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Department of Urban DevelopmentExcursion showing urban development paradigms of Berlin

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Excursion showing urban development paradigms of Berlin

Berlin, April-July 2015 – Berlin is an open-air exhibition for urban-planning and urban-development paradigms.  During the summer semester 2015, the students attended a series of excursions and city walks within Berlin with the objective to see various neighborhoods presenting these paradigms. Additionally to these Berlin excursions, some other trips were organized to other cities like Görlitz, Hamburg or Dessau.  

The excursions in Berlin started in the city center. As most parts of medieval Berlin and Cölln have been either destroyed in World War II or later demolished in favor for the prestigious development of the capital of GDR, little historic remains are left over. However, some old parts can still be seen, e.g., the ’island of traditions’ (as it was called by the GDR-planners) at Märkisches Ufer and Getraudenbrücke or almost forgotten buildings in Waisen- or Brüderstraße. Even though the quarter around St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaiviertel) looks very medieval, not so many buildings are authentic and from the old days. It is more a wonderful example of the ‘critical-reconstruction paradigm’ made in GDR showing sorts of ‘luxury prefabricated’ residential blocks (Plattenbau), relocated historic buildings from other parts of the city besides a few original, conserved protected monuments like the St. Nicholas Church itself. Additionally, ideas like the ‘functional-city paradigm’ or car-driven planning ideas were discussed at Molkenmarkt. The debate of the reconstruction of the city center was the topic in front of the (re)construction-site of the former Royal Palace (Berliner Schloss).

The reconstruction of Berlin's former Royal Palace, destroyed in and after WWII, was one of the most controversial decisions among urban planners and architects

Examples of ‘Stony Berlin’ or the dense tenement blocks of the late 19th century and ways to handle this rich legacy after World War II, were shown during two excursions to Berlin-Wedding.  The main focus of the first tour was Berlin’s ‘Neighborhood Management’ approach of the ‘Socially Integrative City” program that started in 1999. During the second tour, the students have seen different regenerated blocks following the paradigm of ‘careful urban regeneration ‘. This regeneration approach was developed under the influence of the ‘International Building Exhibition’ (IBA Kreuzberg, Altbau) in the 1970ies and 1980ies. During this excursion, built examples of early reforms to improve the bad living conditions of the urban poor in the late 19th century were visited as well.

The huge tenement blocks of the late 19th century, which created the name of 'Stony Berlin', presented the worst living conditions for many decades. After the 'careful urban renewal' they are among the most favoured neighbodhoods of the city.

Compared to these examples of the early reforms, the social housing estates of the 1920ies were of much bigger scale. The students visited two of five areas that are now World Heritage Sites. The first one was Bruno Taut’s ‘Siedlung am Schillerpark’ in Berlin-Wedding built in red bricks and with wonderful semi-public courts and gardens. The second area was ‘Die Weiße Stadt’ (‘White City’) in Berlin-Reinickendorf. Thematically, this excursion was later added with an excursion to the city of Dessau showing the Bauhaus and more buildings in this particular style of the 1920ies.

"Weiße Stadt" - a social housing complex of the 1920ies became part of the UNESCO World Heritage

The theme of two more tours was Berlin’s urban history in and after World-War II. Being in Berlin nowadays, war damages cannot be seen anymore. However, the wounds and consequences of the damages are omnipresent if one develops the ability to see them.  The question, how to rebuild the city after 1945 was shown in a tour presenting competing paradigms of the former Eastern and Western part of the city. While East Berlin’s Karl-Marx- and Frankfurter Allee was constructed in the Stalinist ‘wedding-cake-style‘ in the early 1950ies, West Berlin’s Hansaviertel presents the western answer to it being an iconic example for a ‘functional city’.

All tours have taken place under the umbrella of the Urban Design course.

Walter Gropius was one of many star architects of his time who has contributed to Berlin's International Building Exhibition of 1957 (Interbau)


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