Architectural modernity: Berlin Britz

photo Catherine Gras

Six architectural ensembles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I have already presented two of them, Weisse Stadt and Siemensstadt, now here is a third: Hufeisensiedlung.

Its name comes from the shape chosen for a magnificent series of dwellings organised in a horseshoe shape.

A brief look back at Berlin after the First World War. The Weimar regime was established with a strong social programme and the question of housing was to play an important role. The cities of the time, particularly Berlin, were made up of many dilapidated or even completely unsanitary buildings.

Politicians, town planners and architects took up the subject, including a movement called Neuen Bauen. This movement pushed for the construction of modern, light, airy housing with running water and a social objective: modernity for the benefit of the majority.

This will take the form of groups of buildings, sometimes large neighbourhoods like the one I am talking about today.

In 1924, the Berlin City Council bought land from Britz in the district of Neuköln. Since 1920, Berlin has expanded considerably beyond its historic core, and Neuköln is one of the new development areas.

The city council commissioned an entire district from several architects, including Bruno Taut, who designed the most emblematic parts, including the famous horseshoe.

The buildings are simple on the outside, quite bare, with repetitive and standardised modules, but make abundant use of colour. The openings to the exterior are large, the interior is also standardised, in a strong break with the slums of the time.

These bright colours make it easy to recognise the buildings of this movement and era in Berlin, especially when they have been well renovated as here.

Some people find this standardisation monotonous, personally I like it a lot, and the search for the small detail is a game for the photographer.

Other architects in the district produced colourful buildings that were less at odds with the architecture of the time.

In the end, the social objective was not fully met, as the level of construction costs led to rents that were too high to be accessible to the greatest number.

If you are interested in this theme, I encourage you to virtually revisit the other two neighbourhoods I have written about this year.

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