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A Second Life for Berlin’s Plattenbau

The city is looking to the ubiquitous building type from its Communist past to help solve a housing crunch.
Berlin’s Senate has announced a project to add more units on top of already existing buildings in the city’s east, with a possible capacity of up to 50,000 new homes.
Berlin’s Senate has announced a project to add more units on top of already existing buildings in the city’s east, with a possible capacity of up to 50,000 new homes.Jan Bauer/AP

Berlin has decided on a novel location to host some of the new apartments the city badly needs—on top of the old ones.

Yesterday, Berlin’s Senate announced a project to add more units on top of already existing buildings in the city’s east, with a possible capacity of up to 50,000 new homes. The plan to add floors isn’t novel in itself, of course, even in Berlin. What’s striking is the specific type of building chosen for the experiment: East Berlin’s Plattenbau. These mass produced, partly prefabricated modernist apartment complexes (the name translates as “slab buildings” in reference to the concrete panels that form their walls) were put up in huge numbers during the Communist era. When a German thinks of a Communist-era building, a Plattenbau likely springs to mind.