Appearing between 1913 and 1934, Berlin's six Modernist housing estates, with their promise of 'light, air and sunshine' for residents, provided a welcome antidote to the gloomy tenement buildings of Wilhelmine Germany. Their clean lines made them hugely influential in 20th century architecture and town planning.
Contemporary, light-filled, welcoming, well-proportioned and above all affordable for ordinary people, these apartments with kitchens, bathrooms and balconies were innovative in their time and even today have retained their fresh feel. The timeless design of Gartenstadt Falkenberg, the Schillerpark estate, Wohnstadt Carl Legien, Weisse Stadt, 'Siemens town' and the Britz estate (also known as the horseshoe estate because of the distinctive design of its main building) has ensured they all remain popular places to live to this day. By visiting the exhibition apartments or taking a guided tour of the buildings, all of which have been fully preserved, you can get a real feel for what it's like to live in such an innovative environment. The principal architects responsible for the planning of the estates were Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner but some star architects of the day, such as Hans Scharoun, Hugo Häring and Walter Gropius were also involved.
Anyone wanting to visit the estates should allow plenty of time, as they are spread right across Berlin – although this does provide a good opportunity to take a tour of the city by public transport. On the horseshoe estate, don't miss Tautes Heim, the holiday home that the lead architect Bruno Taut built for himself there. Fully renovated with all its 1920s-style fixtures and fittings, the house represents a trip back in time.
'Siemens town': UNESCO World Heritage information office with café
Further information: www.visitberlin.de/grosssiedlung-siemensstadt
Britz Estate – the horseshoe estate: UNESCO World Heritage info-point
Further information: www.visitberlin.de/grosssiedlung-britz-hufeisensiedlung
Tautes Heim: UNESCO World Heritage as accommodation: this authentically restored holiday home in the horseshoe estate allows you to experience what it was like to live here in the 1920s and 1930s.
Further information: www.tautes-heim.de
Further information: www.welterbesiedlungen-berlin.de