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World famous Berlin squat, Tacheles, to be sold off

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A landmark Berlin building, run by the city's most famous bohemian collective, is to be sold off to the highest bidder

Tacheles, in the Mitte district of former East Berlin, has housed an artist collective for nearly 20 years and is visited by 300,000 tourists a year. Now the graffiti-covered building faces being sold by its owner the Fundus Group after the artists' 10-year lease - just 50 euro cents a year - expired on New Years Day.

The building was completed in 1908 under the watch of architect Franz Ahrens of the city's imperial building office, the Kaiserlicher Baura. Famous for its exterior, it combines early modernist design with aspects of gothic and classical architecture.

Starting life as a department store in 1908, it was used as a showroom for Germany's AEG engineering company in the 1920s and as a jail for French war prisoners during the Nazi era. It was bombed during World War II, and deemed too expensive to either renovate or demolish by East Berlin's communist government.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it became home of over a hundred squatter artists and sculptors. A plan to redevelop the building to a design by American firm Robert Sterne Architects was abandoned before its proposed completion date in 2005.

Graeme Williamson of Block Architecture, who lived in Berlin in the early 1990s, dismissed the squat's relevance to Berlin's new identity. He said the premise of an artists collective was sound but the power of Tacheles has waned. 'Tacheles was by no means the most important part of Berlin's avant garde - the main impact it made was visual.

'The way it's tattooed as a building made it stand out - here was a visible squat in a posh residential area. But the decline of Tacheles has been a long time coming - it's just an inevitable part of the change Berlin has undergone since the Wall.'

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