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Living in a world heritage: Berlin housing estates 1913-1934

Goethe-Institut, Woollahra
8 August – 28 October 2011

Six housing estates of Berlin modernism (1913–1934) are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These housing estates stand out for their importance and their good state of preservation.

Architects of the style known as classical modernism responded to the lack of housing after the First World War by creating modern, affordable flats with kitchens, bathrooms and balconies that provided light, air and sun instead of houses with backyards or side wings. The high-quality architecture, the language of the shapes, floor plans of the flats and urban design of the estates became a role model for the entire 20th century. Aesthetic perceptions of the avant-garde were politically linked to left-wing social concepts. Trade unions as well as cooperative and municipal building companies became the main supporters of this constructed utopia.

Today, a second change is taking shape. The public sector has been withdrawing from housing construction and sold flats to private tenants and investors. Once again, housing estates are becoming a model, demonstrating how the maintenance of these emblematic historical buildings may be reconciled with the contemporary requirements for fittings and convenience.

An exhibition by Wilfried Brenne Architects, presented by the Goethe-Institut

Part of Berlin Sydney, in association with the exhibition The mad square: modernity in German art 1910-37 at the Art Gallery of NSW

Houses in a Berlin housing estate

Courtesy Winfried Brenne Architects