The historic complex was given its name - Robert Koch Forum - in 2007 by the state of Berlin. It was one of the largest buildings constructed for research purposes in the time of the Kaiser and the short-lived German Empire. The site of the scientific, medical, and technical institutes of the Friedrich Wilhelm University (the precursor of today’s Humboldt University) occupies a trapeze-shaped area between Dorotheenstrasse and bank of the River Spree, Reichstagsufer. It was built between 1873 and 1883 at the instigation of the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, according to plans by Paul Spieker, the architect of Friedrich Wilhelm University library. With K.A.F Zastrau and building inspectors Hellwig and Kleinwächter as important collaborators and site managers, the Physiologisches Institut at Dorotheenstrasse 96, the large lecture hall at the center of the building, and the director's apartment at the southwest corner were built from 1873 to 1877.
The buildings of the Physikalisches Institut, on the corner of Reichstagufer and Wilhelmstraße, were completed in 1878, heavily damaged in the Second World War, and taken down beginning in 1955. Today, ARD Television’s main Berlin studio occupies the site. In a second construction phase, from 1879 to 1883, the Pharmakologische Institut was built on the corner of Dorotheenstrasse and Bunsenstrasse, as were other institutes on Bunsenstrasse. By 1900, the original two- and three-story buildings were deemed too small. The extension of the Chemische Institut was designed by the architect Georg Thür in 1907 – 1908 to complement the buildings finished in 1883. The Physiologische Institut, directors’ apartments, the Pharmakologische Institut, and a later extension, the Chemisches Institut, were built on the aforementioned streets. The complex’s attic story, visible today from Dorotheenstrasse and in part also from Bunsenstrasse, was also added later.
The part of the complex at Dorotheenstrasse 94 and 96 was used by several institutions of the nearby Charité Hospital. Among others, the Charité’s Institut für Mikrobiologie und Hygiene and its Institut für Pharmakologische Toxikologie were housed at this address.
The complex was given the name Robert Koch Forum in recognition of the services of Professor Robert Koch, who was the first director of the Hygieneinstitut (Hygiene Institute) at Friedrich Wilhelm University from 1885 until 1891. On 24 March 1882, Koch gave his groundbreaking lecture in the institute library on the development of tuberculosis. In 1905, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on the subject. In memory of the lecture, the World Health Organization has declared 24 March World Tuberculosis Day.
The entire complex is part of the city of Berlin’s Special Fund for General Public Provisions, the Sondervermögen für Daseinsvorsorge, or SODA for short. The section of the complex at Wilhelmstrasse 67 now houses the Einstein Center Digital Future.
From 2019, the building will be renovated by BIM Berliner Immobilienmanagement GmbH on behalf of the Berlin Senate. Once completed, the building will again be a home for research and learning in the heart of Berlin. The Hertie School is planning to move in as the main tenant in 2025. The Berlin University Alliance will also be based here.