Siemensstadt Housing Estate
Siemensstadt is a large housing estate from the early 1930s built in the style of the Neues Bauen, or New Architecture. It was a joint project by the architects Walter Gropius, Otto Bartning, Fred Forbat, Hugo Häring and Paul R. Henning, along with Hans Scharoun, who also provided the urban planning. They were part of a collective known as “Der Ring” (The Ring), so the settlement is sometimes also called the “Ringsiedlung” (Ring Estate).
The housing estate was conceived to provide dwellings of minimal size for Siemens employees with low incomes. The flats all shared a standardised layout and uniform room sizes. Scharoun’s master plan for the development envisioned a north-south alignment of multi-story linear housing blocks as a loosely structured city pervaded by greenery. His scheme was also shaped by a desire to preserve the existing population of old trees. Landscape architect Leberecht Migge was responsible for planning the outdoor spaces here, as he was for many other modernist housing estates.
Despite the rigorous urban character, the diverse stylistic repertoires of the individual architects bestowed lots of visual variety to the estate. Whereas the buildings by Walter Gropius, for example, exhibit a cool functionalist style, Hugo Häring’s are more organic in form, with curved projecting balconies.
Particularly striking is Scharoun’s layout of the buildings, angled toward each other to create a funnel-like entrance to the estate. The balcony and roof forms, evocative of ship architecture, earned it the nickname “Panzerkreuzer” (Battleship). Scharoun himself lived there for a long time. To the north, Paul R. Henning’s linear buildings with lower rooflines form the transition to the neighbouring public park, Volkspark Jungfernheide. The long, curving facade of the so-called “Lange Jammer” housing block designed by Otto Bartning forms the area’s southern border.
Together with five other modernist housing estates in Berlin, the Siemensstadt housing estate was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. In its day, it set new standards for housing with good natural lighting and ventilation and later served as a model for housing built after the Second World War. [KS/DK]
- UNESCO world heritage site
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