White City Berlin
The name Weiße Stadt, or “White City”, came from the estate’s bright plaster façades. The plans for this housing estate in the Reinickendorf district of Berlin had already been drawn up before the First World War, but they were not realised until between 1928 and 1931. It is the joint work of three architects, Otto Rudolf Salvisberg, Bruno Ahrends and Wilhelm Büning, who together built a large-scale residential project that follows the principles of the Bauhaus.
The housing estate stretches along Aroser Allee, then named Schillerpromenade, and is made up of three- to five-storey row buildings and perimeter blocks with interconnected green spaces. This dispersed layout can be found in even starker form in Siemensstadt, another influential Berlin housing project of the late 1920s. Particularly striking are the two gate-like buildings on Emmentaler Straße, which flank the entrance onto Aroser Allee, and a building that bridges over the same street at the far end.
The building façades are plain and undecorated following the style known as Neues Bauen, or New Architecture. Variations in design were created using window frames, downspouts, entrance doorways and roof overhangs, all of which were accentuated in bright, contrasting colours that let the white façades shine more brightly. The three architects similarly employed varied colour schemes in the stairwells of the individual houses.
When it was built, the White City was the epitome of modern, affordable living, as each of the 1200 flats had its own bathroom, kitchen and loggia. The high standard of its social and technical infrastructure was also exceptional for its day: thanks to the nursery school, elementary school, medical centre, pharmacy, over 20 shops and a cogeneration plant that was connected to two communal laundry facilities, the residents of the estate were well provided for.
Today, more than 2,000 people still live in the White City. Together with Siemensstadt and four other modernist housing estates in Berlin, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They represent a new form of housing developed in that period, whose design was guided by social ideals and which led the way for projects that would follow. [KS/DK]
- UNESCO world heritage site
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