delighted to have impressed the postman. (This may not have actually happened. I don’t know why the secret service moved out, assume it’s a secret.)
A Swiss property shark bought the shopping center in 1998 and it was rented out to various people, with Kaufland, fitness center Elixia and Aldi among other tenants, before rows took their toll and they all moved out. It’s been abandoned since 2006. The investor went bust.
One of the investor’s creditors, the Frankfurt-based Hudson Advisors, bought the site last year and plans on recouping its investment through apartments. What else? Berlin can’t get enough new shopping centers but even here they wouldn’t knock down a shopping center to build a shopping center. Apartments it is then.

Cité Foch, a shopping center entering the nebula of its existence, looking with wary eyes at the young upstart shopping centers springing up around Berlin.

Avenue Charles de Gaulle 7-14, 13469 Berlin.

How to get there
Waidmannslust S-Bahnhof is quite close; you can easily walk from there. It’s on the S1 line, which goes from Friedrichstraße and Gesundbrunnen among others. The 322 bus also goes nearby to the misleadingly named Cyclopstraße (unless the cyclopes were all hiding). Here’s a map to help you find it.

Getting in
There’s a fence all around but just find a bit to get through and you’ll get through. Find a broken window or an inviting doorway and you’re sound. A 4-year-old can do it.

When to go
Before the end of the year, definitely before the demolition begins. Berlin is not kind to its ruins – the Böhmisches Brauerei in Friedrichshain has already been destroyed.

Difficulty rating
3/10 As mentioned before, a 4-year-old can do it. He was a bit scared with the roof flapping above the cinema, as was I, but if you’re careful you should be fine.

Who to bring
Bring your friends for a party, your boyfriend/girlfriend for a shopping center schmooze, or your kid if you want to show them the death of consumerism.

What to bring
Bring whatever it is you want to buy. There ain’t nothing for sale no more.

Falling ceilings, nosy neighbors, Polizei. At least there’s no danger of prices going up.

Thanks again to the eagle-eyed Mark Rodden.
West Berlin 8729564915740001486


I went there a few weeks ago and as i was just walking up some stairs, a policeman and a guard crossed my way. So sad i couldn't see it, just wondering why it isn't famous? Looks like there is so much to explore!

same thing here..went there today. And I noticed someone (a younger guy) saw us getting through the fence. Some minutes later we saw a Polizei van passing by we decided no to enter the building..

Went there over the weekend and found no trouble at all, although there were many neighbours in the street. It is also easy to be seen by neighbours inside the building, as their windows are just in front of some of the bigger rooms in the building.

I went there today and didn't see any security. As it was pretty easy to get in, I did so and even met another photographer.

We went on a Sunday afternoon and it was pretty easy to get in, initially we squeezed in through a window which had been partially barricaded with old shelving from the inside; although further down were a few completely open (read: smashed) windows, that made a far easier entrance point.
There was not much more to see than what is shown in the photos above but once again, thanks for the info!

Is it safe to go with kids? It looks really cool and my kids wanna go...

You can but it's not 100 percent safe. I went with my kid (4) and he loved it, though got a bit scared when the cinema roof started flapping over us. It was very dark and eerie, there was a lot of bashing and banging. So we left after that. Just be very careful and make sure your kids are very careful too and they should be fine.

Hello there! I'm visiting Berlin in two weeks. If you can suggest some good spots, I would really appreciate. In return I can give you some nice spots in Copenhagen. Please contact me on :)

Went there in September and again 2 weeks ago. They now secured the entrance and the neighbors are really paying attention to the people around. Managed to enter though, but you need to make your own entrance now. I noticed that a lot of stuffs had changed inside. New rooms had been opened which were closed in September.

Went there today. Totally secured with fences from the outside. Took me quite a while to figure out, how to get in: if you are under the bridge, hop on the wall on the right-hand-side and jump over the fence. Cross the bridge. Once on the other side, look out for a broken window on the left side. It's really small, but unless you are wearing XXXL you should fit through.
Once in, it's big, but there is not that much to see - looks like somebody had recently cleaned up a little bit. On a sunny, nice day I would rather recommend something like Spreepark or VEB Metallhütten.
After all, no problems with neighbours or police, everything seemed quite calm to me.

although I think there is not that much to see in Cite Foch shopping center (I must admit we didn't go in when we went..a nosy neighbour had apparently called the Polizei), for those who want to go..don't wait tooo long. Seems they are planning to demolish the place. Article published in Tagesspiegel of march 7th:

I don't understand why people would want their kids to join them on urbex trips !

Well, I do :D I wish my parents had done such cool things - but well, now it's the other way around and I take my parents to abandoned places.

They're useful for getting in through small spaces and opening doors from the other side, also for watching out for police, security, dogs etc. They tend not to get drunk - the really young kids that is - and they can be blamed if you do get caught. You know, "I was looking for my kid."
My sidekick has accompanied me to many places, including this one. Never been a problem! Well, except Rangsdorf the first time but he was only two months old then so we'll let him away with that...

We went there today! We could sneak into the shopping centre, and both exterior / interior were great. Super big; calm and peaceful. The only way to get in was through a little fence that has broken windown wide enough to enter. But only suitable for child or super skinny people. We stayed for a while, took great photos, especially from the centre room (perhaps the leisure complex inside the shopping centre) and the sun entered the room with an incredible sunbeam. Was really great, nobody there, and no danger. Perhaps just to find the little entrance, which is not an entrance. So happy to have seen the end of consumerism!

I hear demolition is finally going to start one of these days, so take your last chances. I can recommend going there at night for that spooky feeling, and for avoiding to draw too much attention (it´s a quiet neighborhood though, and ther´s no security as of yet). Didn´t get to all those places in the pictures though, for I could find only one suitable entrance (a half-barricaded door), which led to a comparatively small area, but maybe I didn´t look carefully enough. Might go again, for I happen to live right next to it. Curious how the demolition works might change accessability.

just read in Der Tagesspiegel of today (June 21st) that they will start demolishing the site Next Monday. The former shopping center will be the first building to be demolished

Not really, actually, at least not in a way that one could see much difference. They have been digging holes into the ground right next to it since about the time when I posted (guess for access to sewers and stufffor the new flats), plus they have put some new fences, but the buildings seem quite intact. In fact, I overheard someone talking with some workers, and he seemed to say that they had to cary, like, all the stuff/trash outside first or something like that, and that this is going to last for a rather long time (don´t remember how long though). Until then, it should be safe to go, though you should probably go after the workers are gone, or on weekends.

Still gold, go now. There is also a little train station area right next to S-bahn Schönholz (S1, S25) that is a nice addition for on the way there or back. Remember the flashlight, to get everywhere in the building you will need to go down in the lower parking levels at some parts which are very dark and exciting.

My parents used to take me on Urban Exploration trips all the time when I was little, except back then I presume there wasn't a name for it yet.

They are tearing the place down. There are construction workers everywhere, there is no way to avoid them. We barely got in there and had to take a run from one of the workers.

j ai travaillé dans cet établissement
dommage de le voir ainsi

This place doesn't exist anymore... I went today and it just a big construction site

I'm finding this a little bit too late, but that is an amazing find! I wish I could have seen it while it was standing.

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