Solveig Steinhardt spoke with Le Cor­bus­ier ex­pert Bär­bel Högner to learn the se­crets of Ber­lin's Cor­bus­ier­haus.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

An in­side peek into Le Cor­bus­ier Haus, one of the city's most im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­tural projects.

Af­ter WWII, the need for so­cial hous­ing in Ber­lin brought many ar­chi­tects to town for the de­vel­op­ment of the In­ter­bau 57 project in the bombed Hansavier­tel. One of them was French ar­chi­tect Le Cor­bus­ier, who readapted the de­sign of his Unité d'Habi­ta­tion build­ing in Mar­seille to the city's needs. His project turned out to be too big for the Hansavier­tel, so it was built near Olympias­ta­dion in­stead. We asked pho­tog­ra­pher and an­throlopol­o­gist Bär­bel

Högner, who lives in the build­ing, to tell us more about this in­ter­est­ing build­ing.

What is the con­cept be­hind the Cor­bus­ier­haus?

The ba­sic idea was to keep the ground for open spa­ces and go ver­ti­cal in hous­ing, cre­at­ing a sort of "ver­ti­cal vil­lage." Most of the flats here are maisonettes, so it's like liv­ing in a small house in­side a big build­ing. Le Cor­bus­ier also imag­ined a com­pletely au­ton­o­mous so­cial struc­ture, with an in­ter­nal shop­ping area and even a swim­ming pool on the rooftop. Un­for­tu­nately, fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions and the ur­gent need for flats in the 1950s did not al­low for such lux­ury in Ber­lin.

As a res­i­dent, do you think the build­ing still has the ad­van­tages it was planned to have?

Some of Le Cor­bus­ier's ideas work very well. The apart­ments are sunny and well-lit thanks to the east-west ori­en­ta­tion and the long win­dows. Also, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is ex­tremely ef­fi­cient, both tech­ni­cally and fi­nan­cially: you share ser­vices and ex­penses with more than 500 other units. It's also so­cially in­ter­est­ing. Some res­i­dents live in com­plete anonymity , oth­ers cre­ate strong neigh­bour­hood re­la­tions. And there's an­other in­ter­st­ing as­pect: Ap­par­ently, this is not the big­gest build­ing unit in Ber­lin, but it is the big­gest with just one en­trance. It's a small but psy­cho­log­i­cally im­por­tant de­tail: ev­ery­body has to walk through the same door.

What is the most un­usual thing about it?

Vis­i­tors are usu­ally shocked when they see the long cor­ri­dors that re­call a hos­pi­tal, or a prison. But ac­tu­ally the in­te­rior was in­spired by an ocean liner. Per­son­ally, I think that the weird­est thing is the build­ing's struc­tural di­men­sion. Imag­ine: 530 apart­ments in one block stand­ing on pil­lars! And it's amaz­ing how di­verse life is be­hind the­ses masses of con­crete.

Are there any other in­ter­est­ing ar­chi­tec­tural spots that you would rec­om­mend in Ber­lin?

If one is in­ter­ested in the 1950s, it makes sense to walk around the Hansa-Vier­tel. But I also sug­gest a visit to the “other” moder­nity on Karl-Marx-Allee, where you can see the so­cial­ist ver­sion of post-war hous­ing. A com­par­i­son of th­ese places in for­mer East and West Ber­lin re­veals the po­lit­i­cal di­men­sions of ar­chi­tec­ture. At Karl-Marx-Allee, I would end my tour with a movie at the GDR-era Kino In­ter­na­tional.

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