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Märkisches Viertel

Housing Development

Never again an unhealthy city of tenement buildings! This was the credo behind the housing estates that emerged in both parts of Berlin in the post-war era. In the face of large-scale destruction, urban developers and architects saw a unique opportunity to realise the vision developed in the twenties for a new city with improved housing conditions and social justice. The model was a more  relaxed, functional city. Initial plans for the city as a whole in 1946 envisaged a green city centre with a belt of adjacent neighbourhoods. This was never realised because the still intact infrastructure of the roads and supply networks had to be used. Nevertheless, this model remained fixed in the minds of urban planners.  The basis of reconstruction in both East and West Berlin was state funded social housing with standardized flats at affordable prices. Social housing schemes shaped the cityscapes. Only once did East Berlin depart from the idea of modern housing schemes: Stalinallee emerged in 1950 according to the principles of a compact city in the style of "national tradition". West Berlin re-sponded to this by constructing the Hansaviertel and the Corbusier building for the International Building Exhibition in 1957, somewhat belatedly, since East Berlin had long since rediscovered modern urban development. Both halves of the city had been overambitious with these luxurious  construction projects.  The best prerequisites for building housing estates were to be found in the suburbs. However, the long rows of houses erected there lacked the diversity of city life. "Urbanisation through density" became, therefore, the new model, which justified constructing large housing estates in West Berlin such as the Märkisches Viertel and Gropiusstadt in the sixties. The social infrastructure and underground link followed later. What remained was the inhospitableness of the "dwelling ma-chines" which first gave their occupiers cause to demonstrate in the eighties.  While construction of housing estates had reached its climax in West Berlin, it only really got under way in East Berlin in 1973 with the "complex construction of flats" in order to solve the housing problem by 1990. This objective was only to be achieved through the industrialisation of the construction process with prefabricated buildings. Socialist housing meant flats for the classless society, for families where both parents worked full time. Consequently, the necessary infrastructure was built at the same time. Although it was considered a privilege to receive a flat in a new building, the monotony of entire towns consisting of concrete slab blocks was increasingly criticised.