A Dutch district in Berlin ? Weissensee

Photo Catherine Gras

Brick is very present in Berlin but most of the time, apart from the 19th century industrial sites, it is not visible on the facade. If you want to see a brick housing area, I recommend Weissensee in Berlin and Potsdam.

What they have in common is a strong reference to the Dutch style.

The first of the two was built in Potsdam in the second half of the 18th century. The Prussian regime had Berlin as its capital but developed Potsdam, located a few dozen kilometres to the southwest, as a second centre of power with its many castles, its court, its bourgeois quarters and a community of craftsmen from neighbouring countries.

This was particularly true of the Dutch population, who contributed to the creation of the city centre of Potsdam thanks to their techniques for draining and reclaiming flooded land. This is how Baroque Potsdam came into being, and the Dutch quarter that is part of it is the largest of its kind outside the Netherlands. It has undergone a major renovation since reunification.

The history of the Dutch district of Weissensee is more recent. It was during the Weimar Republic that the district was built (1925-1929). In 1920, Berlin expanded considerably and absorbed the surrounding towns and villages to take on the shape we know today.

This was a time when many housing estates were built to cope with the chronic lack of decent housing. I have already written about many of the neighbourhoods that were built at this time by the Neuen Bauen movement and Bruno Taut in particular. In this district of Weissensee, modernity lies in the services provided by these buildings and not in their architecture, which is intended to be in line with the previous centuries.

Right next to the residential buildings you will also find collective and industrial brick buildings from the same period but without the Dutch reference, a more modernist architecture.

I have written many posts about the districts built by Bruno Taut or the Neuen Bauen moment, here are some examples located in Weissensee, only a few blocks from the Dutch district:

If you want to see other modernist districts of the 1920s in Berlin, I recommend: Berlin Britz, Shillerpark, Uncle Tom’s Cabin… which you will find in this blog.

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