One of the oldest hospital facilities in Germany is located on Charité’s main site in today’s center of Berlin. Its history begins in 1710, as a pest house outside the city’s gates. As Berlin is spared from the plague, the building is used over the next 17 years as a hospice for destitute old people, as a workhouse for beggars and as a maternity facility for unmarried pregnant women.
Friedrich Wilhelm I. gives Charité its name in 1727. He decrees that the house be expanded into a military hospital with a training center. With 400 beds and a considerable budget, Charité continues to develop both in terms of construction and content. Over the next two centuries, the site undergoes several conversions, extensions and partial demolitions.
From 1896 to 1917, after almost complete demolition, generous renovations and new buildings are completed on the Charité site.
This creates the structural foundations for successful further development. Construction takes over 20 years – but large parts of the new facility are destroyed during the Second World War.
Berlin’s population is growing and the concept of health insurance is born – physician and politician Rudolf Virchow recognises the need for modern medical care. In 1906, the Rudolf Virchow Hospital, which is designed as a garden city and named after him, opens in Berlin's Wedding district. Upon its inauguration, it is considered the most modern hospital facility in Europe. The park-like site follows the rules of infection control as well as the modern idea that a green and well-designed environment supports recovery.
With Berlin’s division after the Second World War, Charité lies in the eastern part of the city, in the immediate vicinity of the Berlin Wall.
After extensive refurbishment of the destroyed existing buildings continues until the beginning of the 1950s, construction work begins again in 1954: The tumour clinic is completed in 1959 and the skin clinic in 1960 – the year of Charité’s 250th anniversary.
Steglitz Hospital (now Campus Benjamin Franklin) is sponsored by the US Benjamin Franklin Foundation and opens after ten years of construction. It is based on US approaches in terms of both construction and content and is the first German university hospital to combine healthcare, research and teaching under one roof.
The most visible accent of Charité in the cityscape is the ‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte with 2,000 beds, which opened in 1982.
With these new buildings, the GDR underlines its decision to maintain Charité as a medical flagship facility.
The merger between Universitätsklinikum Benjamin Franklin and the Freie Universität Berlin results in “Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin”, one of the largest clinics in Europe.
The renewal of Charité campuses continues apace: in 2012 with the opening of the new “Charité Cross Over” (CCO) building and in 2016 with the completion of the extensive refurbishment of ‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte and the newly built “Charité Emergency Medicine Center – Rudolf Nissen Haus”. Further steps are planned on all four campuses – en route to the vision, Charité 2030: Rethinking health.