on the way in the large housing estate Siemensstadt
I’ve been living in Siemensstadt for over 25 years now, but I haven’t really paid much attention to the architectural history of my neighborhood. Sure, I have seen tourist groups walking along here from time to time and I also know the signs on some rows of houses. But there must first be celebrated 100 years of Bauhaus, so that I then also realize, I live not only in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I even live in a Bauhaus building by Walter Gropius!
Siemensstadt housing estate
Between 1929 and 1930, the large housing estate Siemensstadt began to be built as an eastern extension of Spandau. The area outside the S-Bahn ring was to be used for social housing.
Hans Scharoun developed the urban planning concept. Well-known architects such as Walter Gropius, Otto Bartning, Hugo Häring, Fred Forbat, Paul Rudolf Henning and also Scharoun himself each designed a block with 2-3 rows of houses of the new settlement. In addition, there was a landscape architect who was responsible for the design of the green spaces. The focus of the entire planning was the coexistence of residential city and open space/green areas. The principle of “light, air, sun” was to be the focus of the planning.
Even though the name suggests a connection with the nearby Siemenswerke, the corporation was not involved in the planning and these are not factory apartments. The settlement was created by a building program of the city of Berlin.
During the National Socialist era, the architecture as it had been created in Siemensstadt was rejected. The architects were vilified and in some cases even banned from building. However, since the settlement was still very young, they did not want to demolish it. An attempt was made to make the buildings “invisible” by planting fast-growing trees. According to plans by Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, monumental buildings were to be erected in Charlottenburg-North in the course of the urban redevelopment to “cover up the eyesore.” The only thing that came to fruition was a retirement home, which today has been converted into a residential building.
Since 2008, the settlement has been one of the six Berlin Modernist settlements on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
A stroll through the World Heritage Site
If you take the subway in the direction of Spandau (U7), it is best to get off at Siemensdamm station and take the Jungfernheideweg exit. If you go past the supermarket into Jungfernheideweg, you already enter the large housing estate Siemensstadt.
Hans Scharoun and the Panzerkreuzer (armored cruiser)
To the left and right of the street is a row of houses designed by Hans Scharoun. The building is somewhat reminiscent of naval architecture, with portholes and a bridge. The architect had in mind the positive image of seafaring: freedom, modernity, spaciousness… The vernacular rather picks up the martial tradition of seafaring with its designation armored cruiser.
Scharoun was an architect (1893-1972) who is today considered a representative of organic architecture. He wanted to break away from prefabricated forms and develop buildings to fit their character of use.
The buildings in Jungfernheideweg form the gateway to the large Siemensstadt housing estate. Funnel-shaped, they run toward the S-Bahn bridge. In contrast to the row of houses on the opposite side of the street, the facade of the Panzerkreuzer is very vividly designed. The row of houses with the even house numbers is dominated by narrow window slots in the staircases and loggias. Here one finds 2.5 room apartments, which are cut very unconventionally. For many years Scharoun also lived here in one of the apartments (until 1960).
The apartments on the opposite side of the street have round very small balconies facing the street. The apartment floor plans are very nested.
During the Second World War, the building complex, popularly known as the armored cruiser, was severely damaged and, unfortunately, was not rebuilt in the original (building area with the two stores on the first floor, originally looked different).
Walter Gropius – or here I am at home
Gropius is one of the leading architects of the last century. He is associated with Bauhaus architecture. For him, housing was a key to solving social, hygienic and urban planning problems. In Siemensstadt, he put his ideas into practice.
Standing in front of the two rows of houses in Jungfernheideweg, the first thing that catches the eye is the plain white facade with the very monotonous rows of windows. The only eye-catchers are the clinker brick facing of the windows and the somewhat recessed glazed stairwells. The garden side is similarly unspectacular in design. Here, the fully glazed loggias/conservatories dominate.
The row of houses with odd house numbers has the largest residential units in the large housing estate Siemensstadt. With 3.5 rooms, the living space here was intended for a family of six. Since there are no through rooms, there was also the possibility of subletting individual rooms.
As a tenant in one of these apartments, I must say that it is pleasant to live here. The size of the bathroom and kitchen was really very advanced at that time. Today it is a bit cramped, especially if you want to accommodate several electrical appliances. The apartment floor plan is very coherent, we like living here.
The theme “light, air, sun” Walter Gropius has implemented very well. The apartments are bright and flooded with sunlight. There is a roof terrace shared by the tenants and an enclosed courtyard with trees,lawn and playgrounds. Especially the courtyard is ideal for families with children, the children can play here undisturbed by traffic.
The row of houses in Jungfernheideweg with the even house numbers is set back somewhat from the course of the street. The apartments are somewhat smaller and have a north-south orientation.
Hugo Häring residential buildings in Goebelstraße
The architect and furniture designer Hugo Häring clearly had the most beautiful houses built in the large housing estate Siemensstadt.
The row development is characterized by a sculpturally structured entrance facade. Here, the kidney-shaped balconies immediately catch the viewer’s eye. On the upper floor, these are combined into a rectangular balcony. I particularly like the design with brown clinker brick, which gives the houses a certain warmth.
Otto Bartning – or the “Long Jammer” („Lange Jammer“)
The architect Otto Bartning is known for many church buildings. He was assigned the most difficult and thankless component in the large housing estate. The site between Goebelstraße and the railway embankment is narrow, elongated and curved. In addition, it runs east-west.
But he has taken up the challenge and put together the row of houses from 25 identically shaped house units. The front of the houses is simple and is only interrupted by small roofs above the entrance door. The staircase has a glazed staircase. The view of the south side of the houses is determined by the balconies.
Visually, the row of houses seems to make an arc and since the houses were already perceived as too austere at the time, the nickname “Lange Jammer” was quickly coined.
Fred Forbat Building Complexes
Fred Forbat worked as an urban planner and architect. He built very different rows of houses. In the first construction phase, he built a block of flats that closed off the rows of houses from Häring to Geißlerpfad. In the second phase, he designed the bridge building that delimits the green area between the rows to the east.
Forbat’s houses have brick facing on the ground floor and are otherwise kept very light. The flats in his houses have four different floor plans.
Paul Rudolf Henning and his housing idea for the large housing estate Siemensstadt
Paul Rudolf Henning was an architect and sculptor. In 1930/31, after the completion of the first construction phase, he extended the estate with his buildings. Three rows of three-storey houses were built, which merged into two-storey buildings towards Jungfernheidepark. The trademark of his houses are the rounded, cuboid balconies, which offer space for 5 people. One finds large roof terraces on his houses, which were required by the builder in order to be able to offer all residents “light, air, sun”.
Henning expanded the settlement in Siemensstadt in 1933/34. In the meantime, there were new building regulations that stipulated 3-4 storeys per house. Each floor had to have 3 flats. Two mirror-image buildings without decoration and balconies were built.
Interested in a guided tour?
The “Man with a Hat Tours” by Christian Fessel take you all over Siemensstadt. Information can be found on the website of the tour operator.