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European City in Comparative Perspective: Seventh International Conference on Urban History  

Τίτλος:The vindication of the tenement in East Berlin
Κύρια Υπευθυνότητα:Urban, Florian
Θέματα:Tenement houses -- Germany -- Berlin
Housing -- Germany – Berlin
Berlin (Germany) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Housing policy -- Germany -- Berlin
Λαϊκές πολυκατοικίες -- Γερμανία -- Βερολίνο
Στέγαση -- Γερμανία -- Βερολίνο
Βερολίνο (Γερμανία) -- Κτίρια, κατασκευές κλπ.
Στεγαστική πολιτική -- Γερμανία -- Βερολίνο
Ημερομηνία Έκδοσης:2008-01-17
Abstract:The reunification of East and West Berlin in 1990 and its effect on the shape of the city has been a major topic for both the academic community and the general public. Much less attention has been paid to the controversies over demolition and reconstruction that had been shaking both halves of the divided city since the 1960s. My dissertation will investigate this part of Berlin’s history with a particular focus the Eastern half of the city and set the results in relation to the better-studied architectural development in the West. At the same time, it will explore the concepts of tradition and historical continuity that were infused on a general level in the architectural discourse. My paper is tied to one of the most controversial developments in the urban design policy of both East and West Berlin: the state-sanctioned demolition of numerous late 19th century residential neighborhoods between approximately 1960 and 1980, dubbed by its critics the “second destruction of Berlin.” For decades, this policy of demolition and rebuilding was fueled both by the promise of a “new Berlin” and by the notoriously bad reputation of the late 19th century architecture. The bone of contention was the infamous Mietskaserne, - the typical five-story tenement building with an ornamented stucco façade towards the street and backyards with barns and workshops in the inner parts of the block. The rage against Berlin’s “tenement city” (Mietskasernenstadt) was rooted in a persistent cultural construct that connected the architectural characteristics of these buildings to the social misery and political oppression or the early industrial era. As a result, a tenacious negative image stigmatized Berlin’s historic urban fabric until the 1960s. This perception changed fundamentally in the 1970s. In the decades that followed, the remaining tenement buildings were not only preserved and increasingly refurbished – a policy that in the West became known as behutsame Stadterneuerung (“careful urban renewal”) and in the East as komplexe Rekonstruktion (“complex reconstruction”) – but also taken as models for a new, historically conscious architecture of “critical reconstruction,” which to date would leave its mark on the city. Although this change in perception had a much bigger impact on the construction policy West Berlin, in East Berlin it also triggered a number of prestigious urban design projects.What made the long despised historical residential architecture all of a sudden that attractive? To answer this question, one has to look not only at the political and economical situation in the East Germany of the 1970s, but also more general on the history of urban design concepts such as “obsolescence” or “preservation.” The evolution of these concepts over the course of several decades suggests that the history of the built environment as a representation of the past is not yet fully understood. My paper thus aims at contributing to a deeper comprehension of this relation. I suggest that the significance of the Mietskaserne architecture for the construction activity in Berlin – both as a valuable architectural form and as a despicable other – has to be seen as part of an overarching discourse on the significance of the past, which was largely unaffected by the demands of the capitalist and communist realities. The parameters of the architectural discourse at that time therefore seem to be conceptions of history and continuity rather than the specificities of a political and economic system.
Βιβλιογραφική Παραπομπή:Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Industrial and Modern
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