Opened this year, the family-run Hotel Wilmina (pictured) in Berlin used to be a women’s prison and courthouse
Eye-catching photos reveal the remarkable transformation of a Berlin prison into a luxury hotel.
Opened earlier this year, the family-run Hotel Wilmina in the Charlottenburg district has “spacious” rooms made from former prison cells.
The original prison site, which was once the first point of arrival at the women’s prison, has been converted into a restaurant and the criminal court adjacent to the complex is now a gallery space. At the back stairs, a cell remains in its original condition to serve as a ‘remembrance place’ – it will be open to hotel guests on request in the near future.
The prison and court complex, designed by architects Adolf Bruckner and Eduard Furstenau, dates back to 1896. It is steeped in German history – the section at the back of the complex was used as a prison for resistance fighters during World War II.
After the prison closed in 1985, part of the building served as an archive for the land registry.
The rooms of Hotel Wilmina are made from former prison cells. In the prison, one cell (left) was so small that it covered less than six square meters. To the right is one of the 11sqm ‘Cosy Alcoves’ in the hotel – the smallest room type available
However, the site had been ‘inaccessible and forgotten’ for some time before it was transformed into a 44-room hotel by Berlin-based Gruntuch Ernst Architects.
New materials were used during the renovation and existing elements of the prison were also ‘re-used and carefully redesigned’.
To enter the hotel, visitors must cross the central courtyard where “tall trees, shrubs, hedges and creepers have proliferated unimpeded for decades.”
Once inside, guests are greeted by the ‘bright, high-ceiling’ lobby and an ‘inviting lounge with fireplace’.
Part of the historic building complex was used as a prison for resistance fighters during the Second World War
The prison cell wing (photo left before restoration), which lies at the heart of the complex, has been transformed into the hotel’s atrium. Light enters the room through skylights in the ceiling
In the atrium, glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling and walkways lead to each cell wing
A staircase takes guests to the five-storey atrium, which is located in the former cell wing at the heart of the building.
Light enters here through skylights, glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling, and wrought iron railings line the walkways leading to each cell wing.
In the original prison, one cell was so small that it covered less than six square meters. To create more space in the restoration, partitions between cells were opened to create interconnecting rooms.
The rooms range in size from 11 square meters (118 square feet) of Cozy Alcoves to the “spacious” 75 square meters (807 square feet) Garden Loft, which is located in the former meeting room of the inmates.
Pictured is a classic room with a garden view. The hotel says the architects transformed the property ‘from a prison into a place of desire’
Some prison windows were previously too high to offer a view out, these windows have now been extended downwards. The original prison bars have remained intact on the windows of the hotel. On the right is a Classic room type
During the restoration, the walls between the cells were cut from floor to ceiling to create interconnecting rooms. Pictured on the right is the ensuite bathroom in a ‘Cosy Alcove’ guest room
Some prison windows were previously too high to see out. These windows have now been extended downwards, although the original bars have remained intact.
Each room – none is exactly the same – combines ‘historical authenticity with modern luxury and comfort’, decorated in ‘soothing’ light colors and soft textures.
On the fifth floor is the newly built penthouse floor, and the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows draped in curtains made from an ‘elegant glittering veil’ of ‘fine metal chains’.
At the very top there is a roof terrace that overlooks the roof gardens on the lower floors of the complex. Other facilities include a bar, library, spa and gym.
The hotels Lovis restaurant, meanwhile, is ‘sheltered by lush gardens and merging courtyards’. Chef Sophia Rudolph is at the helm, with menu items such as pink roasted back of lamb with gremolata gravy and crispy onsen egg (a type of Japanese slow-boiled egg) with Caesar dressing.
Located in the prison’s original courtyard, the hotel’s Lovis Restaurant (above) is ‘sheltered by lush gardens and interlocking courtyards’
Chef Sophia Rudolph is at the helm of the Lovis Restaurant, whose menu includes pink roast lamb with gremolata gravy
A statement from the hotel reads: ‘Berlin architects Gruntuch Ernst have put a lot of effort into this place. In a sensitive dialogue with history, they managed to radically transform it from a prison to a place of desire with a hotel and restaurant. The process involved inverting the spatial configuration and its meaning, so that an antisocial space can become an inviting place – a jewel for a deliberately chosen retreat.”
The redesign won the Berlin 2021 BDA Prize, an award that celebrates renovations. The jury said: ‘The transformation of the former women’s prison into Hotel Wilmina by Gruntuch Ernst is characterized by its sensitive design and atmospheric density.’
For more information visit wilmina.com.