Berlin: Walking Tour through the Hansaviertel

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Explore the Hansaviertel, a unique neighbourhood famous for its modernist architecture from the 1950s. Discover how the Cold War rivalry between the East and West shaped this part of Berlin.

Highlights

  • Admire unique modernist architecture by Walter Gropius and Alvar Aalto
  • Discover how Cold War rivalry shaped the 1957 Interbau exhibition
  • Learn about the vibrant Jewish community of the old Hansaviertel
  • Witness the destruction of the quarter on Kristallnacht and the bombings of WWII

Description

Tucked between the Spree and the Tiergarten in the centre of Berlin, Hansaviertel is famous for its showcase of modernist buildings constructed after WWII. A product of Cold War rivalry, Hansaviertel reflects how the big ideas of the time impacted life in very tangible ways. But more than just looking at the buildings, we will uncover the stories of Berliners throughout 150 tumultuous years, including those residents who went on to shape Berlin and beyond, for better and for worse. We will explore what freedom meant to people in the Weimar Republic, in the 1920s and to West Berliners during the Cold War. Originally founded in the late 19th century at a time when Berlin’s population was ballooning, the Hansaviertel soon became home to many well-known figures. From revolutionaries, such as Rosa Luxemburg, to well-known artists such as Käthe Kollwitz, the inhabitants of this area left their mark on the world. But only decades after Hansaviertel’s founding, the Nazi dictatorship led to untold destruction in this flourishing neighbourhood. The lively Jewish community, their synagogues and schools, were desecrated by the Nazi terror on Kristallnacht in 1938. Finally, in the bombing of November 1943, the area was ultimately destroyed beyond any hope of repair. Out of the ashes of this destruction came the plans for the Hansaviertel as it is known today. It was a prestigious Cold War architectural experiment designed by some of the biggest names in international architecture at the time. In contrast to the imposing socialist boulevards of the East, it exhibits the West’s understanding of emancipated living and the meaning of the good life. Billed as a “city of tomorrow,” the Hansaviertel showcases early forms of modernist styles such as space age and deconstructivism. While public appreciation for these mid-century buildings has fluctuated greatly over the decades, the district still stands as a must-see gem of modernist design in the heart of Berlin.

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