Berlin: Building Homes, Building Politics

Berlin’s Post-war Urban Developments and Ideology

Juan José Gómez Gutiérrez: When the Red Army took Berlin in May 1945, almost a quarter of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. Half of the 245,000 homes which had existed before 1936 counted among those ruined. Urban reconstruction then became a major priority. In Berlin, as in the rest of Germany, politicians and town planners conceived the reconstruction not only in terms of meeting the immediate needs of housing and administrative spaces but also in terms of a new conception of architecture that would contribute to fulfilling the desires of peace and democracy of the defeated Germans. From 1949 onwards, this task was understood in a completely different manner on each side of the wall.

Symbol of Berlin's former division
Brandenburger Tor: Symbol of Berlin’s former division

The division of the city was, however, preceded by a short period that witnessed some attempts to undertake an all-Berlin reconstruction scheme. The first of these was the output of the ex-Bauhaus member Hans Scharoun, an architect equally respected by all the political parties who had remained in Berlin during the Nazi period, surviving on private commissions. In 1946, he presented a reconstruction plan made by a collective under his supervision, together with the “Zellendorf Plan,” Walter Moest’s project for the organisation of traffic. Scharoun’s main concerns were the problems of housing, industrial development and communications. He proposed a “ribbon city” spread along the River Spree in an urban landscape and linked by a network of high-capacity highways, according to a band pattern and a system of concentric ring roads that would substitute the previous one of axis and radial connections. Sigue leyendo