The six UNESCO World Heritage estates

Berlin's most important contribution to architectural history

Foto-Collage UNESCO-Welterbe "Siedlungen der Berliner Moderne"
© Photos: Ben Buschfeld (BB)

In the 1920s, Berlin was one of the most exciting cities in the world. The city, considered to be liberal and cosmopolitan, was a centre of modern art, culture and industry. But it was also bursting at the seams. In order to alleviate the enormous housing shortage, new housing estates were built on a grand scale thanks to clever politics. In 2008, six particularly outstanding ensembles were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their political and design implementation provided answers to urgent questions that arose in many European metropolises in the face of industrialisation. These questions of that time are also highly topical again: How do we want to live? What is important in life? What makes good architecture? What can politics do for people? This website presents the six World Heritage sites and invites you to take a virtual tour …

Falkenberg Garden City: the origins

Of all of Berlin’s six World Heritage estates, Falkenberg Garden City, which was built before the First World War, is most strongly influenced by the utopian, holistic thinking of the architectural reform movement. It was designed as an alternative to the hustle and bustle and anonymity of the industrial metropolis. At Falkenberg, the challenge was to turn the utopias of a culturally open, socially equal community into reality. This was reflected not only in vibrantly colorful buildings and meticulously designed green spaces, but also in community life.

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Schillerpark Housing Estate: social issues

Social issues play a major role at the Schillerpark Estate. From their apartments, residents look out onto green courtyards for common use, and next door is one of the first public Volksparks (“people's parks”). Children love the splash pool that is perfect for cooling off in summer. The ensemble was the first Berlin housing estate to be planned in the New Building style and and refers to models from the Netherlands. Later extensions took into account the interests of flower lovers, the elderly and the disabled.

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Horseshoe Estate: the landmark

The Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Estate) is the best-known and most striking of Berlin’s six World Heritage residential estates. Even as it was being built, the 350-metre (1,148 foot) row of homes shaped like a huge horseshoe became a landmark of a new, socially-compatible and healthy style of residential living. Construction began in 1925, and almost 2,000 apartments would eventually be built. The ambitions were great, as was the design. It marks the transition between the two great models of urban development.

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Carl Legien Housing estate: urban living

In 1928, construction began on the Carl Legien Housing Estate in north-east Berlin, situated just outside the S-Bahn commuter train ring and not far from Alexanderplatz. But the stiff price of this central property and the ensuing global economic crisis forced the city to save money. Reacting to the cost pressures, Bruno Taut dispensed with tenants' gardens, stuck to smaller floor plans, and added one to two floors to the complex. Despite the high density of residents, the result is surprisingly colourful, bright, modern and spacious.

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White City Reinickendorf: the pure

With its clear and angular structures, the Weisse Stadt (White City) housing estate in Berlin-Reinickendorf most closely embodies the formal principles of the New Building movement. Its two central landmarks – the gate buildings and bridge house – celebrate the rise of the automobile. In contrast to Bruno Taut's starkly colored facades, at first glance this complex designed by a trio of architects shines in brilliant bright white. A closer look, however, reveals many colourful details.

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Siemensstadt Ring estate: the puzzle

Drawing on Hans Scharoun's urban blueprint, several outstanding talents of the New Building movement helped to design the Siemensstadt Large Housing Estate. All of them were members of the progressive architects' group "The Ring", which is why the development was swiftly dubbed the "Ring Estate”. Of all the World Heritage Sites, Siemensstadt diverges the most from the conventional pattern of perimeter block development.

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