Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin

Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin

The Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin is the oldest preserved academic teaching building in the German capital. Today exhibitions are shown where animals used to be dissected for academic purposes. Built in 1789/1790 by Carl Gotthard Langhans on behalf of King Friedrich Wilhelm II, the building served as part of the Veterinary Pharmaceutical School.

The building, with its auditorium is reminiscent of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, which was constructed as the first free-standing animal anatomical building in medical history. The walls between the windows of the dome are decorated with grisaille paintings by the artist Christian Bernhard Rode. In 1790 the Royal Veterinary School Berlin was ceremoniously opened for the training of “horse doctors” and to combat rampant animal diseases.

Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin
Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin – Photo: (c) PferdKultur
Interior Veterinary Anatomical Theatre 1909
Interior Veterinary Anatomical Theatre 1909 – Photo: public domain

In 1887, the Veterinary School received the status of Veterinary University, and in 1910/18 the right to award doctorates and habilitations was granted. After an eventful history, the listed building was renovated and restored from 2005 until its reopening in 2012; since then it has been used continuously for exhibitions and events by the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik of the Humboldt University Berlin.

The exhibition on the reopening of the Veterinary Anatomical Theatre (2012/2013) portrayed the architect Carl Gotthard Langhans, the more than 200-year history of use of the historical teaching building and the project to renovate and restore the building over seven years. This was followed by diverse art exhibitions, sound installations, student exhibitions with scientific references and concerts.

The Veterinary Anatomical Theatre is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday from 2 pm to 6 pm from Monday to Friday. It is worthwhile to take part in a guided tour or just to take a look inside. But this building complex of the northern Berlin university campus has also a really interesting frontage. Fascinating to watch on a quiet Sunday the restored part of the early classicist domed building and the extension built between 1839 and 1840 in late classicism. The layers of history are shown and on the other hand the jewel of Prussian classicism shines in new splendour.

Inner courtyard Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin
Inner courtyard Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin – Photo: (c) PferdKultur
Window from the inner courtyard of the Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin
Window details Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin
Window details Veterinary Anatomical Theatre Berlin – Photos: (c) PferdKultur

Prussian symmetry with fine details and decorations, the over 200-year-old testimony to outstanding architecture appears somehow timeless in the midst of a university campus with a collection of buildings from different eras and stylistic elements added throughout the centuries. The bucrania created by the architect Langhans as exterior decoration – cow heads above the windows reminiscent of sacrificial skulls – also appear in the paintings of Christian Bernhard Rode inside of the auditorium dome and, together with the goat skulls decorating the furniture, refer to the purpose of the house.

A small permanent exhibition tells the story of the monument and its original purpose as a teaching building for the training of future veterinarians. Displayed are pieces of the historical teaching collection such as various horseshoes, preparations showing the interior and exterior of horse hooves, animal skulls and exhibits as evidences in honour of outstanding teachers and patrons.

More information on exhibitions, history and use of the Tieranatomisches Theater – Veterinary Anatomical Theatre on the Berlin Mitte university campus opposite the Berlin Charité: Homepage TAT

1. September 2019 Off