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The building in Jebensstraße 2 opposite the Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten was built between 1908 and 1909 following the architectural plans of Heino Schmieden and Julius Boethke. On 2 September 1909 it was officially opened in the presence of Emperor William II of Germany. The neoclassicist building originally served as casino of the "Offizierscorps der Landwehr-Inspektion Berlin e.V." (Officers of the territorial reserve Berlin). It contained several banqueting halls, guest rooms, a restaurant and even bowling alleys and a shooting range.
The building's sober exterior contrasted with the splendid interior decoration, the contemporary taste of the era: colourful wall and ceiling paintings in the style of Pompeii, antique pilaster arrangements, art nouveau ornaments; tubular lamps and indirect lighting lend a modern day touch. The most imposing room was the Kaisersaal (emperor's hall) on the second floor, a barrel-vaulted banqueting hall with an area of 665 square metres and more than 11 metres in height. The Kaisersaal was altered several times, occasionally used as a theatre and finally, during the second world war, it was largely destroyed.
In 1950, the Berlin Senate acquired the damaged building and gave it to the Art Library and the as yet un-housed Gallery of the 20th Century, which later formed the basis for the New National Gallery. In 1954, both institutions moved into the Jebensstraße premises. From 1978 to 1986, the Berlinische Galerie also exhibited in the building. Since 1993, when the Art Library moved to the new premises at the newly opened Kulturforum, the building has been used as depot and workshop by the Museum of European Cultures and the Old National Gallery.
With the re-opening of the building at Jebensstraße as Museum of Photography in June 2004, the Art Library returned to its former location. Until renovations are complete, the impressive Kaisersaal ruin with its raw brick walls and visible roof-truss housed various exhibitions of contemporary photography. The renovated Kaisersaal is used for the presentation of all styles of photography from the 19th to the 21th Century since 2010.