100 Years of Urban Planning for Greater Berlin
Berlin has grown rapidly over the last 150 years. A once-negligible city has become a fascinating metropolis with an extraordinary history, during which it has experienced deep lows and towering highs and been a testing ground for European metropolises, a laboratory for town planning. The Berlin of today did not emerge haphazardly; rather, it is the result of our predecessors’ urban development endeavours. The metropolis is full of built attempts to shape the future, some successful and others not. The prerequisite for these efforts was a fundamental political decision: to create Greater Berlin in 1920. Like many metropolises, Berlin and the metropolitan region of Berlin-Brandenburg are today under pressure to manage the influx of people and businesses to the benefit of all. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we are endangering future generations through our consumption of resources. We understand that little remains the same, and this realisation leads to uncertainty and a dispute about how to shape change.
© Georg Reicke. bpk, Nr. 30037621
1920: A Crisis Year
The Creation of Greater Berlin
The Greater Berlin Act was passed by the Prussian Parliament on 27 April 1920 and came into effect on 1 October 1920. The passing of the act came just a month after the Kapp Putsch at a time when both Berlin’s and Germany’s future was uncertain. It coincided with the severe crisis that followed the First World War and the end of the Spanish Flu pandemic.
© Berlin-Mitte-Archiv, Nr. AK-6952
Rail Trasport isssues
The greater Berlin area came about as a result of the railway. High-speed rail transport made it possible to build the suburbs. The formation of Greater Berlin led to fundamental reform of the public transport system. A single, unified municipal transport company was created in 1928: Berliner Verkehrs-AG (BVG).
Foto: Heinrich Hoffmann, akg / Imagno, Nr. 1047784
On The Road
Road Transport Issues
Greater Berlin started out as a rail-oriented city, but it became more and more car-centric over time. The first car-focused plans were considered during the Greater Berlin Competition in 1910 and began taking shape during the Weimar Republic.
Foto: Schusev State Museum of Architecture, Moskau
The Centre of Everywhere
The Issue of the City’s Many Centres
The city’s system of centres altered fundamentally after the creation of Greater Berlin. The emerging centre of the New West around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church became more important, along with the undisputed main city centre between Alexanderplatz and the Reichstag.
Foto: Horst Siegmann, Landesarchiv Berlin, F Rep. 290, Nr. 149030
Is it Really Social?
The Housing Question
Greater Berlin has always experimented with different forms of housing and urban development policy. It was centre stage in the struggle against the largest tenement city in the world. Sub-standard housing conditions and housing shortages have also been part of the history of Greater Berlin from the outset.
Foto: Lothar Willmann, DDR Bildarchiv, Nr. 52228
Parks, Squares and Sycamore Trees
How can a city that is constantly growing remain healthy? The answer is simple: street trees and lots of lots of greenery! The Permanent Forest Agreement of 1915 was the first important step taken in efforts to protect green spaces. It reserved extensive areas of forest for local recreation.
akg, Nr. 72043
Infrastructure, Industry and the Military
A Selection of Major Projects
Big plans signify desired goals, but it is large projects that directly shape the urban space of major cities. Large projects in Berlin initially focused on industrial facilities, ports, military training areas, centres of science and hospital facilities, and later also included enormous power plants, airports, exhibition grounds and a film city just beyond the borders of Berlin.
Paul Busch: Zeitgemäße Grundstückspolitik der Stadt Berlin. Berlin 1929, Beilage
Power and Powerlessness
A Series of Major Plans
Major plans have paved the way of Greater Berlin. It all began with the Greater Berlin Competition of 1908 – 1910. This was followed by efforts to create a general settlement plan for Berlin and a development plan for Brandenburg-Mitte during the Weimar Republic. Work on the general development plan continued under the direction of Albert Speer. Plans developed by the planning collective working with Hans Scharoun came immediately after the war and then came the grand plans for the divided city.
Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln, Kn 122 I
In and out of favour
an development in Berlin has always been the subject of intense debate. Participants have included not just planning professionals, politicians and the administration, but also representatives of civil society and commerce. The debates have been about targets, instruments, institutions and funding.
© Philipp Meuser
An Unloved Capital?
A Window into Germany
In 1920, Berlin had been Germany’s capital for less than half a century. Unlike London and Paris, Berlin was a far cry from being the undisputed centre of a large European country. The city was more like Rome and Moscow, a young capital with a mixed reputation.
Bild: IRS (Erkner) / Wiss. Samml., D1_12_2-003
A Kindred Place
The Cities and Countryside of Brandenburg
Berlin is more than just the city. After the Thirty Years War, Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector, expanded his new residence in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. There were already palaces in Oranienburg and Potsdam, and Charlottenburg Palace was soon added to their number. However, the Prussian kings mainly focused on developing Potsdam and they formed a unique complex of palaces and parks in the city southwest of Berlin.
We Are Not Alone!
Perspectives from Europe
Around 1900, attempts began in Europe to reorganise large and rapidly expanding urban areas, politically, administratively and in terms of planning. This was an extremely difficult process, and not just in Berlin, where efforts were hindered by conflicting interests and so rarely successful.