In 1952, fifty-three architects submitted their designs for the reconstruction of West Berlin under the motto “the city of tomorrow.” Submissions were made by internationally-renowned architects such as Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Egon Eiermann, Walter Gropius, Arne Jacobsen, Oscar Niemeyer, and Max Taut. Thirty-six of these designs were built in the Hansa Quarter for the 1957 international architecture exhibition – Interbau 1957. It was a unique urban-planning and architectural ensemble of postwar modernism.
In 1945, there was a housing shortage in both East and West Berlin. In the newly created workers’ state in East Berlin, the model for housing was established on Stalinallee, begun in the early 1950s. Along the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten, in the war-damaged Hansa Quarter, the West built its alternative model.
The urban-planning design by Gerhard Jobst, Willy Kreuer, and Wilhelm Schliesser proposed a modern, relaxed, and green urban district around Hansaplatz. The flowing, open spaces between the buildings were a statement against blockperimeter construction. The striking individual buildings for the Interbau exhibition were integrated into this area. The buildings for Interbau – evoking the Bauhaus and the urban-planning principles of modern architecture – were intended to mark a new beginning for urban planning and architecture. The overall planning of Interbau was the responsibility of the architect Otto Bartning.
Although only a third of the buildings were finished when Interbau opened in July 1957, nearly a million visitors arrived to view the model apartments and learn about the progress of construction. The building work continued until 1960. Brightness, clear construction, modern conveniences such as central heating and bathrooms, and unconventional floor plans (one innovation introduced by Alvar Aalto was a central multipurpose space known as the Allraum or “Everything Room”) were intended to make living in low-cost housing in the city of the future attractive.
Some of the striking buildings of the Hansa Quarter include the five high-rise towers that loom, sixteen and seventeen stories, above the S-Bahn tracks. They were designed by Gustav Hasenpflug, Hans Schwippert, Raymond Lopez, and Eugène Beaudouin; by Johannes Hendrik van den Broek and Jacob Berend Bakema; and by Luciano Baldessari. Gropius’s slightly curved apartment building in concrete and steel-skeleton construction has nine floors. Niemeyer’s highrise slab building, with V-shaped supports, two eight-story buildings by Aalto and Eiermann, and four single-family homes by Jacobsen, complete this unique collection of modern postwar architecture.
The Academy of the Arts by Werner Düttmann, which although it was not part of the original plans for Interbau in 1957, was realized in the Hansa Quarter a little later (1959-60), and enriches this architectural canon of postwar modernism. It is listed as a historical landmark, as is the Hansa Quarter itself and the Unité d’Habitation (now the Corbusierhaus Berlin) – Le Corbusier’s “machine for living in,” which because of its size was built near the Olympic Stadium as an outpost of the international building exhibition. [KL/HY]
Contact and opening hours
The Hansaviertel includes: Altonaer Straße 1, 3-9, 4-14, 15; Bartningallee 2-4, 5, 7, 9, 10 a-d, 11-13, 12, 16; Flatowallee 16; Händelallee 3-9, 20-22, 26-34, 33-39, 29, 41, 43-47, 49-53, 55-57, 59, 63; Hanseatenweg 1-3, 6; Klopstockstraße 2, 7-11, 13-17, 14-18, 19-23, 25-27, 29, 30-32, 31.