Berlin postwar modernist buildings vie for UNESCO heritage status | Arts | DW | 06.07.2021
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Berlin postwar modernist buildings vie for UNESCO heritage status

Stalinist residential blocks on Karl Marx Allee and high modernist towers in the Hansa district were constructed on opposite sides of divided Berlin.

In the 1950s, Berlin was not yet divided by a wall yet the city was already politically and culturally polarized.

Competing urban visions for the devastated city were a central subplot in this battleground of ideas.

Early in the decade, in the eastern part of the city, the communist regime constructed a sparkling new boulevard named Stalin Allee — after the all-conquering Soviet dictator who would die in 1953. The ensemble of grand residential buildings along the wide two-kilometer-long street combined socialist classicism and ornate Prussian architectural stylings. It has since been renamed Karl Marx Allee.   

Meanwhile on the other side of the city, authorities commissioned scores of modernist architects to build a new housing quarter amid the ruins of West Berlin, in what became the Hansaviertel.

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Berlin Modernist housing estates

Those buildings, designed by the likes of Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, could soon join their Soviet-designed contemporaries on the UNESCO World Heritage list if the Berlin Senate gets its way.  

Karl-Marx-Allee and Interbau 1957 — Architecture and Urban Development of Post-War Modernism is the name of the proposal that will enter the procedure for Germany's so-called "Tentative List" for UNESCO.

Meanwhile, the Waldsiedlung Zehlendorf, or Zehlendorf Forest Estate in the far west of Berlin, is to expand the six existing "Berlin Modernism Housing Estates" that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Built between 1913 and 1934, these revolutionary social housing estates were mostly founded during the social-democratic Weimar Republic. Many were the vision of Bauhaus masters such as Bruno Taut.

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