Tactile Model

Nikolai District: Referring Back to History

The Nikolai District was almost completely destroyed during World War II. Into the 1960s, the urban planners of the GDR rejected the idea of reconstructing old structures. An unrealized competition design from 1958 by the Kosel Collective planned a harbor basin for excursion steamboats here. As part of the planning for the celebration of Berlin’s 750th anniversary, it was decided in 1978 to reconstruct the district based on historical models, and the plan was carried out.

The left-hand tactile model shows the district based on a map from 1856. The buildings that were faithfully reconstructed in the 1980s are distinguished by color and by touch to make it easier to tell them apart. The center model offers an impression of the vision to expand the Spree River. On the right, you can touch the reconstructed urban structure.

Modell+Design, Technische Universität Berlin
Design: Anastasia Kuznetsova

Text for the models from left to right

  • 1856
  • 1958 (unbuilt)
  • 1983

Introduction to the Exhibition Section

The City as a Whole

In contrast to West Berlin, the eastern part of the city continued to build large developments of prefabricated housing well in the 1980s. The background was the enduring housing shortage, which the GDR leadership wanted to address by building as many as 230,000 new apartments from 1976 to 1990. For the celebration of Berlin’s 750th anniversary in 1987, a large part of this building program was to be implemented. The plan for that occasion was to present to the public the achievements made. New housing developments were built both in the center of the city and in open fields, for example in Prenzlauer Berg (Ernst-Thälmann-Park), Neu-Hohenschönhausen, and Marzahn. Their urban design is characterized by high-rises, usually with six or eleven stories, grouped around individually designed infrastructure buildings, some of which have already been teared down and others at risk of being demolished. In 1976, the reopening of the Bauhaus Building in Dessau was the GDR’s official recognition of the legacy of the Bauhaus, which it had ignored until then. As a result, prefabricated concrete-slab buildings, derived from principles of the modern architecture of the 1920s, were granted a new legitimacy.