Tour through heritage estate no. 4
From the busy avenue Prenzlauer Allee, turn off into Erich-Weinert-Strasse, proceed one block east and across Sültstrasse, and you will see striking buildings on the right and left-hand sides of the street. These edifices mark the start of a visitors’ walk through the Carl Legien estate. Balconies run along one side of the street while on the other, the windows virtually wrap around the corners. These cross-corner solutions were designed to let in as much sunlight as possible and allow all elements to interact. The rounded corner balconies not only direct your gaze from the main street into the interior of the residential courtyards, with their greenery and different colours; they also ensure that the apartments get more natural light.
02Residential courtyards and washhouses
Improving hygiene was a main concern of planners, so they designed separate laundry buildings for residents. The facilities were one-and-a-half storeys high with large front windows in two courtyards between Sodtkestrasse and Gubitzstrasse. The complex included a kindergarten, a lending library and a combined heating and power plant. Today, these rooms are mainly used by the rental, technical and service centres of the Deutsche Wohnen property group, whose holdings include the Carl Legien estate.
03A photogenic message: 25m² of lettering
By far, the most important German housing association of the 1920s was the Gemeinnützige Heimstätten-, Bau-, Spar, und Aktien-Gesellschaft, or GEHAG for short. The owner of the Carl Legien estate, GEHAG valued good public relations. The association not only published its own tenant magazines, but also advertised itself on its facades. On old photos of these striking buildings, the placement of these commercial messages made it immediately clear that GEHAG had commissioned them. A superb example of facade labelling is the seven-metre-high (23 foot) bronze lettering running around the corner of Erich-Weinert-Strasse and Gubitzstrasse, covering an expanse of around 25 square metres.
04Café Eckstern: A place to relax
Turn north from Erich-Weinert-Strasse into Sodtkestrasse and you will spot a small corner café called Café Eckstern, a popular neighbourhood meeting place set in a row of ground-floor shops. Next door in Sodtkestrasse there is a typical entrance that is rather restrained in character. The focus of everyday life, and thus also of the design, is geared towards the interior of the green courtyards. The customary pattern from Germany's imperial era – an imposing facade on the street side and precious little charm to the rear – is oddly reversed. And if you turn to the south, you will spy the top of the television tower at Alexanderplatz.
05Detour to Grellstrasse
If you visit the Carl Legien Housing Estate and would like to see more buildings designed by Bruno Taut, simply walk one block south on Grellstrasse. Rather than taking the street, cut through the garden courtyards to the busy avenue Greifswalder Strasse, where there is an interesting head building with a small café. From there you can easily board a commuter train, with lines S41 and S42 taking you around Berlin’s main S-Bahn ring.