Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Technical monuments

In the middle of the Humboldt-Universität campus you will find the landmarked facilities of the German Test Institute for Aviation (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt), which serve as reminders of the site’s ambivalent history. The cluster of buildings is located in Aerodynamics Park, between the Chemistry and Physics departmental buildings and Erwin-Schrödinger-Zentrum (Erwin Schrödinger Centre).

Large wind tunnel

The large wind tunnel was built between 1932 and 1934. It was used for aerodynamic experiments in air streams at speeds of over 200 km/h. The air stream was generated by a rotor with eight impellers, 8.5 metres across, connected to an electric motor with an output of 2,000 kW. The tubular plant has external dimensions of 58 m x 26 m and a diameter of 8.5 m - 12 m. It was used to direct an air stream on to aircraft parts (wings, coatings, tail, etc.) in a measuring chamber, where the resistance was measured. This enabled aircraft shape and surfaces to be optimised. A particular feature of this wind tunnel - still remarkable today - is its concrete construction using the Zeiss-Dywidag method with a wall thickness of just 8 cm. The large wind tunnel was given to Humboldt-Universität. At the start of 2004 the UniLab - schoolchildren’s laboratory of the Didactics working group in the Physics Department started up on the top floor of the former measuring hall.


Vertical wind tunnel

The vertical wind tunnel built between 1934 and 1936 was a true innovation. It is based on the principle of a wind tunnel, but instead of a horizontal air stream, it generates a vertical one (from top to bottom). Precision-built, scaled-down versions of model aircraft were placed in the tunnel. The speed of the air stream could be regulated to match the rate of fall of the model. This enabled the model to remain at the height of the observation facility, and its behaviour was filmed with high-speed cameras. At that time, this was the only way of simulating the dangerous state of tailspin under laboratory conditions and was years ahead of its time. The installations no longer exist.

Sound-insulated engine test bench

The sound-insulated engine test bench constructed between 1933 and 1935 is located in the middle of Aerodynamic Park. In the horizontal building section, test objects such as aircraft engines with air screws with diameters of up to 5 m were installed. In dynamic balance tests, these screws were subjected to loads way above their rated speed at times. Although experiments like these often ended in the screw breaking, the building’s concrete reinforcement meant that it remained largely undamaged. Its reinforced-steel construction provided particularly good sound insulation via multiple air stream deflection. The wooden cladding, which stretched half way up the height of the 15-m-high towers and along the entire horizontal section of the air duct, also aided sound reduction. This was reinforced with an additional insulating material.

Since June 2006, Campus Adlershof students have run the ‘SBZ Prüfstand’ student centre in the front section of the building.

Engine altitude test bench

The engine altitude test bench built in the 1930s was used for testing the performance and service life of aircraft engines under the influence of altered air temperatures and air pressure. The partial simulation of real altitude conditions enabled engineers to draw conclusions about the engines’ consumption of air, fuel and lubricants, for example.


More information on the technical monuments:

Dr. Kurt Graichen, Werner Heinzerling, Karl-Dieter Seifert, Dr. Bernd-Rüdiger Ahlbrecht: ‘Technische Denkmale der Luftfahrtforschung in Berlin-Adlershof’, in Schriftenreihe zur Luftfahrtgeschichte, volume 3, edited by ‘Gesellschaft zur Bewahrung von Stätten deutscher Luftfahrtgeschichte e.V.’