Soho Secret Histories: Nick Jones on opening Soho House Berlin
In this new column, our founder recalls all the best bits from the launch of our first club in Europe
Friday 24 March 2023 By Soho House Illustration by Jack Richardson
I’ve always loved Berlin. It’s an interesting city, full of interesting people. You can’t walk down the street without seeing local artwork and fascinating architecture that tells a story of its formidable history.
When I first got the call about an available building in Berlin, it felt like an obvious next step for us and a good introduction into Europe. On my first visit, I arrived outside this beautiful Bauhaus building, which had been derelict since the Communist Party had left in 1974. At more than 100 years old, it reels with history from its early days as a department store in 1922, to later being taken over during World War II.
The area that the House is in, on the border of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, is a very fashionable district now, but it wasn’t so trendy in those days. East Berlin was just folding back into Germany, so it was a fascinating time for the city.
We saw the potential in the building from our first walk-round. And after climbing a step ladder onto the roof, the landlord – who is a descendent of the original Jewish owners of the building – said ‘yes’ to us installing a pool. The rest is history.
When we opened the House in 2010, it was half the size it is now because we only had 40 or 50 bedrooms. I was determined to get the whole building, which eventually we did.
In April 2010, Gallery Weekend – a famous art festival in the city – was happening, which felt like the right moment to introduce Soho House to Berlin. So, even though half the House was a building site, we called up long-time member and friend, Damien Hirst – who was in town to celebrate the opening of his exhibition with fellow artist Michael Joo – and he agreed to help us host a hard hat party.
If you’ve been to our House in Berlin, you might have spotted the rather large black shark hanging behind club reception, which was born from a very opportunist moment of Hirst being in the House, some leftover white boards from the party, and nipping to the shops to pick up some aerosol paint cans in case he fancied painting something. In five minutes, he drew the shark that still hangs in the lobby of Soho House Berlin today. Tim Noble and Sue Webster did another artwork for us at the same time, which remains in situ, too.
In the 12 years since we opened, the House has been home to lots of our incredible members from around the world. And I’m so grateful to all of our local members and the team in Berlin for making the House as special as it is today.
Explore membership at Soho House Berlin.