Marzahn: The Place Myths of Social Housing

‘East of Lichtenberg is Marzahn-Hellesdorf, a late-1970s satellite town and perhaps Berlin’s least obvious sightseeing destination. Silo-like apartment blocks and soulless shopping precincts stretch for miles out towards the edge of the city in what has to be one of the most desolate of the city’s boroughs. However, this is Berlin for tens of thousands of Berliners, and worth a look for this reason alone.

‘To see the most enduring legacy of East Berlin, it’s probably best to go by day and not look too much like a tourist, as the area has a reputation for violence. It’s in places like this, all across the former GDR, that people are bearing the economic brunt of reunification – unemployment – and where you’ll see the worst effects caused by the collapse of a state that, for all its faults, ensured a certain level of social security for its citizens. Ironically, Marzahn was one of the GDR’s model new towns of the late-1970s – part of Honecker’s efforts to solve this country’s endemic housing shortage by providing modern apartments in purpose-built blocks with shopping facilities and social amenities to hand. The result here was several kilometres of high-rise developments housing 250,000 people, where, like similar developments in the West, things never quite worked according to plan, with the usual crime and drugs surfacing.’

The Rough Guide to Berlin (2011)


Architects for Social Housing

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