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Dessau Institute of Architecture (DIA) Graduate School Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany Summer Semester 2010 Master Thesis First tutor: Prof. Gunnar Hartmann Second tutor: Prof. Ralf Niebergall

The Phenomenon of Building Group (Baugruppe) in Berlin: What changes when a community starts building?

Area of research: housing traditions of Berlin, building groups, community living, lifestyle, architectural typologies

Winnie yuen-pik Chan Master of Architecture (M.Arch)

June 2010


I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my thesis tutors, Prof. Gunnar Hartmann and Prof. Ralf Niebergall for their guidance during the preparation of this thesis but more importantly for their insights, advice and constant invaluable support. I would also like to thank Ms. Beeke Bartelt, for her help and advice.

Gratitude goes also to Mr. Andreas Ruby for his time of an friendly interview, Mr. Christoph Roedig, Mr. Thomas Welter and Ms. Stefanie Klinkhart for answering my questions in emails.

To Stefan Holzerland, who provided me a home with love, my beloved parents in

Winnie@Jewish Museum Berlin

heaven and my almighty God.

The Phenomenon of Building group (Baugruppe) in Berlin: What changes when a community starts building?

Community? What changes when a community starts building?

Background + Significance One of the most interesting tendencies in German Architecture with respect to the notion of the collective are ‘buildign groups’, a new type of housing project which has become popular in particular in Berlin during the past decade.

church and the family.

... Opposed to Gemeinschaft is Gesellschaft - arguably best translated as ‘association’ - Andreas Ruby architectural critic in Berlin Starting from an interest in the concept of community, one of the German theorist, Ferdinand Tönnies’s research about sociology had captured my intentions. He

- which consists of everything that community is not. Gesellschaft refers to the largescale, impersonal, calculative and contractual relationships which, according to Tönnies, were on the increase in the industrial world at the expense of Gemeinschaft.” 1

characterized the rise of urban industrialism as involving a loss of community and defined the important twin terms of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft in his book with this title, first published in 1887.

But how does Tönnies’s theory published in 1887 relate to the architectural environment nowadays? Another article from the Detail magazine might have an interpretation for an answer...

“Gemeinschaft is usually translated as ‘community’ and for Tönnies gemeinschaft-like, or ‘community-type’, relationships were characteristic of the pre-industrial world.

Gesellschaft is more difficult to render exactly in English and is variously translated as ‘society’, ‘organization’ or ‘association’. Industrialization was associated with the rise of Gesellschaft and therefore had, according to Tönnies, been responsible for the decline of ‘community’ in the modern world.

Architectural discussions today often focus on topical formal trends or outstanding buildings, with social aspects playing a subordinate role. The social understanding of a community, however, is expressed in its housing rather than in a few remarkable structures. Communal aspects of living have become rare in recent times. Experiments with shared facilities had shown that they were underused and often fell into a state of neglect. As a result, clients and architects lost interest in this aspect of housing. ... Where no satisfactory, affordable property is available, independent citizens are taking matters into their own hands and founding building cooperatives, which now play a forward-looking role in modern housing. - Detail: Review of Architecture: 48. Serie 2008. 9: Concept: Living Tgether (Gemeinsam wohnen)

What did Tönnies mean by these two terms? Gemeinschaft-like relationships were intimate, enduring and based upon a clear understanding of each individual’s position in society. A person’s status was estimated according to who that person was rather than what that person had done.

... Culturally societies characterized by Gemeinschaft were relatively homogeneous since their culture was enforced quite rigidly by well-recognized moral custodians - the


Lee and Newby (1983), p.44

General Aims and Cients of the Thesis The general aims of this research written thesis is to first understand from the past, what caused this phenomenon in Germany? Why it becomes popular particular in Berlin? Then analyse it’s organisation from how a group is formed until the everyday life of the residents after they move in. Finally, interpret whether an inter-dependent community or new architectural typologies are formed in the project building process, as well as the impacts and the outlook of the trend.

These studies are significant to future planning of Urban planners, the city of Berlin, potential home owners as well as architects.

The cooperation from the city and urban planners can be observed from the build-

ing group projects in Vauban district, Freiburg in Germany.

Research Methodology KastanienG채rten

The topic will be analysed based on three categories of aspects: financial and developmental aspects, planning and construction aspects and finally social and urban aspects.

In order to understand the overall conditions of building group projects in Berlin,

Palais Kolle Belle

readings from magazines, newspapers, books and internet resources will be conduced. Then interviews with architectural critic, residents of building group projects and architects of building groups will help to answer specific questions either by interview in person or interview in email.


Finally, three case studies from building group projects in Berlin as well as two case studies from developer projects in the same are are chosen to be analysed in the three kind of aspects mentioned.

Observations from the point of view of the author might contain biases but also form part of the thesis interpretation.

Kollwitz 22 Limitations from collection of data exist is mainly based on the language source of English. Sources from solely German channels might only be accessed according to the understanding from translated version due to language barrier.


Contents Part 1: The Phenomenon of building group in Berlin 11 23

Chapter 1: Housing traditions of Berlin based on history Chapter 2: The emergence of building group and it’s building process

Part 2: Case study analysis 33 43 49

Chapter 3: Financial and developmental aspects Chapter 4: Planning and construction aspects Chapter 5: Social and urban aspects

Part 3: Conclusion - the impact of building groups on urban and architectural typologies 57 71

Chapter 6: What changes when a community starts building? Chapter 7: Conclusion

75 79

Baugruppen - an interview with Andreas Ruby, Text Bild Bibliography

Part 1: The Phenomenon of building group in Berlin

General inroduction to the topic, include statistics, graphs and maps etc. Starting from an interest in the concept of community, move on to the discussion about the building group phenomenon in Berlin.

Chapter 1: Housing traditions of Berlin based on history

Housing traditions and the emergence of building group in Berlin source: German History in Documents and Images [] Wikipedia [] Schneider, Friederike (1997), Floor Plan Atlas Housing, Basel, Boston Berln: Birkhäuser. Beyme, Klaus; Durth, Werner; Gutschow, Niels; Nerdinger, Winfried and Topfstedt, Thomas (1992), Neue Städte aus Ruinen: Deutscher Städtebau der Nachkriegszeit, Munich: Prestel-Verlag. Jaeger, Falk (1985), Bauen in Deutschland, Stuttgart: Verlag Gerd Hatje. Rave, Rolf and KnÜfel, Hans-Joachim (1968), Bauen seit 1900 in Berlin, Berlin: Verlag Kiepert Berlin.

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4 '/*+#*,

Diagram 1: Housing traditions and the emergence of building group in Berlin (refer details to A1 full size print) cfm?image_id=1251

Starting as early as the early 1870s, the building boom has transformed Berlin and many other German cities in the time of “founding era” [Gründerzeit] from 1871 to 1873. In this period of time, the economic growth was strong and city like Berlin was getting crowded by increased internal migration. This also start the nighmare of terrible living conditions for working-class, as individuals and young families moved from countryside to cities looking for work. The area Prenzlauer Berg for example, on which this thesis is going to research, was packed by Rental Barracks [Mietskaserne] in 1880s (as shown in the timline on opposite page). They were built in response to the rapid urbanization and their “design” served one purpose: to pack as many housing units as possible into the smallest possible space.

light, no fresh air, no green space. Even until 1910, the working-class housing has little improvement. This so-called

“In Berlin, the first building code went into effect in 1853 and remained in force until 1887. The purpose of these regulations - along with the paving of streets, the supply of drinking water, and the installation of a sewage system - was to bring some order into the chaotic growth of the city. According to these new regulations, not more than 1.5 to 3 persons were authorized to live in a room from 15 to 30 m2 in size. The concept of

Working Class Quarter lived a family in a narrow room without indoor plumbing, nevertheless, the rent could have afforded them a large portion of their family’s income.

a dwelling unit had not yet been defined as a seperate entity. The kitchen, for example, was often separated from the rooms it served by a corridor which provided access to several dwelling units. An elevator was not required for buildings up to seven stories. The size of courtyard depended on the range of the spray from fire-department hoses.”2

Nowadays, Berlin is one of the traditional renters’s city with around 95% of the population lives in rental apartments.

Working-class tenants had to bare the poor living conditions because the landlords were in pressure of meeting the demands of the lending banks and the politicians were unwilling to intervene on behalf of the work-class. Not enough natural


Schneider (1997), p.16

Compact Rental city



500 m

1 km

Diagram 2: Urban structure of Berlin in 1940

Berlin central 1940

Albert Speer: North-South-Axis Planning (1942)

Childcare in Berlin

were further intensified by the sudden increase in Berlin population after the World

As a result of growing number of families in Berlin, childcare became another social

War I. After all the destructions in World War I, this was a bad time for residences but

issue to be dealt with. Here, a group of lower-middle-class children, who were prob-

a good time for development of new housing concepts.

ably part of an organized day-care group, can be seen in front of a row of houses in the Borsigwalde district of Berlin in around 1910. Borsigwalde was a new commu-

Up to 1940, before the World War II, Berlin was packed with apartment blocks as

nity. It was developed in the late 1890s on the fallow Dalldorf Heaths for employees

shown from the map of Berln central on the opposite page.

of the Borsig machine and locomotive factory. Another way of childcare was usually provided by elderly who were grandparents of the children. Since both parents

Until after the World War II, destroyed apartment buildings, devastated urban land-

needed to work to pay for the high rent and household expenses, children of work-

scapes and homeless people were everywhere on the street of Berlin.

ing-class usually were looked after by elderly at home as shown here.

Kreuzberg in Berlin, 1945

Beyme, Durth, Gutschow (1992), p.61 sub_image.cfm?image_id=1635

The housing shortage developed from the 19th century and the childcare issues



500 m

1 km

Diagram 3: Urban structure of Berlin in 1953

Berlin central 1953

Serious shortage of living space


In 1953, even 8 years after the World War II, urband landscape was still in the process

During the 1968 commune movement, Political Communes gained popularity as

of restoring from the destruction of bombings in Berlin. Both East Berlin and West

living and housing communities. Multiple families started to live and eat together

Berlin had paid efforts for rebuilding to cope with the pressing problem of not

based on the principles of sharing, achieving consensus and eschewing hierarchy.

enough living space for residences that remain.

Communes eventually gave rise to more general housing communities [Wohngemeinschaften] that were motivated more by practical principles, saving money

In East Berlin, the Housing Reconstruction Program taken in 1948 and in West Berlin,

for example, than political beliefs. This kind of multi-generation community living

state-subsidized social housing projects were started in 1952.

could be the ancestor of the concept of building group community.

On the other hand, architects were on the way of building quality apartments in

In 1970’s, properly because of the limitation of availability and the higher price of

Berln. In 1957, Otto Senn, for example, designed a high-rise for the new community

space in Berlin city centre, the non-traditional multi-family communities with multi-

of Hansaviertel, featured in three different apartment types around a central access

generation lived together in the countryside. Whereas the building groups in Berlin

space with natural light. Each apartment enjoys orientation to two directions of the

are in favour of having this “genuine sense of community: a village-like structure at the


heart of the city”. 3 Meal in a Political Commune, 1968 cfm?image_id=1045

Schneider (1997), p.23 cfm?image_id=115 3

Roedig and Schop, (2008), p.980

Non-traditional “family”, 1978 cfm?image_id=2406



500 m

1 km

Diagram 4: Urban structure of Berlin in 1989

Berlin central 1989

Squatters’ movement in late 1970s

Back to the City

“The destruction of affordable housing in the name of aggressive urban renewal and

Suburbs, outskirts, countrysides, were once the paradise for families and elderly

the construction of anonymous concrete buildings in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood

houses, but for many reasons, young families, individuals and even elderly now are

led to the development of a strong squatters’ movement at the end of the 1970s. Under

prefering to move back to the city, living in urban apartments. “The Mitte (Central)

the slogan ‘Better to renovate through squatting than to destroy through ownership,’

district of Berlin, ... is currently made up of nearly 60% single households, and has one of

empty apartments were occupied and turned into centers of oppositional subcultures.

the highest turnover rates in the city.” 5

Some of these occupied houses were later transformed into legally rented accommodations, whereas others were cleared by the police.” 4

In 2003, the governing mayor of Berlin, Klau Wowereit [SPD], quipped in an interview, “Berlin is poor but sexy”. This may well explain despite the city fell into financial

Apparently the squatter’s movement was about political motivation, but subtly, it

misery after it stopped receiving federal funding, it continues to exude magnetic

was also about personal motivation of creating a sphere of youthful freedom. On

appeal, particularly for young, creative types from all ove the world. Even after

the one hand, the movement attracted those who wished to protect the lack of

Senator Thilo Sarrazin successfully reorganized Berlin’s finances, “poor but sexy”

affordable housing and the negative effects of postwar urban renewal. On the other

remained its unofficial motto.

hand, it also appealed to some young people who were primarily interested in

escaping both parental control and the burden of paying rent.

Squatters occupy a berlin apartment building, 1981

4 id=606&language=english (accessed June 2010) 5 Loch and roedig.schop architects (2008), p.14



500 m

1 km

Diagram 5: Urban structure of Berlin in 2001

Berlin central 2001



500 m

1 km

Diagram 6: Urban structure of Berlin in 2010

Berlin central 2010

Chapter 2: The emergence of building group and it’s building process

“The Dream is House: Collective building and living” (one of Berlin’s newspapersJungle World, Nr. 13/10, 1 April 2010)




20 F


G 14 10 177 08



15512229 19 03 30 32213 01

Flughafen Berlin-Tegel


KG LU UU UG 233LU A52 52 3311 004 PK PK KB B 28 K 2 K22





Marzahn - Hellersdorf

26 09

077 11


Charlottenburg Wilmersdorf

Friedrichshin shin hin 022 F 24 21 K Kreuzberg g


Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof

Tempelhof Schรถneberg Neukรถlln



Treptow - Kรถpenick

Steglitz - Zehlendorf 16

information source:

Diagram 7: Building Group projects in Berlin seeking participants in 2009


Building Group (Baugruppe)

Diagram 7 on the opposite page is a mapping of 32 building groups on the stage

What is the definition of ‘Building Group’? There could be many, there could be

of seeking participants for building new apartment building with ownership. The

none, even though Architectural critic Andreas Ruby described it as the most

colour of the box on each project is showing its energy consumption standard, A

interesting tendencies in German Architecture. In one of his essay about Building

being the best grade with passive house standard and G being the worst grade. The

Groups, he mentioned about the properties of this new type of housing project, “BG

data was taken from a website for Berlin building group projects (www.wohnpro-

[Building Group] projects are driven by groups of individuals looking for affordable

jekte-berlin) accessed on 3 December 2009.

housing to buy, which is both centrally located in the city while offering high living qualities for families with children. It’s the dream of the new creative class: to own

There are two major facts shown from this diagram:

an urban flat with the comfort of a suburban house. As the real estate market did

1. All the open building group projects intend to be built in the energy consump-

not cater to this demand, people started to self-organize.” 6

tion standard C or above and half of them with standard B or above.

Since this concept is originated from Germany, here is a short comparison between

2. Majority of the building groups choose to live in the location close to Berlin-Mitte

all the similar terms related to the concept of ‘Building Group’ or could be used to

(Berlin Central) and most of them are located in the area Prenzlauer Berg in the

refer to Building Group project.

north of Berlin-Mitte.

German Baugemeinschaften


Therefore, this is one of reason why Prenzlauer Berg is choosen to be the focus of

English 7



House-Building Cooperatives

the research. The locations of the five case studies (closed) are also mapped on the

Joint Housing Development8

diagram with labels: A52, K22, LUU, KG and PKB. (please refer to page 28 for zooming


Building groups

in the area)

Flats/Apartment building11


Bauherrengemeinschaft10 Wohngebäude11 Wohnhaus12

Residential building/Apartment building8 Collective housing6


Cohousing projects9

*In this thesis, the term ‘Building Group’ is used for simplicity.

7 8 9 10 11 12

Ruby (2008), p.1-2 Liese (2008) “Wohngebäude in Berlin (Flats in Berlin)” (2008) “Wohnhaus Ten in One” (2007)

All Ownership BG Projects within the city (3 Dec, 2009)

All Rental BG Projects within the city (3 Dec, 2009)


58 Newly built 89.23%

14 10 177 08

15 Newly built 38.46%

15512229 19 03 30 32213 01

7 Pre-1990’s building 10.77%

KG UU UG 233LU A52 52 3311 004 PKB P PK KB K B 28 K K22



26 09 077 11


02 21



All BG Projects within the city (3 Dec, 2009)

22 18 16

35 Rental 35.71% 63 Ownership 64.29%

information source:

Diagram 8: Statistics of Building Groups in Berlin

24 Pre-1990’s building 61.54%

[07] Flottwellstrasse 2 Berlin [02] Sebastianstrasse 18, Berlin

Why new built and owned?

[11] Flottwellstrasse 3, Berlin

[04] Pasteurstr 27, Prenzlauer Berg

Diagram 8 on the opposite page is based all the building group projects within the city as accessed on 3 Decemeber, 2009.

From the lowest middle pie chart, it shows that around 64% of the projects are owned by the residents, only minority of them are open for rental.

[03] Berliner Allee 173, Weissensee

[08] Borkumstrasse 12f Berlin

Then out of the ownership projects, almost 90% of them are newly built, with only around 10% of them choose to build on Pre-1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s buildings. Whereas out of the remaining 35.71% rental projects, slightly majority of them, which is around 61%

[26] Niederbarnimstrasse 19, Berlin

[05] Kreuzbergstr 78, Kreuzberg

choose to work on Pre-1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s buildings. [09] Simplonstrasse, Berlin

Therefore, the research is focus on the majority choice, which is newly built projects

[10] Eschengraben 16, Berlin

[30] Zeiterstrasse 5-11, Mitglieder

[06] Thaerstrasse Prenzlauer Berg

[16] Schillerstrasse, Lichterfelde [13] Gounodstrasse 50, Weissensee

[14] Eschengraben 10-14, Berlin [15] Lehderstrasse 69, Berlin [12] Meyerbeerstrasse 36-40, Berlin

[23] Bernauer Strasse 38, Berlin

[29] Parkstrasse 15, Weissensee

[28] Liselotte-Hermann-str. 22-25, Prenzlauer Berg

to be owned.


50 m

100 m

site plan 1:2500 Site location of living projects Kastanieng채rten by property developer

Palais Kolle Belle by Property Developer

A52 by Baugruppe

Kollwitz 22 by Baugruppe

LUU by Baugruppe

Building Lot Management Vacant lot No building currently on site (identical with land register plot or sub-plot)

Under-used lot Additional construction possible (identical with land register plot or sub-plot)

Under-used potential area Area on which additional construction is possible, consisting of several land register plots and sub-plots (building only possible as part of an overall proposal)

Diagram 9: Site plan of five case studies in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin (refer details to A1 full size print 1:2500)

Urban living in Prenzlauer Berg

Empty plot size

One of the reason for Building groups to be a trend is that families are preferring to

Diagram 9 is showing the locations of the five case studies in its Prenzlauer Berg

live in urban. Certain area in Berlin could have more marketing value than others,

neighbourhood in parallel to some of the existing vacant lot and under-used lot

this is another reason for choosing the area of Prenzlauer Berg to be the research

which are indicated by the colour of purple and light purple. Data about vacant

focus. â&#x20AC;&#x153;An example of this [trend towards urban living] can be seen in the Prenzlauer

lots are taken from the Building Lot Management in Berlin. The approximately 1000

Berg district of Berlin, where one finds a striking dominance of young families. This

vacant lots in Berlin is justified by the 7 vacant lots and 2 under-used lot in a smaller

is attributable in part to a wish for shorter routes to shopping facilities and oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

plot scale as well as 2 more under-used lot in a bigger scale.

place of work, but also to a growing awareness of environmental factors and rising energy prices.â&#x20AC;? 13

Although in theory it was believed that building groups would generate competition to property developer projects because of their financial advantages, but in re-

Residents in the building group project A52 participanting in their self-built activity

ality, the plot size which building groups are favourable to buy would be the smaller lots instead of the bigger lots. For example in the five case studies, the number of residence units in the three building group projects is between 10-26 units, whereas property developer projects has 36-77 units. Generally speaking, building groups

would not prefer to have a group size more than 30 units due to the risk of financing problem could increase with the number of participants in the group, as well as the difficulty of having too many different ideas among members in the group. So in practice, if developer prefer to invest and develop bigger plot for more profit at the end and building group would rather take smaller plot for more freedom of design and a close building community, there would be less conflicts in the choice of plot as well as target user.


Liese (2008), p.905





Initiator: Commercial Property Developer



as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.








as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.

Initiator: Commercial Property Developer



Palais Kolle Belle

the balconies that were initially proposed for the present building were reduced by the urban planning office until they were just sills projecting a mere 20cm from the facade.


August 2003


May 2005

€1650/m2 (€966/m2 construction cost )


COMMUNITY OF INHABITANTS at that time (2003), building groups were something new for banks, we (BG) thought there couldn’t be anything better for them (Banks) than a group of building clients, financially checked out, who were asking for a loan, but we applied to 25 institutions in Berlin without getting a single promise. In the end, the money was put up by different banks via a finance service organization (the scheme was jointly financed).

Initiator: Architect as owner FINANCIAL INSTITUTION


CITY OF BERLIN the contract of GbR is closed in December 2005

Uwe Heinhaus’ architecture office signs and plans

June 2005

building permission is given in July 2006

start of construction in November 2006





Andreas Rödiger (project care) organizes the contact with the banks, tax adviser, notary public, insurances, tax offices, etc.

Prospective customers are found and weigh of participation considerated


Essential sign of contact to minimize risks and protect individual interests

construction phase was accomplished in accordance with and countercontrol of the architect and the structural engineer correctly.


Initiator: Architect and owner

the payment is controlled by the GbR representative.

Seperate loans with a single special kind of bank (GLS Bank)

Kollwitz 22



April 2007

July 2009




Central financing through a bank






Preparation and Legal

Financing and Purchase






Design & Construction Development

Construction and Building Supervision

Life Cyle and Property Managment

Diagram 10: Comparison of building process between building groups and developer projects


self-built or not and the distribution of participation. Decisions regarding how

Diagram 10 is showing an overview of all the five cases studies based on their build-

much communal area and shared facilities could be made among the group

ing processes, two cases from developer model on the upper part and three cases

members. After the building permission is granted, then the actual starting date of

from buildng group model on the lower part. This overview diagram will break

construction work can be decided.

down into diagrams in the following chapters in order to focus on certain aspect of the building process. The whole building process of each project is catagorised into

Phase 4: Construction and Building Supervision

five major phases:

Construction is usually supervised by architects, structural engineers with or without supervision from inhabitants

Phase 1: Preparation and Legal Invitation of participants to the project. Depend on whether the project is initiated

Phase 5: Life Cyle and Property Management

by architects or community of inhabitants, formal or informal meetings could help

The stage after the building is completed and inhabitants moved in. Decisions re-

to find suitable clients and clearify the general vision of the group.

garding the maintenance of the property is made by the community and managed by representatives.

Phase 2: Financing and Purchase Each participant in a building group usually need to get individual loan from bank

There are general seven catagories of role/initiator: City of Berlin, Project Developer,

or financial institution. A deposit is usually required for purchase of the plot and a

Architect, Builder, Community of Inhabitants, Banker and Financial Institution. In

legal organisation (GbR in Germany) is formed at this point to protect individual

the group of building group models, the role of architect, role of builder and role of

interests and to minimize the risks. Whereas in developer model, the developer act

inhabitant are usually mixed together with the level of participations from inhabit-

as an investor on purchase of the plot.


Phase 3: Design and Construction Development Once the financing issues are solved for all the parties in the group, the architects and inhabitants work together in the design process to ensure the users will have a say in both their private living space as well as the public shared facilities. In this stage the community of inhabitants might be able to decide whether to include

Part 2:

Case study analysis

What does your money makes on an organic farm? Sense. (slogan from the first social and ecological bank in Germany: The GLS Bank)

In comparison to two commercial developer projects (Kastaniengaerten and Palais Kolle Belle) from the neighborhoods, investigate about the nature of the communities being built up and sheltered by three building group projects (A52, Kollwitz22 and LUU) in three catagories of aspects.

Chapter 3: Financial and developmental aspects

Financial and developmental aspect

apartment, then it is more possible to fit the downpayment within the budget of those families who would like to own a flat in the urban center of a city as Berlin.

Simply cheaper The success of building groups in Berlin would not be possible without it’s financial

Green factor

advantage. Compare to apartment built by a regular housing developer, a building

Another financial aspect about how building groups might succeed in saving an-

group could be 25-30% cheaper. Part of the reason is that there is no need for creat-

nual maintenace cost, it have to relate to the fact that most of the participants of

ing a profit margin determined by the marketing costs. Another main reason is re-

building groups are interested in the idea “building it green”.

lated to the building conditions specific to the location of Berlin. Up to 2008, there are about 1000 empty plots within Berlin, this condition is unique when comparing

In response to the global awareness of climate change, the idea of building a

to other cities like Paris, London and Barcelona.

sustainable future has gradually fused into every part of our life. From little thing as changing daily habit such as recycling, to big thing as planning a sustainable city,

“This is due to a constant decrease of population, most notably caused by world war II

every decision seems to involve much more understanding of the overall system

- in 1933 Berlin had a population of 4.3 Mio inhabitants, which by 1946 had dropped to

than we actually do understand. The idea of what we called “sustainable” nowadays

3.1 Mio. In the core city of Berlin with a surface of about 70 square kilometers, the popu-

has been around since 1960s and has been transformed in the minds of different

lation density dropped most dramatically from 30,000 inhabitants per square kilometer

group of people. From scientists, environmentalists, architects, to the general public,

in 1919 to 10,000 inhabitants per square kilometer in 1999. This core city includes the

they use variant terms apparently referring to similar ideas – ecological, green, envi-

most attractive areas of Berlin today, hence the high availability of plots of land for BG

ronmental, smart, sustainable and even Cradle-to-Cradle.

projects.” 14 By definition, sustainable architecture is a general term within the larger discussion But these financial advantage would not show the whole picture if not compare to

of sustainability. It generally means design techniques that are environmentally

the financial disadvantage of trying to own a flat in Germany. In contract to the UK,

conscious in the field of architecture, but detail interpretation and implementation

where downpayments for a home mortgage loan from banks could be as low as

are widely variant.

5%, German banks would require a downpayment of 20-30%. This huge amount of money for downpayment is usually what make owning a flat in the city an unaffordable investment. Only with the 25-30% saving in the price of a building group


Ruby (2008), p.3

“In the broad context, sustainable architecture seeks to minimize the negative environ-

According to the interview with Andreas Ruby in January 2010, there could be three

mental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of ma-

main reasons. The first reason could be simply the initiative and the interest in pas-


terials, energy, and development space.” Since it focuses on “minimize the negative

sive house building which bring those people together for a project because they

impact”, sustainable architecture might be criticized as passive and negative way

thinks it’s a useful thing to do nowadays. So it becomes a kind of political commit-

of thinking in response to climate change and the comfort of the people in those

ment for the living environment.

building is being minimized for the sake of minimal energy consumption. The second reason could be a financial programmatic argument due to the fact “Numerous schools of architecture shun ‘sustainable architecture’ as a part of their 16

that the maintenance cost for passive houses tend to be cheaper in a long run.

curriculum, and it is considered to be a fashionable subject at the moment.” It is from

Since they are able to collect more energy from sustainable resources and reduce

this background understanding, I would like to take a deeper look about what

the consumption on oil or gas.

is actually mean by sustainable architecture from the stories of building group projects. Think of a building as a product, then flexibility, moveability, durability

Finally, the third reason could be because of the subsidization from the German

and recyclability might define how sustainable it actually is. Both the spaces being

government finacially available for passive houses through certain kind of banks

created as a hardware and the communities being generated as a software need

called KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau). The subsidization programs from these

to be sustainable. A designed space which is adaptable to changes as times go by,

kind of banks provide special low interest rate for the loan on passive house or

in response to environmental changes, social changes and technological changes

house which fullfil a certain % of low energy usage standard.

in the beginning of 21 century, is no longer only seeks to minimize the negative KfW Bankengruppe gives impetus to economic, social and ecological development worldwide. As a promotional bank under the ownership of the Federal Republic and the Länder (federal states), it offers support to encourage sustainable improvement in economic, social, ecological living and business conditions, among others in the areas of small and medium-sized enterprise, entrepreneurialship, environmental protection, housing, infrastructure, education finance, project and export finance, and development cooperation.

environmental impact, but more importantly to maximize the positive influence to the environment as well as the people who try to find their inhabitation there. That is one of the key concept “why being ‘Less Bad’ is no good” elaborated by McDonough & Braungart in their book Cradle-to-Cradle published in 2002, redefining some concepts about what sustainable architecture should be and should not be.

So, what could be the reasons for the fact that over 73% building group projects in Berlin are classified as Passive-house (A grade) or KfW-40 (B grade) standard?

15,16 (accessed Feb 2009)

“Communal forms of living like building cooperatives and group projects provide a

group’s needs could be resolved by a closer community with basic knowledge of

sound basis for integrating environmental concepts. Those aimed at energy saving in-

the neighbours as in the model of building group flats.


single married widowed divorced surplus of women surplus of men



Lack of births in World War I































volve the entire community. The installation of a cogeneration heating unit or measures Age in years iiiiiii 100


Soldiers killed 95 in World War II

collaboration of entire street blocks or neighbourhoods.” 17

Retirement plan Traditionally, suburbs used to be the dream home for families and senior citizens, whereas “city life” is more welcomed by young people and young couples. But this trend has slightly shifted recently. The reasons for this change have to relate to the lower marriage rate and the growing population of senior citizens. The dwelling demands from these groups of people have changed, they no longer want to live in suburbs far away from the city center, the trend of move back into the cities is therefore starting to encourage housing developments in the cities rather than suburbs.

From 1970 to 1985, the number of people over age 65 has increased from 13.3% of




5 0





the population to 15% due to increased life expectancy and the declined birthrate.

Lack of births around the end of World War II




Lack of births during the economic crisis around 1932









to purify waste water go beyong the scope of a housing group, however, and require the

Updated age pyramid on 31 December 2008 by marital status

In 2008, this figure has risen to 19.3% and expected to be over 30% by 2050. In July, 1974, a law was passed on old people’s homes, sheltered housing complexes, and nursing homes to guarantee better oversight over care facilities for the elderly.

Case studies The table on the next page is a general introduction to the five case studies re-

Todays among these growing population of elderly, less and less would live with

searched in this thesis.

their children. Therefore ideally, living in a community of mixed ages in a city could provide support for the older citizens. And the conflicts between different age


Jonuschat (2008), p.901






Palais Kolle Belle


Architect as owner

Architect and owner





Anklamer Strasse 52, Berlin Mitte

Kollwitzstrasse 22-24, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg

Schoenholzer Strasse 14, Berlin Mitte

Schwedter Strasse 41-43, Berlin Mitte - Prenzlauer Berg

Kollwitzplatz, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg

Postal Code







roedig.schop architekten, Berlin

heinhaus architekten, Berlin

Deimel Oelschlaeger Architekten, Berlin

Becher + Rottkamp, Berlin

Marc Kocher Architekt, Zurich


Baugrupppe A52 GbR



ECON-CEPT, Berlin/Hamburg

KfW 60 (B)

Passive House (A)

KfW 60 (B)













Living Space

865.5 sqm

3750 sqm

approx. 1890 sqm

5400 sqm

Total Cost

1.36 million EUR

9.2 million EUR

4.5 million EUR

8.5 million EUR

15.8 million EUR

Cost for net dwelling area (Wohnfl채che) EUR/sqm

1650 EUR/sqm, including 16% tax

1550-2500 EUR/sqm, depends on the floor and rear house or front house

approx. 2100 EUR/sqm

3055.62 EUR/sqm (based on 129.27 sqm town house)

2686.44 EUR/sqm (based on 118 sqm front apartment)

Ceiling Height


No. of storey


3m 8 and 5


7 and 4


Building Typology

6-storey apartment house with ten residential units

8-storey front building and a 5-storey garden villa twin

6-storey front building with 20 residential units of varying sizes

front building, row houses and studio apartments with 36 residential units

four houses stretch across the corner with a inner courtyard

No. of home unites (commerical units)


26 (2)




other description

"upwards of stacked homes", each floor plan is individually designed

apartments tailor-made according to individual needs of inhabitants

"LUU-Living in Urban Units"

flexible floor plans, 2-7 rooms of 60 to 225 sqm

"Living for the connoisseur" is the motto. French design

contact person for information

Christoph Roedig (architect and owner)

Thomas Welter (owner)

Stefanie Klinkhart (owner)

Financial Aspect Q+A (1) What is the total construction cost, including purchase of real estate (tender versus actual cost)? (1) Wie hoch waren die Gesamtbaukosten ihres Projektes , einschlieĂ&#x;lich der Grundstueckskosten? A52 total cost approx. 1.36 million EUR, including 16% tax* Kollwitz22 9.2 million EUR (no difference) LUU 4.5 million EUR (approx. 12% increase) Kastaniengaerten 8.5 million EUR (no information to compare) Palais Kolle Belle 15.8 million EUR (no information to compare) (2) What is the cost for net dwelling area (Wohnfläche) EUR/m2 ? (2) Wie hoch waren die Kosten pro m2 Wohnflaeche? A52 1650 EUR/ sqm, including 16% tax Kollwitz22 1550-2500 EUR/sqm, depends on floor and whether rear house or front house LUU approx. 2100 EUR/sqm* Kastaniengaerten 3055.62 EUR/sqm (based on 129.27 sqm town house) Palais Kolle Belle 2686.44 EUR/sqm (based on 118 sqm front apartment)

* the tender and actual cost remained the same. Higher costs resulted out of extra wishes from clients. Additional costs of 30,000 EUR for construction steel (regarding the building boom in China) were compensated through (a) reduction in costs by garden facade, exposed concrete and no primed or painted ceilings and walls, (b) in-house efforts, like painting, garden work, wood deck on terrace

* depended on individual costs, like tiles, doors, floors, special editions or wishes, various standards exist throughout the project

(3) How did the Baugruppe organize the financing? (3) Wie wurde die Finanzierung durch die Baugruppe organisiert? A52 owner's equity (personal savings), parents, 4 different banks Kollwitz22 seperate loans with a single bank (GLS Bank) LUU central through a bank (3.1) Did the Baugruppe GbR applied for a single loan? What was the down payment? (3.1) Hat die Baugruppe einen gemeinsamen Gesamtkredit aufgenommen? Wie hoch war das Eigenkapital? A52 individual loans, down payment between 0-25% Kollwitz22 seperate loand, down payment 30% LUU owner's equity between 0-100% (average 30%), amount of credit individually processed via a bank (3.2) Did each owner paid his/her share upfront? What was the down payment? (3.2) Haben die Eigentuemer ihren Anteil im voraus gezahlt? Wie hoch war deren Eigenkapitalrate? A52 a progress payment plan was installed for each indivdual owner. The purchase of land occurred from the company capital Kollwitz22 a progress payment LUU general rule: construction is financed through owner's equity, each owner is required to deposit at various building phases (4) Who is listed in the cadastral register (Grundbuch)? (4) Wer steht im Grundbuch? A52 every owner (10 in total) Kollwitz22 each owner seperately LUU those owners and associates with blanket mortgage (5) What are the shared annual costs for Construction maintenance and management? (5) Wie hoch sind die gemeinsamen Jaehrlichen Kosten fuer Bauunterhalt und Verwaltung? A52 17600 EUR for 10 owners (approx. 146.67 EUR / month for each owner on average) Kollwitz22 2 EUR/sqm including heating (for a flat of 129.5sqm, approx. 21.58/month) LUU approx. 2.5 EUR/sqm including maintenance flat rate (for a flat of 129.5sqm, approx. 26.98 EUR/month) save because of Passive House Standard?

During the research, interviews with the contact persons of all three building group

In the case of LUU project, it is possible for some units to rent the apartment from

projects were done through emails. In the case of project A52, the representative of

other owners because it was harder to get a suitable loan from bank for older

the project is both the architect and owner of one of the unit. In the cases of project

applicants. One of the aim of this project is “young and old together”, which mean

Kollwitz22 and LUU, the representatives are apartment owners in the building.

incorporate elderly into their “living in urban units” project, not only young families or mid-class individuals. Therefore this special arrangement for renting instead of

A52 project was the oldest project among all the five cases. Planning started in

financing an apartment enable them to implement this concept and also bring

September of 2003. As one of the pioneer in implementing building group project

diversity to the community. In addition, the group hopes that there is a mix of resi-

in Berlin, they have received the most publications in magazines and architectural

dents including older people or single parents and families living in varied house-

exhibitions because it was a new idea in architecture. But financially, it might not

hold, to be reliable human in good and bad days. Nevertheless, the residences are

be a good news for banks to hear a new idea. They have possibly encountered the

completely closed units and each member can choose the right balance of close-

most difficulties compare to other cases in the process of getting loans from banks.

ness in the community. The GLS Bank was the first social and ecological bank in Germany. GLS stands for “Gemeinschaftsbank für Leihen und Schenken”, which translates as “community bank for loans and gifts”. The bank was founded in 1974 and it currently finances around 6.500 projects and businesses.

“At that time, building groups were something new for the banks. We [A52] thought there couldn’t be anything better for them than a group of building clients, financially checked out, who were asking for a loan; but we applied to 25 institutions in Berlin without getting a single promise. In the end, the money was put up by different banks via a

The Bank focuses on cultural, social and ecological projects which try to tackle challenges in our society by developing creative solutions. Loans are offered to projects like independent schools and kindergartens, organic farms, institutions using therapeutic pedagogy, nursing homes, projects for the unemployed, health-food stores and communal living projects, as well as sustainable businesses. Transparency is one of the key aims of the GLS: details of all initiatives that receive loans are published in its magazine “Bankspiegel”, together with information on the development of the bank itself.

finance service organization. Today [2008], there are banks that offer solutions specially tailored to the needs of groups.” 18

In the case of Kollwitz22 project, a special bank is able to provide all the loans to the project seperately. The GLS Bank was the first social and ecological bank in Germany which provide loans to cultural, social and ecological projects. For building group project, the loan could be under the catagory of communal living projects.

As of 31 December 2008 the balance sheet total was 1013 million EUR.

The publish of its magazine “Bankspiegel” gives details about all the initiatives that

receive loans from them. 18

Roedig and Schop (2008), p.973



Initiator: Commercial Property Developer


€2686 - 3590/m2_ Initiator: Commercial Property Developer


Palais Kolle Belle


Which is more economical?

€1650/m2_ COMMUNITY OF INHABITANTS at that time (2003), building groups were something new for banks, we (BG) thought there couldn’t be anything better for them (Banks) than a group of building clients, financially checked out, who were asking for a loan, but we applied to 25 institutions in Berlin without getting a single promise. In the end, the money was put up by different banks via a finance service organization (the scheme was jointly financed).

Initiator: Architect as owner FINANCIAL INSTITUTION


€1550 - 2500/m2_ Andreas Rödiger (project care) organizes the contact with the banks, tax adviser, notary public, insurances, tax offices, etc.

Prospective customers are found and weigh of participation considerated


Essential sign of contact to minimize risks and protect individual interests

construction phase was accomplished in accordance with and countercontrol of the architect and the structural engineer correctly.


Initiator: Architect and owner

the payment is controlled by the GbR representative.

Seperate loans with a single special kind of bank (GLS Bank)

Kollwitz 22

€2100/m2_ COMMUNITY OF INHABITANTS BANKER Initiator: Inhabitants

Central financing through a bank






Preparation and Legal

Financing and Purchase






Design & Construction Development

Construction and Building Supervision

Life Cyle and Property Managment

Diagram 11: Comparison of financial aspect in building process between building groups and developer projects

Which is more economical?

retically the group have to take the risk if any member in the group could not pay

At first glance, A52 is the cheapest in terms of the cost for net dwelling area 2


or quit the group because of death, for example, but in practice, it is not hard for a

(Wohnfläche) EUR/m , as low as €1650/m , approximately half the price from one of

city like Berlin to find another member to take the apartment and fill in the portion

the two property developer projects, Kastaniengärten for €3055.62/m2 and Palais

of contribution. But for the cases of property developer project, the construction is


Kolle Belle for €2686-3590/m .

usually starts once over 30% of all the apartments are sold, for the rest of the apartments, clients can make the decision to buy later in the building process.

But when comparing the construction maintenance and management costs, A52 owners need to share €17600 annually among 10 units, which mean approximately

Nevertheless, it is still generally much more cheaper to buy an apartment from

€146.67/month for each owner on average. Whereas Kollwitz22 and LUU only need

building group compare to an apartment from property developer project. Among

to pay approximately €21.58/month and €26.98/month for a a flat of 129.5 sqm. The

the five case studies, it is approximately 30%-40% cheaper depend on how much

lower maintenance cost may be connected to the fact that LUU is built to Passive-

self-help construction works is done by the building group themselves. For the case

House (A) standard and Kollwitz22 is built to kfW 60 (B) standard, as well as the fact

of A52, there were more self-help measures, like laying out the garden, laying the

that the number of apartment units. More the units, lower the maintenance cost.

wooden deck on the roof terrace, and fixing the fibre-cement facade to the roof storey, therefore they were able to bring down the price to €1650/m2..

Finally, in terms of cost controlling between the tender cost and actual cost, LUU has approximately 12 % increase whereas A52 and Kollwitz22 were able to keep the

A recent article issued on 1 April, 2010 from Jungle World, one of the newspaper in

actual cost to remain the same as the tender cost. In A52, higher costs were only

Berlin, stated “... a new development costs as a building group in Berlin now is between

resulted out of extra wishes from individual clients. The additional costs of €30,000

€1850 if you brings high internal production, and €2400 per square meter on average,

for construction steel (regarding the building boom in China) were compensated

if you add a lot of construction management. ...Until a few years ago the cottage in the

through (a) reduction in costs by garden facade, exposed concrete and no primed

countryside still master the dreams. But now the new, often green dialed bourgeoisie

or painted ceilings and walls, (b) in-house efforts, like painting, garden work, wood

has recognized that ‘the cities are centers of economic and social development. Most

deck on terrace.

of the opportunities of a society in international competition will be in the citites’ “ 19 [translated from german in original]

In terms of building process, one of the conditions to be accepted in a building group is that individual have to get a loan from bank. Once the GbR is formed, theo-


Villinger (2010)

Chapter 4: Planning and construction aspects





Initiator: Commercial Property Developer as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.

work with developer KastanienGärten

precedence based

no experimental concepts!

anonymous users




as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.

Initiator: Commercial Property Developer and Architect Palais Kolle Belle




What is the role of the architect? When and how does the architect gets involved?

the balconies that were initially proposed for the present building were reduced by the urban planning office until they were just sills projecting a mere 20cm from the facade.


August 2003


May 2005


COMMUNITY OF INHABITANTS at that time (2003), building groups were something new for banks, we (BG) thought there couldn’t be anything better for them (Banks) than a group of building clients, financially checked out, who were asking for a loan, but we applied to 25 institutions in Berlin without getting a single promise. In the end, the money was put up by different banks via a finance service organization (the scheme was jointly financed).

Initiator: Architect as owner A52

the contract of GbR is closed in December 2005

Uwe Heinhaus’ architecture office signs and plans

June 2005

building permission is given in July 2006

start of construction in November 2006




Andreas Rödiger (project care) organizes the contact with the banks, tax adviser, notary public, insurances, tax offices, etc.

Prospective customers are found and weigh of participation considerated


Essential sign of contact to minimize risks and protect individual interests

construction phase was accomplished in accordance with and countercontrol of the architect and the structural engineer correctly.

Initiator: Architect and owner

the payment is controlled by the GbR representative.

Kollwitz 22


participatory design


any new ideas? ARCHITECT

April 2007

July 2009







Preparation and Legal

Financing and Purchase






Design & Construction Development

Construction and Building Supervision

Life Cyle and Property Managment

Diagram 12: Comparison of the role of the architect in building process between building groups and developer projects

Building group projects not only changed the relationship among the neighbours

Planning and construction aspects

What is the role of the architect? For the building group project E3, located at Esmarchstrasse 3, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, timber construction was a chanllenge but their architect had realised it by

living in the same building, in the planning and construction process, it also brings

contributing their important role: to negotiate with the authorities about its practi-

direct relationship between the architect and the individual clients compared to

cability and elaborate the fire protection concept.

the traditional investor model where the architect have to make a design for anonymous future buyers. Ruby pointed out the new possibilities in typologies of living space, “This direct contact and exchange between architects and clients is what makes BG projects a laboratory for a contemporary architecture of housing which can explore new typologies of living beyond the standards established both in social housing and commercial housing.” 20

“Are we really to believe that this seven-story apartment building is constructed of timber? There is no indication of it on the exterior... Timber construction was the express wish of the clients, a private initiative. But the architects feit that

the wood did not necessarily have to be visible...” 21

How the organisation of building group projects might make influence to the planning and construction phrases? What are the crucial factors for successful projects? What could be the difficulties?

“Would you build again with a group? Yes, We had a super experience. You have to invest a lot of time, but through the intense design and construction process, you have a much 20

more intimate relationship with your own flat. I can imagine living here a long time.”4, Bo Meyer, a resident of project A52.

21 22

Ruby (2008) Detail, no.11, 2008, p.1298 Roedig and Schop (2008), p.980

Case study

Case study

In the project Palais Kolle Belle, property developer and the architect were both ini-

For the architects of project A52, in the process of participatory design, they have

tiators for the project. The architect provided the concept of building design as well

gained the trust from the building group community by the fact that they are even-

as the “french lifestyle” for marketing their target clients. The architect hand-drawn

tually moving into the building. Their role are beyond architects in the project, they

sketches of the building’s outlook were presented in the project brochure. Along

are also the owners as well as builders because of the self-help building for saving

with slogan like “On the outside, Très parisien, On the inside, your Berlin home.”

cost. Further more, at the end of the whole project, they have documented every-

Here the architect provided the concept as well as the conceptural drawings

thing in a brochure recording the state of play and things which wait to be resolved.

needed for imaginations based on their imaginated clients.

Architect’s impressions and sketches

Realisation photo of Palais Kolle Belle

Architect’s impressions and sketches in Palais Kolle Belle

Case study

Case Study

What are the crucial factors for successful projects? What could be the difficulties?

In terms of the possibilities for Architects to try out new ideas in the housing proj-

According to the project manager of Kollwitz22, Andreas Rödiger, there could be

ect, developers could be the constraint, “the accommodation in most blocks of flats is

payment trouble from GbR member which could be solved by experience as long

standardized in size and type and is less and less able to meet individual needs; further-

as the building group is able to regulate this kind of problems in time2 3

more, developers are rarely willing to experiment. The members of a building cooperative, on the other hand, often have quite concrete housing concepts that are met neither

In practice, when a member has problem to continue the project, there are always

by off-the-peg flats nor by a detached house. ... What’s more, building cooperatives are

prospective clients who would be able to replace the missing member so the proj-

usually more receptive to new ideas than developers are, and architects can put forward

ect can carry on.

experimental concepts.” 24

For recording the building process, a blog is set up althouhg it is only visable to

It is interesting that the renderings from the architect’s website looks very different

invited members.

from the final brochure of the project. Who will control the architectural design of the final product?

Case Study Rendering from the project’s brochure Rendering from the architect’s website

In LUU, the whole process of building was documented in a blog open to the public.



Since the project is initiated by their community of inhabitants, the architect involved in the project much later than other two building group projects. The community is formed from the beginning and they may have their ideas to be fullfilled, so the role of the architect is then more about communication with the group and make their dreams come true architecturally.

23 24 Liese (2008), p.905

Chapter 5: Social and urban aspects

Over the last couple of years ‘lifestyle’ has become a word almost solely related to magazines and marketing. It relates to collages of photographs, colours and materials in which we usually see people in an inevitable state of bliss. However, in a sociological context, lifestyle means much more than this. It relates to the way people organise their lives, how they relate to friends, work and -particularly-institutions. Lifestyle is therefore also about spatial relations and, finally, about values, culture and aesthetics. - Bart Loostsma in article, “Architecture for the Creative Class” Cherry Tree In the Cradle-to-Cradle model, McDonough and Braungart used a cherry tree to illustrate the difference between a simple eco-efficient building and a complex ecoeffective building. It is important for the eco-effective building to celebrate a range of cultural and natural pleasures – sun, light, air, and nature in its design instead of saving energy by closing windows in a dark room with no natural daylight coming in. Enhancing the lives of the people who live and work in the built environment has always been the goal for building design. There should not be exception for eco-efficient building. Energy is a main concern but not more than the concerns for a life-centered community and environment.

Social and urban aspects

The House is a dream This is a dream about a new kind of architecture. The energy not only measured by kWh, but also by the energy brought into the lives of users, community and environment. This kind of positive energy is immeasurable.

From the first sight, building group projects in Berlin may not be significantly different from the kind of multi-family housing buildings in the days of the International Building Exhibition (IBA) of the 1980s - built on empty plots in the perimeter block structure typical for Berlin, and around 5-6 storeys high. But unlike the IBA under the direction of Josef Paul Kleihues, which was dedicated to the critical reconstruction of the European City, “the BG (building groups) movement has a more pragmatic and at the same time existential goal: to provide housing opportunities that are specifically tailored to the life-style preferences of middle-class families and yet affordable to buy” 25 Sociologically, what make the people (creative class or not) to live together in a building group project? Is that the low cost of living in Berlin which attract representatives of the creative class? What are their demands in living for the evergrowing community of artists, designers, architects, writers, actors in Berlin? “Most of these people are interested in experimental life-styles, they are looking for living oppor-

The analogy of being a cherry tree is a starting point for the goal of an eco build-

tunities that are not offered in the conventional housing market.” 26

ing, but eventually it has to connect with a broader system for contributing as well as consuming resources. This is the vision: the tree is planted next to a living river, it spreads its roots widely into the water so there is no fear in the time of drought. One cannot see the heat come under the shades from its leaves. The leaves are evergreen and never stop producing flowers, fruits and seeds.

25 26

Ruby (2008), p.1 ibid, p.3

Case Study

phenomenon should encourage the city ‘s support. “Berlin’s municipal development authorities are now supporting private initiatives too, as they have found in recent years

What is the role of the community of inhabitants?

that building cooperatives encourage a resident structure of responsible home owners

When being asked how the building group actually started, architects of the build-

who have a great interest in their housing environment and commit themselves to it

ing group A52 answered, “We wanted to live in the centre of Berlin, to design our own

actively.” 29

dwelling space and create owner-occupied housing; and we invited interested parties to our office.” 27 It is a common starting point that almost all the building groups

The publish of the a practical guilde book with essential information “auf.einander.

are initiated by either the architect or a community of people who would like to be

bauen” (building on one another) in 2007 by the German architects’ centre of Berlin

owners of their home. For A52, the architects themselves are also part of the owners,

is just another example of this growing need.

the fact that they would eventually move in with the rest of the group members, helped them to build trust in the whole process of planning and designing their

Henri Lefebvre has questioned about living space in “Notes on the New Town”

home. What makes this project remarkably outstanding was that they really put the

written in 1960, “Yet every time I see these ‘machines for living in’ I feel terrified. ... These

community concern into their agenda, “Another aim was to involve individual clients

blocks of flats are also ‘technological objects’ and machines. Will they be able to pro-

in the project development and planning process and make them good neighbours

vide a new humanism? Are they already providing it? Can they mediate between man

through building together. This makes this project a model for the new trend of creating

and nature, between one man and another? Are they bringing individuals, families

inner city building cooperative projects in Germany.” 28

and groups together, or are they forcing them apart?...” 30

A machine for producing responsible home owners to the city

Then he carried on to talk about the sense of community, “Can spontaneity be

What is better than getting to know your neighbours in the process of planning

revitalized here, can a community be created? Is the functional being integrated into

and designing your home? Although this is merely an option for those who would

an organic reality - a life - in a way which will give that reality a structure it will be able

prefer not to keep “anonymous” in a city of over 90% rental residences and those

to modify and adapt?” 31

who are ready to take the responsibilities to influence the neighbourhood where they live. If people who live in building group projects are socially more attached to each other, then it is not hard to understand they would eventually produce more responsible residents and make influence to the neighbourhood. Then this

27 28 29 30 31

Roedig and Schop (2008), p.973 Loch and roedig.schop architects (2008), p.14 ibid, p.15 Lefebvre (1960), p.118 ibid, p.119





Initiator: Commercial Property Developer as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.





limited customisations



as a norm, developer project need to have around 30% apartments sold before the construction start.

Initiator: Commercial Property Developer


Palais Kolle Belle


What is the role of the community of inhabitants?

August 2003


May 2005

COMMUNITY OF INHABITANTS at that time (2003), building groups were something new for banks, we (BG) thought there couldn’t be anything better for them (Banks) than a group of building clients, financially checked out, who were asking for a loan, but we applied to 25 institutions in Berlin without getting a single promise. In the end, the money was put up by different banks via a finance service organization (the scheme was jointly financed).

Initiator: Architect as owner A52

the contract of GbR is closed in December 2005

Uwe Heinhaus’ architecture office signs and plans

June 2005

building permission is given in July 2006

start of construction in November 2006


2007 Andreas Rödiger (project care) organizes the contact with the banks, tax adviser, notary public, insurances, tax offices, etc.

Prospective customers are found and weigh of participation considerated


Essential sign of contact to minimize risks and protect individual interests

construction phase was accomplished in accordance with and countercontrol of the architect and the structural engineer correctly.

Initiator: Architect and owner

the payment is controlled by the GbR representative.

Kollwitz 22

participatory design



tailor-made space


April 2007

July 2009






Preparation and Legal

Financing and Purchase






Design & Construction Development

Construction and Building Supervision

Life Cyle and Property Managment

Diagram 13: Comparison of the role of the community of inhabitants in building process between building groups and developer projects

Case Study

to older people among the group of inhabitants. The project addressed both ownership and cooperative housing to be built, since, for example inhabitants in their

Multi-gernerations living

sixties have a different life plan compare to those in their mid-forties. This hybrid

For the project LUU, the planning and the maintenance of common spaces is signifi-

model is developed and tested, takes into account the different interests and still

cant part of the their “Multi-generations living” concept: the community garden, the

guarantee a social framework that offers each member of the household a desired

shared apartment on the ground floor, the shared roof terrace. All common areas


the first photo on the project blog dated 1 July, 2007 01_archive.html

are planned to be freely accessible. The community of inhabitants consists of young and elderly people including single parents and families. They lives with children in an urban housing project in passive house standard with an innovative energy-saving technology.

Building group model “The residential project is designed to be participatory, i.e. all future residents have a say from the start together in 14-day group meetings to make the project framework. Basically, the building group model allows all members to learn about their neighbors from the beginning. In such an environment, neighborly support models are easy to imple-

the last photo on the project blog dated 9 Feb, 2010

32 02_01_archive.html

ment.” [translated from german original text]

The community in LUU is formed from the beginning and they initiated the project. They recorded the building process in their blog and this documentation also served as a communication platform for the community.

Ownership In this case, the building group made a exceptional test model for incorporating owned apartments with apartment owned by the building group and then rented


Case Study

Change the Neighbourhood?

In project Kollwitz22, since an architect and a project manager are the initiators, a

In the research process, in response to the suggestion by Andreas Ruby, there was a

representative from the GbR members was appointed to control them and counter-

chance to visit a street full of building group projects. It was Eschengraben in Berlin

sign all the bills. The GbR representative also controlled the payment to the building

Pankow, not far from the area where all the case studies are located.

contractor when all construction were accomplished. To have an idea about what could be the impact of building group projects to the According Mr. Thomas Welter, one of the apartment owner living in Kollwitz22 with

neighbourhood, in the scale of the same street, there was an article from Jungle

his family, there are three main differences for building group project compare to a

World on 1 April, 2010, about a very subjective history of East Berlin squatters, an

normal developer project:

building group and a garden fence, “‘Squat the World’ is sprayed on the shutters that

1. You live with neighbours you know and like

adorn pink and black blotches, which apparently caused by paint bombs, modern

2. The apartment and building is designed in the way you want and need it, includ-

facade. I have to laugh about this call squatters. Here was finally once occupied almost

ing long-term investments into energy efficiency

everything here in the Kreutzigerstraße in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. And I was

3. The cost is at least 20% lower in comparison to an ordinary development

one of those squatters who have moved exactly 20 years ago in the eight vacant houses. ... We had at that time many, many window repair, pretty much everyone. And damp-

There is no “magic” about build-

ers, electrical, plumbing. Installing this complex case, doors and window bars, which

ing groups, but when people work

we should protect against the customary Nari attacks. We were in the most literal

together as a good team, they simply

sense, a kind of building group. Where now stands out this new precious red-brown-

able to make all inhabitatnts get what

painted facade between the other buildings, was once a vacant lot. What I say, emty lot?

they want, no matter that is financial

This was the passage, the green entrance to our super garden, which stretched over the

advantage, building freedom or the

length of six land behind the houses, behind the cemetary, followed by the later famous

chance of living in a supportive com-

Mainzer Strasse. That was the view from my room. ... Then the building group ‘K20’,


which started in 2007 built a house on the site Kreutzigerstraße 20, right between the

houses formerly occupied, had boasted its allies, announced that the area was

It was interesting that the squatter had the same wants as the building group, only

quite special. But other criteria were brought into play. ‘Housing ready-made? We do

he occupied the vacant lot illegally. But similarly, on the way of “customising” his

not want’ founded in 2006, the building group had declared. ‘Instead of important

own living space, he is proud of it by its location and was boasted by the location

decisions about their own living room to supply by others, we want as a future

choice of the bulding group K20. As on the street of Eschengraben, the building

home and home users prefer to define themselves, what to be built and how’.

groups are definately making a change to the neighborhood in terms of their iden-

They wanted to determine in particular the ‘living room itself, living in a house-

tity as people who are looking for quality in living space in the way it is being built.

hold, communal areas, create together and use’. And all completely ‘organic’ and ‘child-friendly’. So essentially, everything that we wanted to - but more expensive and

photo: Winnie Chan

photo: Winnie Chan

legally.” 33 [translated from german original text]


Bozic (2010)

Part 3: Conclusion - the impact of building groups on urban and architectural typologies

Chapter 6: What changes when a community starts building?

p Ru pin er a ss Str e

Sch wed ter




a ss Str



er olz




LUU by Baugruppe


Kastanieng채rten by property developer

Kinder klub (children club)




St re


er litz St

Palais Kolle Belle by Property Developer




rS tra




Ko l




ra s


se lift


A52 by Baugruppe



50 m


ass Str er


Kollwitz 22 by Baugruppe

100 m

Diagram 14: Site plan of five case studies in urban context (refer details to A1 full size print for 1:500)

site plan 1:500

In the scale of urban or how an empty plot is being used, building group might not bring very special difference apart from the fact that some building group projects choose to develop new projects on the same street or even next to other completed building group projects. In this case, implementation of certain system which is out the scope of a housing group could be realised as long as there is some kind of collaboration of the whole street blocks or neighbourhoods. These kind of systems include installation of cogeneration heating unit or measures to purify waste water.

Another example to generate an influence to the area is by including communal facilities which are available to the general public, such as swimming pool, cafe, kindergarden and seminar room. These also prevent the group getting in the so-called â&#x20AC;&#x153;gated communityâ&#x20AC;? in the city.

In the process of gentrification (to change a place from being a poor area to a richer one, by people of a higher social class moving to live there), it is almost impossible to avoid social homogenisation. In response to this, some building groups are trying to include social groups with special needs in the city such as older people and single parent families as in LUU project, and families with special sexual orientation as in Kollwitz22 project.

Str elit ze ss tra rS e

Schw edte



Kastanieng채rten by property developer



ra r St

A52 by Baugruppe An


Kinder klub (children club)




site plan 1:2000

communal ownership: 10 units of dwellers share the guest room one week in rotation as a result of group decision in early stage, they have regular contacts to exchange periods of use.

shared guest room


roof terrace 5th floor

unit 9 lift


unit 5


unit 7

unit 4


3rd floor


unit 2

unit 3

1st floor

most town houses are 4-storey high from ground floor to top floor of the whole building some town houses contain 2 floors and linked up by a staircase between 2 units on plan

unit 6

communal garden

Communal public space

town houses

unit 3 has seperate entrance on upper floor and lower floor with independent shower room and kitchen, therefore can be rented or sold as 2 units in the future. apartments of the front building share a small common area to reach their entrances


unit 1



2nd floor

each unit of studio house contain ground floor and upper floor with internal staircase and entrance from communal area


5th floor

studio houses

4th floor

unit 10


unit 8


unit 3

ground floor

Semi-public balcony, terrace and garden space

private space

communal space, semi-private space and private space 1:200

Diagram 15: Typological analysis in Communal public space, Semi-public space and Private space (refer details to A1 full size print)

Communal public space, Semi-public and private space

“Do you regard the roof terrace and the guest dwelling as a worthwhile investment? Yes.

Diagram 15 is comparing how the building group project A52 (on the left) and

That was an important decision - good for the community in the building and for the

property developer project Kastaniengärten (on the right) might be different in

quality of life was well. The guest dwelling has proved really popular.” 34 - Bo Meyer, a

their way of planning private space and communal space.

resident of project A52.

In Kastaniengärten, there are basically three types of housing: the most private studio houses, town houses and apartment units in the front building. For all the 4 studio houses, they are independent units which connecting ground floor and upper floor with internal staircase and entrance directly from communal space. For the 8 town houses, some of them are also independent units connecting the entrance to communal area whereas some of them share a staircase between 4 adjacent units. For the apartment front building with 20 units and 1 penthouse, they share a common area to reach their entrances with a lift.

Communal public spaces (in green) are basically used for the purpose of circulations with only an outdoor playground located around centre. But individual units’

terrace and garden could be served as Semi-public space (in yellow) because the boundaries between those spaces and public space are unclear.

Communal ownership In A52, the 10 units of dwellers share the guest room one week in rotation as a result of group decision in early stage, they have regular contacts to exchange periods of use. The communal garden on the ground floor is designed and built by the group. On top of the planned shared roof terrace outside the guest room, they have planned extra space on the floor landings.


Roedig and Schop (2008), p.980

garden 30.90 sqm

garden balcony 6.41 sqm

entrance 2.26 sqm dining 19.57 sqm

kitchen 10.55 sqm

WC 1.45 sqm

WC 4.44 sqm

kitchen 7.57 sqm

dining room 10.11 sqm

shower 2.52 sqm

corridor 5.03 sqm

corridor 8.00 sqm

storage 1.31 sqm

WC 2.16 sqm kitchen 7.82 sqm

bedroom 16.30 sqm

bathroom 10.00 sqm

corridor 7.62 sqm

corridor is also used as kitchen in this floor plan

living 12.45 sqm

shower 4.12 sqm

living 29.77 sqm

living 15.78 sqm child room 2 18.40 sqm

bedroom 13.90 sqm

child room 1 15.43 sqm

child room 2 13.20 sqm fireplace

ground floor

1st floor



1st floor

similarity difference

terrace 9.20 sqm


kastanieng채rten by Property Developer citygroup

ten in one by Baugruppe A52 living area: 129.48 sqm (2.80 ceiling height) price/sqm: 1650 EUR including 16% tax garden: 30.90 sqm balcony: 6.41 sqm + shared roof top Guest room: 30.00 sqm (can use one week for every ten weeks) + shared roof terrace: 100.00 sqm

child room 1 13.20 sqm

feature: living area on each floor, also seperate WC and shower room on each flloor. The main bedroom is located on the lower floor instead of together with other children rooms on the upper floor, this might provide more privacy, and it is possible to visit each floor as independent unit.

living area: 129.40 sqm price/sqm: 3052.55 EUR garden: 53.70 sqm terrace: 9.20 sqm

garden 53.70 sqm

feature: living area and kitchen are located on the lower floor whereas all three bedrooms are located on the upper floor. Rooms all seperated by functions and clear definition between living space and private/sleeping space.

ground floor 1:50

ground floor: 64.32 sqm

1st flloor: 65.16 sqm

ground floor: 61.76 sqm

1st flloor: 62.01 sqm

dining: 19.57 sqm kitchen: 7.82 sqm shower: 2.52 sqm WC: 4.44 sqm bedroom: 13.90 sqm living: 15.78 sqm - corridor: 0 sqm

child room 1: 15.43 sqm child room 2: 18.40 sqm shower: 4.12 sqm WC: 2.16 sqm kitchen: 7.57 sqm living: 12.45 sqm corridor: 5.03 sqm

dining: 10.11 sqm kitchen: 10.55 sqm - shower: 0 sqm WC: 1.45 sqm - bedroom: 0 sqm living: 29.77 sqm corridor: 7.62 sqm + entrance: 2.26 sqm

child room 1: 13.20 sqm child room 2: 13.20 sqm bathroom: 10.00 sqm - WC: 0 sqm - kitchen: 0 sqm - living: 0 sqm bedroom: 16.30 sqm corridor: 8.00 sqm + storage: 1.31 sqm

Diagram 16: Typological analysis between a BG project and a Property developer project (refer details to A1 full size print)

Thirdly, in Kastanieng채rten, living area and kitchen are located on the lower floor only whereas all three bedrooms are located on the upper floor. Rooms are seperArchitectural Typology

ated by functions and clear definition between living space and private/sleeping

Diagram 16 is showing a comparison of the floor plans in the scale of individual


apartment units. On the left are the ground floor plan and the 1st floor plan of an unit taken from the building group A52. On the right are the ground floor plan

In A52, there are living area, kitchen, seperate WC and shower room, even seperate

and the 1st floor plan of a town house taken from the property developer project

entrance on each floor. The main bedroom is located on the lower floor intead of

Kastenieng채rten. Both of the units are around 129 sqm.

together with other children rooms on the upper floor. This might provide more privacy, and it is possilbe to visit each floor as an independent unit, so it is more flex-

First of all, the prices for 129 sqm are very different. In Kastanieng채rten, it costs

ible in a way that it would be possible to rent out part of the unit without too much

3052.55 EUR/sqm whereas in A52, it cost only 1650 EUR/sqm.

modifications (staircase is made from metal bolted to the wall by several bolts for each step)

Secondly, what is extra you can get out of paying the price for 129 sqm? In Kastanieng채rten, you get a shared playground for communal use. But in A52, the savings they have made could even afford them 1. a shared roof top Guest room for 30 sqm and 2. a shared roof terrace for 100 sqm.


“A certain type for every taste”


What is the role of the architecture? How is architecture being communicated?

Palais Kolle Belle


“The living concept is exquisite in architectural terms and offers unique charm to modern families and individualists alike.”

“Particular luxury: communal areas”


“project aim: designing together, individual, flexible living”

Kollwitz 22

Initiator: Inhabitants LUU

Diagram 17: Comparison of the role of the architecture between building groups and developer projects: Round 1

What is the role of architecture? How is Architecture being communicated?

Case Study

Even though it is not usually obvious to tell from the building design itself whether a project is being done by developers or building groups, their target group of

Compare to A52, their project aim is clear: “designing together, individual, flexible

users could make them presenting the Architecture in very different ways. It is obvi-

living”. As analysed from Diagram 16, flexible space designed for the change in the

ous that building groups users are normally middle-class families or professionals,

future can be seen from their floor plan, as well as the staircases and balustrades

who would like to live in an environment of village-like community with a say for

which are fixed with only a few bolts, flexible for future modifications in construc-

their own tailor-made living space. But for developer projects, there is no model


answer about who is their target group user, specially when most of their users stay anonymous in the stage of project design as well as construction phase.

Case Study

Diagram 17 and Diagram 18 are attempts to compare between developer model

While Palais Kolle Belle advertised on the luxury of “Be it Bohemian, Bourgeois or

and building group model. Then Diagram 19 is showing the award winning model

deluxe, the main is you feel at home.”, A52 interpreted their particular luxury as

of Passive house building group.

“communal areas” because none of the co-owners could have afforded any of the luxury alone, including the roof top terrace and a shared guest flat.

Case Study Case Study For the case of Kastaniengärten, their statement “... unique charm to modern familites and individualists alike.” may be the hints for their target clients, but in terms of

Kollwitz22’s presentation is even more simple and clear. “Two family-friendly resi-

income group, the price of the apartment has limited its target clients to be people

dences”, family urban apartment but emphasised on the friendliness of the building

with higher income, no matter individuals or families alike.


“A certain type for every taste” is reflecting their preset choices between 4 studio houses, 8 townhouses in the back garden and 20 apartments in the front building.












“Be it Bohemian, Bourgeois or deluxe the main is you feel at home.”



Jaques Weindepot, Kollwitzstr.


Konsum, Husemannstr. / Sredzkistr.


Les Rouges du midi, Knaackstraße


Albrecht’s Patisserie, Rykestraße


Stockwerk, Oranienburger Straße

What is the role of the architecture? How is architecture being communicated?

Palais Kolle Belle




Restaurant Etienne, Husemannstr. / Wörther Str.


Market, Kollwitzplatz


Le Flo, Husemannstraße


“On the outside, Très parisien, On the inside, your Berlin home.”

Architect’s impressions and sketches


10 Market, Kollwitzplatz

On the outside, Palais KolleBelle offers French charm and, on the inside, floor plans adapted to individual designs for living.


“Two family-friendly residences”

Kollwitz 22

Initiator: Inhabitants LUU

Diagram 18: Comparison of the role of the architecture between building groups and developer projects: Round 2



What is the role of the architecture? How is architecture being communicated?


Palais Kolle Belle


Kollwitz 22

“Generational housing project built to passive house Berlin-Mitte”

Initiator: Inhabitants LUU

“LUU-Living in Urban Units”

Diagram 19: Comparison of the role of the architecture between building groups and developer projects: Final Round

Case Study

In LUU, something different is happening regarding the kind of architecture is being communicated. In their website they called the project â&#x20AC;&#x153;generational housing built to passive house Berlin-Mitteâ&#x20AC;?. Key points are generational, passive house and Berlin-Mitte. It is generally known that building groups are looking for design freedom and savings in price, but for LUU, their vision also including multi-generations makes them being not only a saving community, but also an alternative housing for implementing innovation in urban sustainability and social sustainability.

Certification is awarded by the city of Berlin for the contributions LUU project has made

ment authorities because of their interest in building their sustainable homes and commitment to the impact of their neighborhoods.

owners into the city which should deserve the support from the municipal develop-

This is when architecture is reaching its hands into encourage responsible home

Next Generation

in the 1990s, and until now, more and more people wanted to live there. Therefore, ownership is not the key point for “feeling like home” nor “feeling like part of the

What will happen to the “community spirit” if the second generation of BG own-


ers starts renting their inheritance? Since all the building group projects in Berlin “In fact there is very little fluctuation among the residents of the Sargfabrik and some

be some more time before we can see what will happen in the next generation of

of the children that grow up there decide to stay as adults and to take an apartment

building group founders. But there is a alternative community housing project in

of their own. There are also a number of divorced couples that, after their separation,

Vienna as a reference since it is now in its third generation - the Sargfabrik (literally

looked for apartments in the Sargfabrik to save their children having to decide between

coffin factory) by BKK-3 (Baukünstlerkollekiv, literally building artists’ - i.e. architects’

father and mother”. 36 Ruby, Ilka & Andreas (2006), “The Making of Sargfabrik & Miss Sargfabrik: As told by their inhabitants and compiled by Ilka & Andreas Ruby”, p.122

are relatively new with most of them being built in the last five years, there would

- collective).

Similar to the inhabitants in building groups, the residents in Sargfabrik enjoy living a village life in the city. “You live close enough to each other to be able to participate in the life of the community, but if you want you can withdraw whenever you need to. Decisions that affect the community as a whole are made by the community as a whole. People don’t just live in the Sargfabrik, they do a lot of other things together; for example, there are several groups in which the residents pursue their particular hobbies together - cooking, gardening, making music, etc.” 35

Most importantly, residents are not tied to the place by financial reasons, it was the decision of Sargfabrik’s founders to tie up the people just by the community formed there and even to create its own culture, not by any form of ownership. People wanted to live there need to go through an application and the final decision is made by the society of residents, but if they want to move out, simply get back the initial deposit, even with compensation for inflation. Sargfabrik was completed

35, 36 Ruby (2006), “Architecture as Urban Machine: BKK-3’s Sargfabrik and Other Lively Places”, p.10



In the scale of urban space, building groups help to make of dream of “moving back

Referring back to Tönnies’s theory about the culture of Gemeinschaft (community)

to city” come true. In the global trend of living in urban city, over 50% of the world’s

mentioned in the beginning on page 5, building groups are definately good for

population is living in city, Berlin is very special with the advantage of owning

people who are looking for this communal aspect to be designed into their living

around 1000 empty plots based on its history.

space, because similar to the relationship structure of a family or a church, each member is first “known” and “accepted” by other members of the building group in

By means of going through unconventional paths, on the one hand, the phenom-

the process of building. Even in the second generation of the founders’ group, as

enon of building groups is reflecting what kind of housing people are demanding

long as majority of the group members are stable in the community, this kind of so-

now. On the other hand, city planners, architects and inhabitants are all responsible

cial culture is very possible to pass on to the newcomers even they are just renting

to encourage the new opportunities and creativities that might come out of it and

instead of owning an apartment.

eventually they should be the beneficiaries economically, socially and ecologically.

To repeat what Tönnies explained about Gemeinschaft-like relationships, “Gemein-

Building groups are not only building living space, but also building on each other,

schaft-like relationships were intimate, enduring and based upon a clear understanding

its neighbourhoods as well as the city of Berlin.

of each individual’s position in society. A person’s status was estimated according to who that person was rather than what that person had done.” 37

Once the neigbours became a community, then the communal space designed with their living space will continue to tie up the people, even influencing the neigbourhood. “Through a process of co-determination, individual buildings may be created by cooperatives that can also increase urban diversity. In many cases, the cooperative idea extends to the creation of communally used spaces, such as a guest dwelling, workshops or multi-functional facilities. In other cases, workplaces can be combined with habitation, and neighbourly relations may be intensified, helping to create a more stable social structure that will have a positive influence in the locality.” 38

37 38

Lee and Newby (1983), p.44 Liese (2008), p.905

How do we prefer to live in the future?

People need hope, people need loving People need trust from a fellow man People need love to make a good living People need faith and a helping hand - â&#x20AC;&#x153;People need loveâ&#x20AC;? by Abba

An ending could be anther beginning, Thank you for the ride.

Baugruppen - an interview with Andreas Ruby, Text Bild 20.01.2010 at Text Bild, Schönholzer Straße 13, Berlin

in the city, because they give an offer that is interesting enough for a young family with the kind of life style they would like to live with. And without a building group project, some of the people who have done these building group projects in Berlin, they might have gone to suburb and build a single family house there.

Do you think Buiding Group is “highly political”? One of the political dimension I have seen is the fact that building groups enable people to buy their own flat, that normally they could not affort it in most of the cases. It is a more affortable kind of constructions. Due to building group principle, housing space can be built in a cheaper way. About 20-30% below commercial market price. That can be a crucial different for who are looking for an apartment in a city. It is political may be also in the sense that it furnished housing space in the city targeting basically young group of family. And building group projects mostly try to intergrade the lifestyle needs of this particular target group of family with kids. So they would try for instance to allow for some green space next to house so that kids can have space to play. You can say that it allows people with a family and kids can stay

I think most building group projects they are dominated by a younger creative professionals, who have the jobs in the city. For them it is actually it is an advantage that they can live in the city and also work there. And if they have kids, they need to go to kidergarden and bring the kids there. If they live in the suburb and have to work in a city, then there is a lot of commuting time. So you can say that there is a growing interest of young family not to leave the city but to stay inside. For those people building group projects are interesting opportunities. Also because building projects in Berlin are normally in the downtown area, they can densify the city as oppose to intensifying sprawl. So you can say this kind of interplay of different interests leads to developments in favour of the city but not supporting urban sprawl. That could be seen as a political dimension. I think it is crucial today that we stop urban sprawl because it is more expensive, ecologically not sound and create traffics.

From a non-official newspaper from the internet, a group of people are against the idea of building group, they think that is only limited to certain small group of people in the society, have you heard about that kind of voices? Not really, but you can say yes, it’s not acceptable for everybody. I mean people go into building group projects they are not rich, they are kind of middle class, but certainly not poor people. So they need to have some money, but as I have said, in terms of social opportunities, building group projects actually allow certain class, that on the normal circumstandances would have a hard time to afford a normal condominium on the market. With building group projects, they can actually afford one. So in terms of social justice, this is also positive. Because in oppose to the U.S., in germany you need 20-30% of the overall budget of the price of your apartment as down payment. For me, people are actually not affordable, even though they would be able to pay the monthly installment later on. But most of them they don’t have a big truck of money that you need to have first. Like an advert price, for 100 sq.m apartment in Building group project, which now cost around 2,200 euro per sqaure meters. It would mean the whole flat will cost 220,000 euro. If you take 20-30% of that (to be exact, it is 44,000-66,000 euro), it’s like 50,000 to 60,000 euro,

and not many people have that in their pockets, so it excludes them from very possibility of even owning your flat, even though they could actually pay the installments of the loan. For instance, in the U.K. , this is very different where the down payment was 5% before the crasis of real estate market. So this was a lot easiler for people in U.K. to actually own their apartment. Another dimension is that why is it important or interesting to own your own flat? For many younger creative people, they are not employed, they are self-employed. They have their own terms, like we, for intance. It means that they don’t have a normal retirement plan provided by their employer. They basically have to take care of their own retirement funding themselve, that’s pretty expensive. If they own a flat or if they buy a flat now, they will own it, at the time when they actually retired. So it’s almost like a kind of pension fund for them, because when they are old, they don’t have to pay rent. So it’s very practical. I mean many people who go into building group project, they don’t absolutely want to own their apartment, that is quite an unusual thing for German and for Berlin in particular. This is one of the biggest rental city in Germany, that means a large majority of residents in Berlin have always rented their apartments as oppose to own. I think over 90% people in Berlin rent their apartments.

But given the fact that a couple years ago, the German government basically eliminated the traditional retirement fund policy where the idea would be what we so-called contract of generations. In that each generation which is just working at a specific moment pay money into the pension fund and that money will be taken out to be paid out to the retired people so that they can live, off that money. And the next generation, will also pay money into the pension fund so that the younger people already paid money in when they were young will profit from that money then. But this kind of system no longer works because we have this inverted pyramid of population. It’s the over aging of the society, more and more old people and less and less young people. And that means the fewer amount of young people who exist and actually working and earning money are able to pay in to the pension fund, they are too few to actually feed the amount of old people who became more and more dominate in the society. And that is why this kind of system no longer works and a couple years ago the German government basically said it’s very likely that when my generation will be old and need the retirement payment, that payment will be way too few to actually live out of it. So my generation is actively addressed by the government, they said from now on everyone should also take care of his/her own retirement funding

by making private investments into a retirement pension insurances for instance. This is difficult to do if you need to pay a rent and you have to pay this kind of private pension fund. So that’s why a clever thing to do for many of my generation is by not renting a flat but owning a flat. Then living in your flat will basically build up a value that you can then live off as your own. So you can say that it’s a political issue.

You mentioned usually building group projects are dominated by a younger creative professionals, will there be people who are not these type of people be excluded from these projects? No I don’t think so. I don’t think this is a problem. Basically people who come together in building groups mostly they form by previous knowledge of people, so they are often a group of friends who start a project like this and then they ask their friends “Do you want to join? We need more people to start a project...”. In other examples, like the building group that I was in and also all the building groups that are done by the architects, the idea is basically they (architects) made a project, designed a project, put it on the internet, and then actively look for people. The only criterion that there is for being accepted is first of all you accept the whole procedure of the process, how it works and that all rules, what you can, what you can not do. For instance, basically you have to accept the house as it is designed, you can not change it entirely, you can customise the interior. For instance for building group project to be cheaper, you would try to use similar systems of material, like floor throughout the entire house. Then the price is cheaper from the constractors. So once you accept the first condition, the second condition is that you have to find a bank that give you a loan for

your apartment. You have to pay for it basically. I think these two are the only conditions for acceptance, no matter what job you do. For instance in the building opposite to our street, there are people who have an entire restaurant, is not exactly creative class, but they have very different people to have different occupations..

If someone ask you what is building group? Could you give this term a specific and precise definition? Building groups are different from developer initiated housing by the fact that there is no developer. They are basically being developed either by the building group itself or by an architectual office that is commissioned by the building group to do so. And this is the major reasons why building group projects are cheaper than the developer projects. The developer always needs to make money of it. That means a profit margin of 20-30%. And one of the main interest of a building group is to make owning a house as affordable as possible. So idea is that whoever works for the project and do things for it will properly paid according to the rules of his/her own profession, but beyond that, it doesn’t have to be a profitable investment. Nobody needs to make a profit, because the idea is just pay for what we need to pay and then we have the flat. So that is one reason. Also the financing system in developer project is different from a building group project. A developer will always finance the entire project out of his own pocket. If the house costs 2,000,000 euros, then he needs to take a loan for 2,000,000 euros and then pay that thing back, so there is also a big need to do this quickly, because if it takes longer then he needs to re-

finance his own investment. Building group project basically there is not one single project that pre-finance the whole thing. But basically the system is like this: every party who want to own a flat provide their own financing. Therefore this is the only condition for being accepted into a building group because only if everybody can bring their own money that their apartment cost, then you can put all together in one pot and achieve the finance budget of the project. So it’s a very different kind of thing. Every single party takes the finanical risk for themselve and pay the amount slowly back to the bank. Because of that, the re-financing cost are lower. If your loan is smaller, just like 200,000 euros, I think it’s cheaper to pay it back than if you has a really huge loan of 2,000,000 euros.

As far as you know, what do the developers think about this idea? Do they think that is a new form of partnership with architects or do they think the building group will create competitions with the traditional developer organised housing? It created competitions, very clear, with building group projects are always at a better price. That is one of the advantage and the other advantage which is also important is that developer always produce for a kind of anonymous (user) and standardise normal market. They have something in their heads which is like the average customer, the average client. So they try to make houses, with apartments which they think will appeal to the general customers. Now obviously that is an abstraction, who is the “general customer”? You aren’t, I am not either, because we are all specific, we have our specific interests. And this is the big advantage of building groups that the specific interests of these people can actually be taken up by the architectural design. For instance the house that we have our office in, this house we are just sitting in, is users initiated building group. So they discussed first before they actually contact an architect, what kind of lifestyle they wanted to have. It enabled other kind of life style that they want to have. For instance, we said we want to have a freely accessible roof top terrace; we want to have a shared

space on ground floor that is a hinge space toward the garden space, so that you can prepare parties, you can cook inside and then eat outside. They said for instance, one person living here is a professional musician, and he needed a rehearsal space, so he has a rehearsal space in the basement where there is not a disturbance to anybody. In this way, very specific demands and interests from the people who live here have been able to be integraded into the design of the house. That’s absolutely impossible for developer project, because a developer would always be scared that if he made the design too specific, he would not be able to sale it. I think this is absolutely a mistake in thinking, but this is the way they think. The developer increasingly see that they can not reach the client with specific interests. Because they found these kind of projects more opinion, where they could actually say I would like to have this and that. Can we take it in?

Do you think building group projects might form new architectural typologies? In some cases they do because in fact in those cases where building groups define the problem of the house not only in pure classic residential typologies such as variated kind of flats in one building, but also when they say that they wanted to have some shared facilities that normally not the case. There are building groups that have a sauna integraded for all the people or even a swimming pool. There are building groups where you can find a shared typology of living and working in the same building. The typical residenial house doesn’t necessary have that.

Do they usually more sustainable, with most of them classified as passive-house standard? One of the reason can be there is actually a commitment to ecologies that bring people to build passive house because they think it’s a useful thing to do nowadays. So that would be a kind of political commitment. It is also a financial programmatic argument because passive house tend to be cheaper in maintenance. They collect more energy and spend less money on oil or gas. A third reason is that in passive houses there are financially incentives for passive houses to subsidize from the German government for certain kind of banks, KFW is the name of the bank. They have a subsidize program that give you special low interest, they give you loan for the house with a low interest rate, on the condition that your house is a passive house or has a certain % of low energy use. These are the three issues or reasons why building group projects often tend to passive houses, like this one.

According to the book “The Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida, he mentioned “we (creative class) prefer communitites that have a distinctive character. These communities are defined by the impermanent relationships and loose ties that let us live the quasi-anonymous lives we want rather than those that are imposed on us.” Do you think this kind of building group projects will create strong ties which is opposite to what Florida has described? It creates ties, because obviously you form a group, even if most of the groups they are only economically dependent on each other during the process of construction. Most building groups are formed as a GdR which is a tie of work between the shareholders within a kind of association. It is financially responsible for everyone in the group, so there is also certain risk. That means if somebody die for instance, or go bankrupt in a building group while you’re building it, he will no longer pay money into the project. That means then the other parties in the project, they have to pay and compensate whenever financial slot is produced from that. Theoritically that is the risk. But practically that is not a risk because in Berlin building groups are popular, if somebody leave the building group, it’s quite easy to find someone else. So that is not a problem. I think there are great ties that are created through building groups

because they created the activity that you go through together, for may be 2 years, from the very first meeting until you move in. This is the time when you get to know each other, if you didn’t know each other before. And once you live in the house you start to understand, you can actually help each other for instance. I can give my kids to my neighbours and we go to the cinema or do something else. For me, if I compare to the house I lived before, it’s a much less anonymous lifestyle. I know everyone in my house, I have been in everyone’s apartments in my house. We do things together. You know very often in houses I lived before, I didn’t even know which name goes together with which face. For me this is a very positive side effect because I feel less alien. And it’s easier to ask someone for help if you know him or her. So if I ran out of onions, I need to cook something quickly, it’s no big due that I just ring my neighbour’s bell and ask “Do you have something”. I wouldn’t have done this in the house that I lived before because I think I didn’t know anybody there.

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The Phenomenon of Building Group (Baugruppe) in Berlin: