Housing the masses in Berlin

With social housing, Berlin proved itself to be ahead of the times. Check out these remarkable housing estates from a century ago – still used today!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

As is often said, you can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members. In the early part of the 20th century, Germany was ahead of its time in this respect.

Around Europe, we were yet to see the large-scale social programs for the lower classes that are so common these days. But, even as early as 1910, Berlin was proving to be a progressive city. It demonstrated this with, of all things, housing.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

Between 1910 and 1933, Berlin took an innovative approach to mass housing for people with low incomes.

Rather than packing people into dull apartment blocks that were designed for value more than aesthetics, the city’s architects decided to create pleasant residential spaces that would encourage a sense of community.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany
Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

Around the outskirts of the Berlin – where there was a bit more space – the city built housing estates that used techniques not seen before.

These residential complexes had three things that were new – light, air and sunshine!

There were several ways this was achieved and one of them was with large common gardens. The buildings also did not follow the standard approach of having a single block, but used various shapes to maximise the opportunities for sunlight.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

These different complexes were built at different times and are spread out across Berlin. What is so interesting about visiting them is that you notice how each of them is unique.

This was not a matter of designing one version and then just replicating it everywhere else. Each estate has its own feel and has been constructed in a way that fits in with the natural and urban environment it’s found.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany
Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

A century later and they are still happily being used. I assume the interiors have been updated over the years but the basic structures are unchanged and show how durable the buildings are, both physically but also socially.

That’s the thing about being progressive – normally if you are ahead of the time, your ideas will stand its test.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany
Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

Visiting the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

There are six locations across Berlin that have been included in the World Heritage Site known as ‘Berlin Modernism Housing Estates’. They are spread out across the city and it is not easy to get between each of them quickly.

You can see their locations in this map:

Some are more easily accessible by public transport than others and it is possible to cycle between a few of them. If you are planning to visit more than one, it is worth doing a bit of planning to find the best connections from where you are staying.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Germany

The exterior of each of the estates is accessible to the public and you will be able to visit the courtyards and gardens attached to them. There are some tours you can use to see the inside of the buildings.

These will give you a deeper understanding of why these homes were so influential in the cultural shift of social housing.


Berlin is obviously an enormous cities with lots of districts to choose from… but here are a few top accommodation suggestions.


For a really cool modern hostel, I would recommend Generator Berlin Mitte.


If you are looking for a nice budget hotel, one of my top tips in the centre of Berlin is Arte Luise Kunsthotel.


The city has some cool design hotels and Das Stue is one of the best.


And if you would like luxury, I would suggest the beautiful and modern Mandala Hotel.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by DB Bahn, the German National Tourist Board and Youth Hostels in Germany but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

8 thoughts on “Housing the masses in Berlin”

    • It’s an odd one, isn’t it? But World Heritage Sites are not necessarily the most famous or most beautiful landmarks. They are supposed to represent an important part of human development and that’s what these housing estates show.

  1. More than a residential pieces they are more of building architecture with ergonomics related manifestations and activities to suitable living just fitting to modern livings and environments.

    • Oh yeah – that’s a great one. I really liked that little things like coloured windows had been thought if and incorporated into the design. It shows that this was not just your typical boring housing estate.


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