Businesspeople from across the globe regularly met in the tower for symposia, meetings, conferences and company presentations. Special salons were built for these events on the third floor. The Japanese salon featured an East Asian design, while the Zeiss salon was dominated by imagery drawn from the company VEB Carl Zeiss Jena. The Gutenberg salon had a wall dedicated to Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. The style of the Meißner salon was based on Meissen porcelain.
The fall of the wall led to a change in the IHZ’s original business focus. Embassies, law firms, international airlines, etc. were added to the mix. To keep up to date, the IHZ (including the offices and technical facilities) were thoroughly renovated in the 1990s. There are now up to 28 offices per storey and over 500 offices in total.
The architect Erhardt Gißke
From trained bricklayer to East Berlin’s Director of Construction – Erhardt Gißke (1924–1993) was both the architect of the IHZ and, as Director of Construction, responsible for many of the buildings constructed in East Berlin during the GDR period. He was in charge of construction projects including Stalinallee, the Palace of the Republic and the sport and recreation centre.
After completing his studies at an engineering academy, Gißke worked in a planning department. When the village of Bruchstedt was almost entirely destroyed by a flood in May 1950, the SEDstate authorities appointed Gißke as architect. He was faced with the challenging task of planning a rapid reconstruction programme. It took him just 50 days to complete the organisation. As technical director, Gißke focused on the Stalinallee building project between 1952 and 1956.
In 1956, Gißke was appointed as deputy to Berlin’s chief architect, Hermann Henselmann. In this position, his responsibility was confined to implementing Henselmann’s urban development plans and architectural projects.
In recognition of his work, the Berlin city authorities appointed Erhardt Gißke as Director of Construction in 1958. The next highlight of his career came in 1964, when he was appointed as Director of the Institute of Industrial Construction at the Bauakademie. This position as the Director of the “Special Projects for the City of Berlin” Construction Department allowed him to work on many prestigious buildings in Berlin.