The drafts for the historic Karstadt building originate from the site office at the administrative headquarters of Rudolph Karstadt AG in Hamburg, which had been under the management of architect Philipp Schaefer since 1920. It took just 16 months to construct the building. As the department store’s own head architect, Philipp Schaefer had already designed a number of Karstadt buildings, most featuring delicate column façades and powerful cornices. For the Karstadt building on Hermannplatz, the American high-rise architecture of Art Deco served as a model by which Philipp Schaefer could let himself be inspired on a journey. This was not by famous classics such as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center, however – these had not even started to be built at the time.
The Karstadt building on Hermannplatz was erected with a reinforced concrete frame and shell-lime façade in a vertical structure. The towers on both sides of the main entrance rose symmetrically into the air, and were reminiscent of the architecture of town halls. Some elements, by contrast, such as the structure of the street front, which was similar to Gothic buttresses, or the tapering towers, were more reminiscent of the Gothic church building style. Overall, the vertical alignment, which conveyed a growth upwards, counteracted the weight of the building, so that despite its size, it did not have an overwhelming effect.
The building became a symbol of the area – at night, too, it attracted people who wished to admire the flamboyant lighting. In this way, Schaefer created a focal point for locals in the area and their visitors, a 1920s architectural icon at the heart of KreuzKölln.