For the architecture hound, Berlin is a ripe sniffing ground, full of monolithic masterpieces. Some wear the dilapidated exteriors of forgotten times, while others, like once out-of-favour actors cleverly recast, have been rescued from a life of nostalgic platitudes, and are very much the “now”. On Oranienburger Straße in Mitte, the Telegraphenamt was one such fading starlet. Finished in 1916 at an astronomical cost of 3.1m Deutschmarks, the Telegraph Office was an emblem of German technical prowess during World War II, delivering up to 8 million annual dispatches with the help of Europe’s largest pneumatic mail tube system, housed in the basement. But as the Wall came down and Germany was united, ironically, the Telegraphenamt, so integral in connecting people for so long, receded from the drama of everyday life. Since last November, however, it has been given a second chance, thanks to the daring vision of Borchardt-owner Roland Mary who has turned the landmark into a modern beauty.
Berlin is full of the pockmarks of time, but thankfully planners and developers have been reluctant to paper over many of the wonderful cracks. Such is the case with the Telegraphenamt, which retains its original brick walls, historic columns, capped ceilings and voluminous windows, alongside the tasteful modern trappings of contemporary design, from the travertine bathrooms to the sexy sculptural lighting. Inside, looking out, make sure you request a room facing Monbijoupark, offering you splendid views of the TV Tower, Berlin Cathedral and City Hall.
The hotel eschews the modern lobby for a more convivial open-plan space full of flora and fauna, seating areas, and the aforementioned pneumatic tube system, which, sadly, is not capable of vacuuming humans to any of the 97 rooms and maisonettes. Still, there’s an adjacent bar and Japanese bakery and sushi bar to entertain the senses. The restaurant, Root, sources produce locally and has created an excellent global menu. Given Roland Mary is a very successful restaurateur – his other baby, Borchardt, is one of Berlin’s best fine dining experiences – Root promises to be a go-to destination. Pre-visit drooling can be enjoyed at @restaurant_root.
Telegraphenamt also poses as a members’ club, Longlat, something of a contemporary trend that is proving popular. Both guests and members have access to a fitness centre with all the requisite kit to keep all the metric-tracking savages happy, as well as treatment services, saunas, and a wellbeing hub offering a programme for physical and mental replenishment. We call that a “negroni”, but each to their own.
Rooms from €220; Monbijoustraße 11, Mitte, 10117 Berlin; telegraphenamt.com
By Ryan Thompson, who is the editor-at-large of Secret Trips