Gropiusstadt

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Gropiusstadt is a large housing project in the southern part of Neukölln , on the U7 U-Bahn line. It is fairly large, comprising around 18.500 apartments, and since 2002 it is a separate administrative part of the larger district.

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The idea for Gropiusstadt came for the success of other, earlier social housing projects, like the Hufeisensiedlung just up north. It was designed by Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus fame. The works on the estate began in 1962, with Willy Brandt laying the cornerstone.

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From the beginning the area was designed to house as many people as possible, mainly due to the fact that the Berlin Wall, built just a year before, gave West Berlin no opportunity for an aerial growth, so the city planners understood that the only way for Berlin to develop was using the whole 3 dimensions.

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Gropiusstadt was finished in 1975, Martin Gropius himself however didn’t have a change to see his large project into completion, as he died in 1969, at 87.

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Its style is very modern, with no decorations, very raw to the point of bordering on brutalism.

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As many other modernist housing projects, Gropiusstadt also did not live up to expectations. The idea behind those estates was to provide the common working people with all the necessities as well as pleasures of life they would require to lead a satisfied life. This was the reason behind getting rid of ornamentation and replacing it with standardisation, this is why architects didn’t implement curves and used as many assembly line produced items as possible (in case of the famous plattenbau apartment buildings even walls were mass produced).

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In order to provide the all-round experience, architects tried to mix all the work life and leisure activities together. All of these however led first to overpopulation and later to social problems, stemming from combination of high population density and sedentary lifestyle, enabled by design, so to speak.

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Almost since its opening, Gropiusstadt remains one of the social trouble spots, facilitating crime and addiction. The troubled lifestyle of the people living in the estate is best represented by probably the most famous of its inhabitants – Christiane Felscherinow – the author of ‘We Children from Bahnhof Zoo’.

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