urban areas of contemporary Berlin, made up of rapidly gentrifying districts such as Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Wedding, Gesundbrunnen, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Schöneberg and Moabit and more bourgeois suburbs such as, Tiergarten, and Charlottenburg. This ring is one of the most creative parts of Berlin and also among the best serviced making it the ideal location for newcomers of all types. The Hobrecht expansion plan for Berlin stimulated city growth in a capitalist sense but also created distinctive urban patterns, forms and spaces. Fourteen section plans composed by Hobrecht introduced different typologies to the public realm: including boulevards, promenades, neighbourhood squares, among other types. They are structural elements of the expansion framework and formed the dominant image of Berlin as a modern city on par with London and Paris – two cities that inspired Hobrecht. In the Hobrecht Plan the combination of Parisian style radial and ring streets, and an even distribution of squares, following the pattern of London, make up the spatial frame. A detailed examination of such structures provides clues to the growth and evolution of 19th century Berlin. The historical dimensions of the expansion plan as well as its transformations over time are the focus of a recently launched research project by TU Berlin. Analyses show Hobrecht’s Squares follow different spatial patterns determined by social and topographic features. In the northern and eastern reaches of the Hobrecht plan, they tend to be in the middle of large workers’ districts, untouched by big radial avenues and peripheral roads. In the southwest, by contrast, several are situated on the big chaussées associated with the palaces in Charlottenburg and Potsdam, whilst others are located on tangential roads and more typical boulevards. The public squares also define the dimensions of neighbourhoods. Through their repetition, they calibrate the scale of the masterplan and have evolved as adaptable elements of a growing city. These squares or “plätze” tend to act as nuclei of what we might call a neighbourhood, and what the Berliners call a “kiez”. While the term kiez has strong Berlin social and cultural connotations, a kiez is conceptually close to the squares of the London estates – designed essentially as a device for increasing property values in their immediate environment. As such they differ from the 1929 neighbourhood concept as formalized and distilled into a set of spatial and social principles by Clarence Perry. Regardless of these political and economic origins, today these spaces are considered to be fundamental in providing integrated neighbourhood services, sustainable growth strategies, distinct identity and resilience to demographic and social changes.
The tension between the close, neighbourly quality of the existing kiez, and the dislocation and spatial trauma provoked in the past by World War II destruction, Cold War isolation and division, mid-20th century motorway construction and modernist housing estates; and in recent years by forces of global migration and real-estate investment, requires today’s designers to re-appraise the masterplan as a tool for providing mass housing. What is the urban designer’s toolkit in facing these challenges? Working with the spatial paradigms of the 19th and 20th century the urban designer must design the process of engagement with such historical types and devise ways for the political economy to generate greater density, affordability, liveability and inclusive urban experiences within existing urban patterns. Dr Scott Hawken convened the UNSW MUDD21 Berlin Studio; Felix Bentlin co-tutored in the joint UNSW-TU Berlin studio, he is a Research Assistant in the Fachgebiet Städtebau und Siedlungswesen, Institut für Stadt- und Regionalplanung (ISR), TU Berlin.
“…the ring became a landscape of exploitation, overcrowding and squalor that marred the reputation of its planner, Hobrecht. Today, however, with lower occupancy rates, the belt is amongst the most desirable urban areas of contemporary Berlin…”
Master of Urban Development
Published on Apr 26, 2016
Published on Apr 26, 2016
City Visions: Method & Design Chicago | Berlin | Sydney International Studio workshops from the Masters of Urban Development & Design degree...