West Berlin Revisited Architecture und Urbanism along the Berlin Wall

Lecturer: Dr. phil. Christa Kamleithner, Dipl. ing. Vlatka Šeremet

Tuesday 9.30 - 12.30 am, online and outdoor 

Begin 13 April 2021, Link will be provided via Moodle

The Berlin Wall divided the city of Berlin between 1961 und 1989, making West Berlin a walled enclave. Considered a “showcase of the West“, West Berlin received large sums of subsidies to invest in the built environment and hold and attract population, and although the Wall cut a wide swathe through the city and created an inner periphery, plans were made for the whole city. West Berlin thus became a laboratory for urban change. The enclave was a testing ground for concepts typical of the 1960s and 70s in Western architectural history, and at the same time it was a very specific place, where powerful interventions “from above” met resistance from a diverse and in parts very politicised population.

In the seminar, we will visit the remaining architectures on site and in literature: among them, the large housing estates around the Kottbusser Tor, which has become a lively community centre; the silent residential area in the southern Friedrichstadt, as well as the Märkisches Viertel, a satellite town in the North which was meant to accommodate people displaced by urban redevelopment. We will study the history of these places, reflect on the architectural and urban concepts and their impact on the city as well as on our own experience when we visit them. Films will help us to grasp the special atmosphere of West Berlin and show the difference to today when these places have become part of a very different urban topology. Not at least, we will discuss how to deal with these architectures that were built in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, and with the Wall itself as a heritage site.

Methods and course requirements

Throughout the semester, we will work on a basic understanding of architectural and urban concepts in relation to concrete heritage sites and to the city as a whole. The seminar builds upon the application and the deepening of insight from continuous supervised research, literature and film reviews, in-class discussions, and city-walks held in Berlin. Due to the Corona pandemic, main parts of the seminar will be held online. Course requirements are regular participation, a short presentation and, in the end, a text-photo-essay on the history and present of a selected site. For those who are not able to come to Berlin, special arrangements will be made.