Marzahn: The Place Myths of Social Housing

‘East of Lichtenberg is Marzahn-Hellesdorf, a late-1970s satellite town and perhaps Berlin’s least obvious sightseeing destination. Silo-like apartment blocks and soulless shopping precincts stretch for miles out towards the edge of the city in what has to be one of the most desolate of the city’s boroughs. However, this is Berlin for tens of thousands of Berliners, and worth a look for this reason alone.

‘To see the most enduring legacy of East Berlin, it’s probably best to go by day and not look too much like a tourist, as the area has a reputation for violence. It’s in places like this, all across the former GDR, that people are bearing the economic brunt of reunification – unemployment – and where you’ll see the worst effects caused by the collapse of a state that, for all its faults, ensured a certain level of social security for its citizens. Ironically, Marzahn was one of the GDR’s model new towns of the late-1970s – part of Honecker’s efforts to solve this country’s endemic housing shortage by providing modern apartments in purpose-built blocks with shopping facilities and social amenities to hand. The result here was several kilometres of high-rise developments housing 250,000 people, where, like similar developments in the West, things never quite worked according to plan, with the usual crime and drugs surfacing.’

The Rough Guide to Berlin (2011)


Architects for Social Housing

46 years on…

Tulse Hill_Hollamby_1969

Thanks to Sturgis, who are undertaking a green retrofit feasibility study for Cressingham Gardens, for sending us the set of original Tulse Hill drawings produced by Ted Hollamby for Lambeth Council in 1969. The beautiful cover image alone hints at more sensitive approach to urban design – the entire estate was planned around the existing trees on the site which give Cressingham Gardens so much of its character today. Here is Bodley Manor Way in drawings and in full use complete with kitchen gardens 46 years later.

We have since used the drawings in workshops with residents – a good starting point for thinking about the voids was to be able to discuss the existing designs and what to take from them. The full set is uploaded here: Full version Cress 1969 plans.

Block Type B

Ted Hollamby

Both Cressingham Gardens and Central Hill were designed by Ted Hollamby.

Senake has set up a Ted Hollamby Society  which has been supported by the William Morris Society.

20th Century Society have expressed an interest in a Ted Hollamby day (?)

We could look into organising tours around the estates? and or writing about them.