What are some notorious architectural flaws

Famous, notorious, densely built-up: these are Berlin's large housing estates

The Berlin rapper Sido set a monument to life in large housing estates: his hit “Mein Block” is dedicated to growing up in the Märkisches Viertel - which was not necessarily easy.

Lots of people in a small space - that was a trend in architecture for a while - Berlin's densely built-up districts such as Gropiusstadt emerged. But over time, the reputation of these large housing estates suffered.

A lot of crime, even more poverty and a lack of cultural offerings often shape the image of these areas - not always wrongly, but not across the board. Because if you look closely, you may also discover the architectural beauty, sometimes even brilliance, of these settlements. There is, for example, the Horseshoe Estate, which is innovative and practical at the same time, or the White Estate, whose apartments on the upper floors offer a breathtaking view of the city.

Settlements like the Märkisches Viertel prove that satellite towns were by no means exclusive to the GDR. Marzahn and Hellersdorf are of course prime examples of this - and at the same time made a significant contribution to alleviating the housing shortage in the GDR. In the following list we have put together 12 large housing estates in Berlin: some are famous, some notorious and some are both.


Hansaviertel

The Hansaviertel in Mitte is a phoenix that fought its way out of the ashes of the ruins of World War II. The Allied bombers destroyed around 300 of the 343 buildings in the area between Tiergarten and Moabit, the rest was badly damaged. After the war, the area was to become a symbol of the city's will for renewal. A key feature of the redesign was a larger number of green spaces in the Hansaviertel and throughout Berlin.

The zoo should, so to speak, pour over its edges into the Hansaviertel. The planners redistributed plots and changed the road and supply network. In 1952, 53 architects from 13 countries took part in the competition for redevelopment of the area, all of whom were advocates of the “New Building”. The design was intended to embody a “new objectivity”, the Bauhaus style being used as a representative. In the end, 35 new buildings were built in the Hansaviertel under this maxim, some flat, others high.


Gropiusstadt

The most famous former resident of Gropiusstadt is probably Christiane F. In the book “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”, she describes the area as follows: “Gropiusstadt, these are high-rise buildings for 45,000 people, with lawns and shopping centers in between. From a distance everything looked very neat. But when you were between the skyscrapers, it stank of piss and poop everywhere. ”F. said at the time that this was due to the children who had to pee but couldn't make it up to the apartments in time because the elevators were mostly broken . The architect of the district is - of course - Walter Gropius, built from 1962 to 1975. Ninety percent of the living space was already social housing back then - and the district, which initially looked attractive because of its bright apartments, soon got the reputation of a social hotspot.


Märkisches Viertel

“My city, my district, my area, my street, my home, my block”: Who doesn't know the hook from rapper Sido's first hit, which is also an homage to the Märkisches Viertel, drugs and tough guys? Sido has changed, he now has a lot of money and one of the single-family houses that he used to smile at. and sometimes believes in conspiracy theories.

But while Sido has somehow gone a bit downhill, the Märkisches Viertel is at least partially on the up: in places it has been given a new, rich orange coat of paint and a better connection to the rest of Berlin.


High-deck settlement

When the high-deck estate was built during the 1970s and 1980s, the concept by its two architects Rainer Oefelein and Bernhard Freund was quite innovative. The architects separated pedestrian traffic and car traffic: the elevated, green paths (high decks) connect the houses and allow pedestrians to stroll through the street without having to watch out for cars. The cars in turn park and drive below the high decks. At that time, however, the idea of ​​basically taking a seat in the car as it is today did not occur. And the settlement, which benefited from its quiet location near the wall near Treptow, lost some of its attractiveness with the fall of the Wall.


Thermometer settlement

The thermometer settlement is located in Berlin's richest district: Steglitz-Zehlendorf. And is one of the settlements that are most affected by child poverty, 60 percent of the children living here are considered poor. The settlement was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is considered a typical example of West Berlin outskirts. After the end of the Second World War, the motto of the reconstruction was “light, air and sun.” For this purpose, the town planners had the rear buildings and side wings torn down. But because people had to find shelter somewhere, new living space was created on the outskirts of the city. The Gropiusstadt, the Märkisches Viertel and also the thermometer settlement arise from this attempt to provide neighborhoods with better living conditions for the population.


Splanemann settlement

The Splanemann settlement is the pioneer among large housing estates and the first in which one tried to build with prefabricated panels. After the First World War, due to the housing shortage, many apartments had to be built quickly - at a low price. At the same time, more and more urban planners were convinced that the poorer population also deserved dry, bright apartments. The Splanemann settlement was supposed to do just that: For this purpose, slabs were cast from 12 types of slab and eight rows of buildings with 27 houses and 138 apartments were created.

All apartments had a bathroom, toilet and even a balcony. The idea for the settlement came from the architect and urban planner Martin Wagner, an advocate of social ideas in urban planning. Wagner did not achieve the goal of reducing the construction costs of living space. On top of that, a complete row of buildings was destroyed in the Second World War. The settlement is named after Herbert Splanemann, a KPD member and resistance fighter during the Nazi era.


Prefabricated buildings on Michelangelostraße

The Michelangelostraße residential complex is in the WBS-70 area. WBS-70, that is a panel construction, based on the model of which thousands of images were created in the GDR from 1973 - a total of around 42 percent of all panel buildings built by the GDR correspond to this type. They should help solve the housing shortage in the GDR by 1990. Because coherent areas were needed for this, building areas further inside the district were out of the question. Most of the WBS-70 prefabricated buildings in this area have eleven floors and were built between 1973 and 1983. On the north side of the street there are five-storey prefabricated buildings of the type Q3A (see picture), a model from the 1950s.


White settlement

The White Settlement is young - but not as one might think. The houses themselves are a product of social housing in the 1970s: there was a lack of living space, so high-rise buildings were quickly built outside of the inner-city locations. The result were settlements such as the Märkisches Viertel, Gropiusstadt or the White Settlement in the north of Neukölln between the Sonnenallee and Plänterwald S-Bahn stations. The population in the Weißen Siedlung is particularly young: 28 percent of the residents are under 18 years old, while the proportion of over 65-year-olds is below the Neukölln and Berlin average. The white settlement is visible from afar, the high-rise buildings consist of up to 18 storeys.


Falkenhagener Feld

The Falkenhagener Feld settlement is a classic satellite town because it is on the edge of the Spandau district. In the west of the settlement, at the end of Falkenseer Chaussee, the wall used to stand. You can see that years passed during its construction: the paint is peeling off some buildings or moss forms on the walls; other houses in the settlement look much newer. No wonder: while some complexes were built in the 1960s, others were not completed until the 1990s. The Kiez is considered a problem area. With the closure of Tegel, however, it will at least experience an upgrade: planes that thunder low and loud over the houses will soon be a thing of the past.


Horseshoe Settlement

Why the horseshoe settlement is called what it is called needs no explanation. Why the architect Bruno Taut chose this shape, but maybe already. The horseshoe should symbolize the idea of ​​"New Building" and the rationality and functionality should not be concealed, but emphasized. Bruno Taut said in 1929: “The individual and the whole get their shape from the meaning it has.” This maxim is also the reason for the shape of the building. Because the residents of the settlement should be surrounded by greenery. So in this case they built around the green with its special geography: In the middle of the horseshoe building is a pool, a groundwater depression that dates back to the Ice Age.

At the same time, the Hufeisensiedlung, as one of the first large housing estates and examples of “New Building”, follows another ideal. It wants to be understood as an alternative to the tenement blocks and dark rear buildings of the early 20th century with their inhumane living conditions. And reflect the community of its residents. The horseshoe settlement has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.


Marzahn

It's hard to believe, but Marzahn was once a village. One that has its roots in the Middle Ages around 1230. But since 1920, the year in which Greater Berlin came into being, it has belonged to the capital. The large Marzahn housing estate, like the one on Michelangelostraße, came into being after the GDR leadership had decided to solve the problem of the housing shortage by 1990. The construction work then lasted until the end of the 1980s. And this despite the fact that the eleven-story prefabricated buildings that dominate the district were all built within about 110 days. But that is not really surprising, because the prefabricated buildings now offer more than 100,000 people a home.


Hellersdorf

Where does Marzahn end and where does Hellersdorf begin? Both quarters are characterized by prefabricated buildings, both are on the eastern edge of Berlin. Anyone who did not grow up in this part of Berlin or at least lived there for a long time will probably find it difficult to differentiate. Once you know it, it's not that difficult to remember where the district boundary runs: namely pretty much along the Wuhle, across Eisenacher Straße. Just like in Marzahn, the prefabricated buildings in Hellersdorf served to alleviate the housing shortage in the GDR. By the way: the streets and prefabricated buildings around the Louis-Lewin-Straße subway station have only been part of Berlin since 1990. Because this area previously belonged to the municipality of Hönow in the Frankfurt (Oder) district - and due to the four-power agreement, the city limits could not simply be expanded.


More architecture in Berlin

Berlin has a lot to offer structurally. In our architecture guide you will find information and destinations for every taste. You can argue about that, of course, but we consider these Berlin buildings to be building sins. Which style shaped the walled city? 12 famous buildings in West Berlin. They are in stark contrast to the East: important GDR architects who shaped Berlin. And if you look again at the buildings in this photo puzzle, you could doubt whether you are really in Berlin - and rightly so.

Other interesting articles