The history of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien as well as its trademark name are closely linked to the building it occupied on Mariannenplatz in Kreuzberg, the so-called “Central Deaconess Institute and Hospital Bethanien” (Central-Diakonissenanstalt und Krankenhaus Bethanien) commissioned by King Frederic William IV of Prussia in the mid-19th century. “Bethanien” was then a common name for welfare and healthcare facilities, most of which were run by church organisations, as it evoked the Biblical town in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
In 1974 the defunct hospital was scheduled for demolition, but the opposition of political interest groups sharpened public awareness for the building’s history, thereby paving the way for preservationists to propose a series of redevelopment plans. Among them was Dr Michael Haerdter, the founding director of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH and its managing director until 2000. Under his leadership the institution grew into an internationally renowned project and presentation platform for contemporary art.