The Berlin Block and the new Bourgeois Dwelling

Borsi, Katharina (2017) The Berlin Block and the new Bourgeois Dwelling. In: 70th Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, 7-11 Jun 2017, Glasgow, Scotland.

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The publication of Gustav Assmann’s Plans for Urban Dwellings (Grundrisse für städtische Wohngebäude) in 1862, in conjunction with the Berlin extension plan by James Hobrecht published the same year, signaled the emergence of the Berlin block as the ubiquitous urban typology that came to constitute the entire city. Assmann provided a catalogue of blocks in plan for various plot sizes, each showing small, medium and large apartments that could be flexibly adapted according to need. Representative of his time, Assmann conceived the block as an undifferentiated system that could house different categories of families, from the bourgeoisie to the working class, and, most importantly, a system that could flexibly adapt to accommodate the dynamically changing pattern of inhabitation corresponding to a mobile and fluctuating population. While Assmann’s plans show lines of continuity from the bourgeois apartment blocks of the Biedermeier, I argue that his book signals a new instrumentality of the plans of the block. From the 1860s onwards, they become key components in the discourse of the disciplines of reform: an emerging field of knowledge increasingly concerned with the spatial organisation and government of the entire city. This paper traces a dual trajectory of typological evolution and social reasoning between 1860 and 1900, evidenced by discussions in the Verein für Öffentliches Gesundheitswesen (Association for Public Health) and other bodies of reform. Questions arose surrounding the size and grouping of families, the inclusion and exclusion of servants, the size, adjacencies and hierarchies of rooms to retract and strengthen the as too loosely perceived bonds of the bourgeois family. In these discussions, the evolving plans of the block helped to articulate new norms and spatial values that contribute to a new understanding of the bourgeoisie as protecting not only the value of the family, but also the security of the city itself.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Berlin Block, Tenement, Hobrecht, Assmann, Mietshaus, Housing
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Architecture and Built Environment
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Depositing User: Borsi, Katharina
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2017 10:38
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:49

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