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Apartment blocks at the Carl-Legien-Siedlung
© dpa
Berlin housing projects declared UNESCO World Heritage Site

July 09, 2008

UNESCO has added six Berlin housing projects to its World Heritage List. The homes, built in the early 1900s, served as a model of social housing that improved living conditions for low-income residents.

The Berlin Modernism housing projects "testify to innovative housing policies from 1910 to 1933," the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said in awarding the designation on Monday, 7th July 2008. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee made the decision at its annual meeting in Quebec City. It brings the total number of UNESCO sites in Germany to 33.

The housing project, built during the Weimar Republic when the city of Berlin was particularly progressive socially, politically and culturally, met a need for working class housing. The six complexes together represent one site, which introduced a new trend of social housing construction.

"The property is an outstanding example of the building reform movement that contributed to improving housing and living conditions for people with low incomes through novel approaches to town planning, architecture and garden design. The estates also provide exceptional examples of new urban and architectural typologies, featuring fresh design solutions, as well as technical and aesthetic innovations", the UN agency said.

Avant-garde for the masses

Berlin's housing projects were well known for using a horseshoe layout associated with architects Bruno Taut, Hans Scharoun and Walter Gropius. Their clear forms were recognised as influencing construction methods of the entire century.What they built were some of the world's first modern apartments with kitchens, bathrooms, balconies and ample windows. The project influenced the development of social housing around the world.

Of the 850 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Berlin apartments are among only 21 sites from the modern era. The German UNESCO delegate in Quebec, Birgitta Ringbeck, said that the decision came easily and that the developments filled a gap in the world heritage list.



© Deutsche Welle, dpa, German Information Centre New Delhi
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