2019 is the year of the Bauhaus. 100 years after the renowned design school was founded in Germany, we want to participate and understand its impact on today’s world. Bauhaus architecture can be found all over the world – but what about Berlin? Although the school remained open for less than a year in the city, its traces are manifold. From Hansaviertel to Siemensstadt, we’ve compiled a tour spanning some of Berlin’s architectural gems within a 30km radius that can easily be reached with your unu Scooter and a fully charged battery.
Need a quick recap on what the Bauhaus was about? Learn more about its history and principles in our previous blog post.
Our tour begins at the heart of the Bauhaus movement, the Bauhaus-Archiv. Designed by Walter Gropius, founder of the design school, it houses the most substantial collection of Bauhaus history in the world. Currently under reconstruction to keep up with the growing demand of visitors, you can still catch a glance of its unique architecture. Depending on where you start your tour, you might also have driven past the Neue Nationalgalerie by Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which is currently undergoing renovations, overseen by internationally renowned architecture firm David Chipperfield.
Architect: Walter Gropius, 1979
German art historian Hans Maria Wingler founded the Bauhaus-Archiv in 1960 to build up a collection on the subject of the Bauhaus – due to the school’s closure in 1933, its material heritage had since scattered all over the world. Initially based in Darmstadt, the Bauhaus Archiv’s collection continued to expand. Therefore, planning for a separate building with plans by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius begun and Berlin was selected as its home.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus’ founding, the building is currently undergoing renovations and will be supplemented by a new museum building – that way, exhibition space will almost triple in comparison to today.
Did you know that: The Bauhaus Archiv was envisioned by Walter Gropius, but not finished until after his death.
From the Bauhaus-Archiv, we continue through Tiergarten and into Hansaviertel. Here you can find buildings by renowned Bauhaus architects like Alvar Aalto and Walter Gropius all in one area. Having been completely destroyed during the Second World War, Hansaviertel was selected by the Berlin Senate as the location of Interbau 1957. In response to housing projects on Stalinallee, Interbau 1957 presented a model for the city of tomorrow. Under the leadership of Otto Bartning, the new, upper-class Hansaviertel district became a prestige project to demonstrate the superiority of the West over the East. Based on an urban development competition, 53 internationally renowned architects were selected to turn the old block structure into a mixture of high-rise and low-rise buildings in the heart of a park landscape.
Oscar Niemeyer House
Architect: Oscar Niemeyer, 1957
For his submission to Interbau 1957, Niemeyer was influenced by Le Corbusier’s ideas of “modern living”. However, his design, featuring generous floor plans, loggias, and light-filled spaces, had to be altered to meet the Berlin government’s requirements for social housing. Niemeyer created a building with several apartments that cut through the building from east to west, meaning the apartments cannot be accessed by long corridors, but rather via six interior stairwells and the elevator tower.
Did you know that: this is the only Niemeyer building in Germany.
Before you head off to the other side of Hansaviertel in search of the Alvar Aalto House, you might consider taking a small detour to Akademie der Künste, Berlin’s academy of the arts. On the edge of the Tiergarten park and surrounded by greenery, Werner Düttmann erected the building, combining three different units linked by courtyards and glazed corridors. If in need of a short break, you might want to try the academy’s café or browse the small bookstore for more information about the area.
Alvar Aalto House
Architect: Alvar Aalto, 1957
Often regarded as “the father of modernism” in Scandinavia, Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect internationally renowned for his fusion of personal expression, indigenous materials, and modern sophistication. His building in Hansaviertel bends slightly toward the west and opens toward the east to capture light for all the apartments. Each floor has five apartments, positioned around the stairwells. The rooms are grouped around a central “all-purpose room” with connecting loggia as if arranged around a courtyard.
Did you know that: Aalto’s preliminary architectural plans were always freely sketched. That way, his creative urge for inventive shapes and irregular forms was allowed full play.
On the way from Alvar Aalto House towards Pierre Vago House, you can admire the small bungalow buildings, with House Blumenthal just being one example. It’s a light, airy, open home with an integrated doctor’s office created by Klaus Kirsten and Heinz Nather for ophthalmologist Georg Blumenthal.
Pierre Vago House
Architect: Pierre Vago, 1957
Pierre Vago was a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts, co-founder and president of the International Union of Architects (UIA), for many years editor-in-chief of the magazine "L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui" and initiator of international architecture academies. The building he created for the Interbau 1957 features apartments with either two different ceiling heights or two different floor levels. On the building’s eastern and western façade, colorful wall panels liven up the otherwise muted tones.
Did you know that: Pierre Vago left his studies at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, as he felt the school was technically not up to date.
Walter Gropius House
architect: Walter Gropius, 1957
Serving as the opening gateway to the Interbau complex, Walter Gropius’ contribution to Interbau 1957 is often thought to be curved. However, its walls themselves are straight but kinked in four places. The building’s apartments face north and south. The “sails” of the balcony balustrades, which appear to be filled by the wind, contribute to the liveliness of the façade.
Did you know that: The Bauhaus was called the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule (Grand Ducal Saxonian School of Arts and Crafts) in Weimar by Walter Gropius. He eventually renamed it to Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar.
We now head towards Amerika Haus. On the way out of Hansaviertel, directly between Pierre Vago House and Walter Gropius House, you can admire the Kaiser-Friedrich Memorial Church, with its open-structured bell tower from afar. Designed by Ludwig Lemmer, it’s located on the site of the original Protestant church of the same name. In need of a coffee break? We recommend stopping by Café Kranzler right by Kurfürstendamm station.
Amerika Haus – C/O Berlin
architect: Bruno Grimmek, 1957
Though not situated in Hansaviertel, Amerika Haus is part of Interbau 1957 and was designed by Bruno Grimmek. Until 2006, the building served as the cultural and information center of the United States of America in Berlin – spanning from a cinema, a library and exhibition spaces. In 2014, C/O Berlin moved to the Amerika Haus and was awarded the Berlin BDA Prize (Bund Deutscher Architekten) for its sensitive refurbishment and revitalization of the building. Ever since, the gallery has been showing exhibitions of international photographers and organized artist talks, lectures, workshops, seminars, and guided tours.
Did you know that: Bruno Grimmek designed many underground train stations in Berlin in the style of the New Objectivity, including Turmstraße, Borsigwerke, and Afrikanische Straße.
Our tour now leads us to Ernst-Reuter-Platz. In close vicinity to two universities, the University of the Arts and the Technische Universität, the Bauhaus-Archiv has set up its temporary home here, while the museum is being renovated and extended. Right next to it and in the same building, you can also find Manufactum, a German retailer with a focus on household and garden goods made with traditional manufacturing methods and materials.
The Temporary Bauhaus-Archiv is situated in Haus Hardenberg. Built in 1955/1956 by architect Paul Schwebes it’s considered one of the most significant office and commercial buildings of postwar modernism in West-Berlin. In its temporary home, the Bauhaus-Archiv sets out in search of new issues, tasks, and discoveries and serves as a place of learning. Here, you can also find information on the new museum building and the Bauhaus centenary and shop Bauhaus design pieces.
To reach the next stop on our tour, the Georg Kolbe Museum, you now follow the Kaiserdamm. The long and busy road leads all traffic arriving from the south and west towards Mitte and makes you feel the sheer size of Berlin. In your mirror, you’ll see the Victory Column, one of the city’s landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
Georg Kolbe Museum
architects: Ernst Rentsch & Paul Linder, 1929
Built as a studio and home for artist Georg Kolbe, who worked with famous Bauhaus architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bruno Taut and Walter Gropius, The Georg Kolbe Museum is an important example of Berlin architecture from the 1920s. It’s the only accessible artist’s studio of this epoch and is regarded as a prominent reminiscence of the art city of Berlin and its far-reaching internationality in the Weimar Republic. In 1950, the building was opened to the public as Georg Kolbe Museum as the first museum in West Berlin after the Second World War.
Did you know that: Georg Kolbe was enthusiastic about the architecture of modernism and even intervened in the building’s design. In the estate of the museum, there are several building plans with comments by Kolbe.
While you’re driving to the next stop on our tour, Le Corbusier House, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of it over the tree edge. Once you’re entering the driveaway and about to turn the last corner, prepare to be wowed as the building reveals its full size.
Le Corbusier House
architect: Le Corbusier, 1957
The building was adapted to Berlin from a prototype that Le Corbusier had twice previously realized in France. In 1957, Corbusier was one of the most influential architects in the world – his building was, therefore, an important contribution to Interbau. Due to its size — the complex has 527 apartments — it was not built at Hansaviertel but on a hill near the Olympic Stadium. Typical for Le Corbusier is the elevation of the building on supports and the dimensions using his Modulor system. Just like Niemeyer’s design, Le Corbusier’s building had to be altered to meet the Berlin government’s requirements for social housing.
Did you know that: Although Salvador Dalí at one point considered Le Corbusier a friend, he was far from complimentary about him upon his death in 1965, calling his buildings “the ugliest and most unacceptable buildings in the world.”
It’s time to move on. Next up: Großsiedlung Siemensstadt. Built between 1929 and 1931 in the style of New Objectivity, the settlement was a joint work of the architects Walter Gropius, Otto Bartning, Fred Forbat, Hugo Häring, Paul R. Henning and Hans Scharoun, who also supplied the urban planning. The housing estate was intended to create small apartments for Siemens employees with low incomes. In 2008, it was included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. At the time, it communicated the new housing standards with good lighting and ventilation and was considered a pioneer in housing construction after the Second World War.
Hans Scharoun House
architect: Hans Scharoun, 1931
Hans Scharoun's building marks the entrance to the settlement from the southwest.
With the design elements derived from seafaring (command bridge, railing, and porthole), like some progressive architects of the 1920s, Scharoun wanted to use the positive image of seafaring - freedom, modernity, cosmopolitanism, rationalization - for his buildings. However, the building is popularly known as "armored cruisers,'' referring to the negative martial tradition of seafaring.
Did you know that: Hans Scharoun himself lived in the building for 30 years.
We’re now heading to the last stop on our tour, the AEG Turbine Factory, situated in the industrial district of Moabit. If in need of a break and some food and drink, why not make a stop at Arminiushalle, one of the few remaining market halls in Berlin, which was built in 1891.
AEG Turbine Factory
architect: Peter Behrens, 1909
Designed by Peter Behrens, one of the most important industrial designers of the early 20th century, the AEG Turbine Factory is an influential and well-known example of industrial architecture. The building features 100m long and 15m tall glass and steel walls on either side and was designed with such foresight that, 100 years later, it still serves the same purpose of producing turbines.
Did you know that: Peter Behrens was the teacher of Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and for a short time of Le Corbusier.
Interested in more Bauhaus content? Follow our social channels to see how unu celebrates 100 years of Bauhaus.
And now for our giveaway*. Want to win a Bauhaus-themed coffee table book to find out even more about the influential design school? Share your impressions of our Bauhaus Berlin Tour on Instagram using the hashtag #mybauhausride. We’ll select our favorite submissions to share on our channel and pick two lucky winners.
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