Adaptive Re-Use


ISBN 978-3-86859-611-3





Maren Harnack

Natalie Heger

Matthias Brunner

Strategies for Post-War

Modernist Housing

7 Introduction

Maren Harnack, Natalie Heger, Matthias Brunner

17 Larger_Taller_Denser

Post-War Modernist Housing

in the Stuttgart Region

Martin Hahn

27 Large-Scale Heritage

A Conservation Perspective

on Late Modernist Housing

Mark Escherich

37 Highly Visible & Highly Valuable

Big Housing Estates of the Boom Years

Silke Langenberg

47 Multi-Storey Housing in Britain

A Historical and Heritage Overview

Miles Glendinning

59 The Crux of Inward Development

Stefan Kurath, Simon Mühlebach

67 Maintenance, Repair, and Renovation

of the Finnish Post-War Housing Stock

Tapani Mustonen

75 Wolfsburg

Preserving Urban Design in

Neighbourhoods Built Between

1938 and 1968

Susanne Dreissigacker, Nicole Froberg

85 Future Prospects for the Neue Vahr

An Interdisciplinary Approach to

Drafting a Leitbild

Katja-Annika Pahl

95 Conservation or Replacement

of Large Housing Estates?

Experiences from Bijlmermeer,

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Frank Wassenberg

105 That’s How It Works!

Replacing the Student Housing Complex

in the Olympic Village, Munich

Natalie Heger

115 Preserving the Legacy of Álvaro Siza

Teresa Cunha Ferreira, José Aguiar

125 Bremer Punkt

Serial Diversity

John Klepel

135 Authors

140 Image Credits

144 Imprint


planning policy, post-war neighbourhoods are all more or less

worthless. Open spaces will inevitably go to rack and ruin, so it

is maintained, because they are not clearly identifiable as either

private or public and therefore not used. Post-war modernist

neighbourhoods are also often subject to densification because

they are usually owned by a single or a few large, often even

public, landlords, and this makes them the easiest location to

implement infill development.

In many ways, it would be regrettable to lose all post-war

neighbourhoods. Most of these estates now fulfil the socially

important task of providing high-quality housing at a reasonable

price, and more cheaply than new housing estates. Many of

these housing schemes are important historical witnesses. They

represent the solution to the housing crisis which arose from

industrialisation and was only overcome thanks to industrialised

construction methods. They bear testament to the young Federal

Republic’s efforts to form a new, egalitarian and democratically

constituted society. Some of these housing schemes are

also outstanding architectural and urban design achievements.

This is why we must urgently find ways to preserve at least

the most important estates. Crucially, entire neighbourhoods,

including open spaces, must be saved for posterity, not merely

select individual buildings. Only by doing so can we ensure that

overall urban designs remain intelligible. However, apart from a

few important exceptions, it will not be possible or sensible to

keep all of the individual buildings within entire neighbourhoods

as close to the original as possible. This would result in an excessive

number of monuments and would hardly be acceptable

to society at large. Furthermore, the achievement in terms of

Baukultur is often due to the interplay among large numbers of

generic buildings rather than the design of individual outstanding

buildings. Generally, the challenge will thus be to develop

appropriate development control or conservation tools to protect

urban ensembles. Compared to object-based listing, this

type of conservation would be particularly helpful in making it

simpler to deal with the public realm, which is subject to an especially

large number of new demands, such as for access and

traffic safety.

The debate around preserving exemplary post-war neighbourhoods

is still open. As yet, there is no agreement as to which

schemes to preserve, or how to do so. In providing a platform

for different views, this book aims to highlight possible


1 The low-rise high-densitiy housing estate Roter Hang in Kronberg

has been designated as a conservation area in 2016.


conservation options and approaches and ultimately to promote

the preservation of these neighbourhoods. The first section will

focus on discussing fundamental issues around listing and preserving

post-war modernist neighbourhoods.

Martin Hahn reports on the State Conservation Bureau

of Baden-Württemberg’s systematic recording and evaluating

of post-war modernist neighbourhoods. This allowed some

smaller, high-quality housing estates to be listed, but all of the

larger schemes had already been changed too much to be protected.

He proposes using planning law to protect these estates

from further detrimental change.

Mark Escherich explores how East German conservation

authorities deal with large housing estates. He notes the current

trend towards listing the last, unchanged specimens, even if only

their authenticity sets them apart from mediocrity. With this in

mind, he argues that urban ensembles should not be fundamentally

excluded from listing, simply because minor changes have

already taken place.

Silke Langenberg emphasises that adequately handling

post-war modernist neighbourhoods requires a precise knowledge

of the history of construction methods. This knowledge

paves the way for protecting even apparently banal system

buildings and developing better refurbishment strategies. She

also suggests applying innovative post-war construction methods

to today’s building practice.

In his contribution, Miles Glendinning observes that only

one of two key strands in British post-war modernist housing is

reflected in the current listing practice. Development dominated

by innovative design ideas from London’s architectural elite

is perfectly reflected, but local diversity arising from local authorities’

independently organised housing delivery is largely


Stefan Kurath and Simon Mühlebach set out two criteria

for raising density in post-war neighbourhoods which are primarily

significant urban design ensembles: the key qualities in

terms of urban design and open space must be preserved, and

the increase in density must deliver a benefit to society. They

maintain that the latter cannot be achieved if too much cheap

housing is destroyed, or the number of residents is not raised;

and that their criteria can best be met by adding storeys and

extensions rather than by replacement buildings, as rents in new

buildings are almost always higher.


2 Walter Schwagenscheidt’s and Tassilo Sittmann’s Nordweststadt in

Frankfurt is the only Raumstadt-type neighbourhood. Despite its

undisputed importance plans for its conservation are non-existent.


3 Im Schneider residential complex, Waiblingen.

typical appearance and the housing schemes’ varied syntax of

large apartment blocks, terraced housing and individual houses

remains recognisable. Closer inspection, however, reveals massive

reconfiguration, such as open floors being now enclosed,

extensions and conversions in different materials, structural and

energetic upgrades and much more of the like. Buildings of the

1960s and 1970s are very susceptible to alterations, and authenticity—so

central to the protection of monuments—is all too

easily lost. The housing schemes’ worth as witnesses of the

boom years in urban development in Germany is considerably


By contrast, individual buildings dominating the urban

context, often designed by well-known architects, remain comparatively

well preserved. Being structurally well executed, these

neighbourhood beacons, such as Hans Scharoun’s Romeo and

Juliet, Salute and Orplid towers, meet the quality benchmarks

as individual monuments. Other evident legacies include ambitiously

designed and well-built (smaller) housing schemes, usually

penned by renowned designers and built for an affluent



4 ‘Himmelsleitern’, Hemmingen.

Two remarkable high-rise buildings in Hemmingen in the Ludwigsburg

district are examples of architectural beacons in a

wider neighbourhood. Located on the fringes of an old village,

Paul Stohrer, one of the most prominent post-war architects in

the Stuttgart area, built the so-called ‘Sky Ladders’ (Himmelsleitern)

in 1971–74. 3 They are supremely emblematic of the search

for new forms of high-rise housing during the early 1970s, a time

of growing criticism of ‘inhospitable’ contemporary urban planning,

and a sense of fatigue with plain ‘concrete boxes’.

Around this time, high-rise and terraced housing was being

combined at the Apollo complex in Freiberg, one of Stuttgart’s

satellite neighbourhoods, whilst the Schnitz or Tapachstrasse

pyramid houses explored completely new typologies and structures.

Stohrer’s idiosyncratic, almost futuristic-looking variation

on the high-rise in Hemmingen must be seen within this context

of dense housing development.

The Im Schneider housing estate in Waiblingen, near Stuttgart,

is a prime example of the exclusive, high-quality, residential

complex. Hans Kammerer and Walter Belz brilliantly exploited

a vertiginous site, stacking 34 single-family homes on top of

3 Edeltrud Geiger-Schmidt,

‘“Hemminger Himmelsleitern”:

Die zukunftsweisenden

Terrassenhochhäuser des

Wohnparks Schlossgut’,

Denkmalpflege in Baden-

Württemberg 41, no. 2 (2012),

pp. 119–20.


Historical monument preservation authorities can provide professional

support for this process, especially in terms of evaluation

and sorting. However, responsibility should be shared and

should also be focused on what is to be protected: historical

monument preservation authorities can offer up their expertise,

working with owners to preserve particularly illustrative objects.

Municipalities should take responsibility for second tier items

worthy of protection and use tried and tested urban planning

tools to protect their structure and general appearance, especially

in large mass housing developments. Even beyond the

reach of historical monument preservation, interesting examples

of urban planning from the past can be guided into the future

without completely losing the charm of their time.

Above all, post-war modernist housing and neighbourhood

development still requires a great deal of dissemination

work. These developments are still often regarded as remnants

of a ‘less glorious chapter of German building history’ 7 , which

one is free to alter at will. New enthusiasm for the legacy of postwar

modernism, a growing fan base in social media, e.g. for brutalism,

8 plus a considerable number of conferences on this complex

of issues and increasing university research activity, raises

hopes that it is not yet too late for the preservation and meaningful

further development of post-war modernist neighbourhoods.

The project also highlights that time is progressing ever

faster. Already, it is time to think of the 1980s and 1990s. Postmodernism

and the paradigm shift in urban redevelopment after

1975, and the transition from neighbourhood redevelopment to

conservation and renewal, have also produced objects worthy

of protection that can be legally assigned cultural monument

status. The State Conservation Bureau of Baden-Württemberg

has thus already included individual outstanding objects from

this even more recent period in its list of monuments. 9

7 Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani,

Die Stadt im 20. Jahrhundert:

Visionen, Entwürfe,

Gebautes (Berlin: Wagenbach,

2010), p. 718.

8 See

(last accessed 13 April 2020).

9 Martin Hahn, ‘75 reloaded’,

in Jahresbericht der Bau- und


Baden-Württemberg 2019 (in


Large-Scale Heritage

A Conservation Perspective

on Late Modernist Housing

Mark Escherich

The late modern legacy—post-war modernism of the 1960s to

the 1980s—is now gaining more and more interest across and

beyond disciplinary boundaries. This has obvious implications

for research into architectural and planning history, but also for

practice. For example, around 60 per cent of Europe’s current

building stock was built during the second half of the twentieth

century. Economic, environmental, and social considerations

alone make a debate around responsibly managing, improving,

and further developing this large-scale heritage seem inevitable.

Preserving the Heritage

Environmental concerns and resource awareness are increasingly

gaining weight in the professional conservation discourse.

And yet contemporary buildings also continue to gain heritage

status on the basis of conventional considerations. Thus, the

general public’s appetite for preserving buildings from the 1960s

to 1980s is growing, whether for remembrance, historical reassurance,

orientation, pride, or a sense of home.

Completed in 2017, the research project ‘Which Monuments

of Which Modernity?’ (Welche Denkmale welcher Moderne?) identified

a need to make key changes to the underlying objectives

for preserving late modern buildings. This included recognising

the need for conservation practice to preserve credible architectural

monuments in all their complexity, and for listing practice to

acknowledge this era’s ‘significantly greater monument potential’ 1

1 ‘Das bauliche Erbe der

1960er bis 80er Jahre:

Auswahl, Akteure, Strategien’,

working paper of the BMBF

research project ‘Welche

Denkmale welcher Moderne?’,

Technische Universität

Dortmund and Bauhaus-Universität

Weimar in collaboration

with various partners in

conservation practice,

published in Die Denkmalpflege

75, no. 1 (2017), pp.


Final publication: Frank

Eckardt, Hans-Rudolf Meier,

Ingrid Scheurmann, and

Wolfgang Sonne, eds., Welche

Denkmale welcher Moderne?

Zum Umgang mit Bauten der

1960er und 70er Jahre (Berlin:

Jovis, 2017).

Large-Scale Heritage

3 Karl-Marx-Allee phase II, Berlin, detail of ceramic tile replica façade.

Beyond Heritage Conservation

The heritage conservation approach reaches its limits when

there is a need to take aspects into account that reach beyond

the fabric and appearance of the object to be protected—for

example, if a megastructure should be read as the momentary

configuration of a dynamic system, as Hnilica puts it. Hence the

Free University of Berlin’s famous ‘rust bucket’ (Rostlaube) does

not represent a finished design: in fact, it can be extended in

tune with its urban design, even if the architectural expression

is very different. 10

The suitability of conservation’s focus on being able to

describe what is to be protected can also be questioned when

it comes to system-built schemes. In theory, standard prefabricated

elements allow for unlimited growth, and so ‘further system-based

construction’ 11 seems an obvious and possibly

10 On the so-called ‘wooden

shack’ (Holzlaube) extension

from 2010 onwards, see

Hnilica, Der Glaube an das

Grosse in der Architektur der

Moderne (above, n. 7), p. 246.

11 Ibid., p. 245.


4 Ernst-Thälmann-Park tower blocks, Berlin. In 2014, the estate was

listed as a conservation area and the buildings as individual monuments.

promising approach to future conservation. Both Hnilica and

Silke Langenberg (who has researched late modern construction

systems in depth) favour approaches of this kind. 12

In future, conservation through further construction (in

large-scale late modern developments) may come to naturally

complement real-estate and conservation-driven approaches,

or even be profitably combined with them. Scientifically observing

and evaluating these practices for future use is certainly an

interesting task.

12 Silke Langenberg, Das

Marburger Bausystem:

Offenheit als Prinzip (Sulgen:

Niggli, 2013); Silke Langenberg,

Bauten der Boomjahre:

Architektonische Konzepte und

Planungstheorien der 60er und

70er Jahre (Dortmund: Wulff,

2011); see also her contribution

to this volume.

Highly Visible & Highly Valuable

1972 ELEMENTA competition, which aimed to ‘realise buildings

of different shapes and sizes with different functionally adequate

floor plans using only a few standardised prefabricated elements’.

16 The entry submitted by Neue Heimat’s design department

under the direction of Paul Seitz received only third prize;

post 1973, its cross-wall construction system with load-bearing

transverse walls and a span of 7.20 metres was used in-house

for projects in Hannover, Oberhausen and Hamburg (Mümmelmannsberg

estate). 17 The façade panels and partition walls were

not load-bearing, allowing the flats to be arranged very flexibly;

for the tenants, however, this flexibility was often limited to adding

an extra wall to create separate bedrooms for the children. 18

Besides the prefabrication of standardised elements in factories,

various new and improved formwork technologies were developed

further and tested directly on construction sites from the

mid-1960s onwards. While climbing and sliding formwork was

increasingly used for installing shafts and stair cores in tall buildings,

formwork carriages, or displaceable formwork facilitated

cross-wall construction. 19

Improvement and Architectural


16 ‘Fertigteilbau: Elementa 72’,

Deutsche Bauzeitung 110, no. 7

(1976), pp. 21–38, p. 22.

17 ‘Die Wohnung passt sich der

Familie an’, NHM, no. 1

(1973), pp. 13–22.

18 Peter M. Bode, ‘Verschiebbare

Wände im Schneckenhaus’,

Der Spiegel, 14 July

1975, pp. 40–44.

19 See Rolf-Dieter Kowalski,

Schaltechnik im Betonbau

(Düsseldorf: Werner, 1977);

Oskar M. Schmitt, Einführung

in die Schaltechnik des

Betonbaues (Düsseldorf:

Werner, 1981).

The goal of adaptable floor plans potentially eases the current

improvement and redevelopment of many boom year developments.

The same is true for their structure and construction

techniques. In particular, cross-wall structures with non-loadbearing

interior walls ease adaptation to contemporary needs: 20

Small rooms, which today’s inhabitants might find too tight, can

be merged into one; curtain wall façades can be adapted to

current climate, energy and design requirements. Technically,

these improvements are comparatively easy to carry out, unless

buildings are individually protected historic monuments. 21 They

improve resource efficiency, as most grey energy is stored in

the heavy loadbearing walls and ceilings. Greater public support

can be expected if the façade design is updated at the same

time. The time and cost required for more flexibility—a conscious

investment at the time of construction—can only pay off if the

upcoming redevelopments make use of it. It is only now, about

fifty years into the life of the buildings, that we may (or may not)

be able to prove whether these costs were justified.

20 Some of the most prominent

examples are designed by the

architects Anne Lacaton and

Jean Philippe Vassal, e.g. the

Tour Bois le Prêtre in Paris

(2011) or the Transformation

of 530 dwellings, block G, H, I

in Bordeaux (2016).

21 An example for the improvement

of a façade of a

cross-wall constructed (listed)

building is the Cité Le Lignon

near Geneva. See Jürg Graser,

‘Der Koloss von Genf’,

Deutsche Bauzeitung db 149,

no. 2 (2015), pp. 88–91.


5 Plettstrasse development, Munich-Neuperlach, 2014.

Multi-Storey Housing in Britain

A Historical and Heritage


Miles Glendinning

In this paper, we will first review the unique, specific characteristics

of social housing in Britain as opposed to elsewhere, organisationally

and architecturally, and then, secondly, will examine

whether those special characteristics helped shape the

selection of high-rise social housing for statutory protection, or

‘listing’ as it is called in Britain—a system which, incidentally, is

in general much broader and shallower in coverage than the

monuments historiques system in France, and split between a

process of designation by central government inspectors, usually

art-historically trained, and subsequent administration by

planners—as opposed to the integrated role of dedicated heritage

professionals as with German Denkmalpflege.

Building Public Housing in Britain:

a Municipal Kaleidoscope

Historically, the key special characteristic of post-war social

housing in Britain is highlighted in the very name that is usually

used for it there—‘council housing’. Whereas in Germany and

other western European continental countries it was mainly

arms-length bodies that organised social housing (public agencies

or social housing companies or co-operatives), things were

very different in the Anglophone countries in general. There,

tenure was absolutely dominant. Housing was either public housing,

directly organised and built by public authorities, or private.

Multi-Storey Housing in Britain

1 Portsmouth Road, London.

And in Britain, the polarisation went even further: from 1919 to

around 1990, public housing was almost entirely public rental

housing, built, owned, and managed directly by the larger local

authorities—hence the name, ‘council housing’. Council housing’s

very name highlights the fact that its central decision-makers

were elected local politicians, and that it was a direct extension

of local politics. In this system, central government exerted

only a relatively weak influence, via subsidy rates—municipal

power reigned supreme. 1

Between 1945 and 1965, council housing accounted for

57.8 per cent of all new dwellings in Britain. Within the semi-federal

system of Britain, however, there was a significant further

divergence between Scotland, where council housing became

overwhelmingly dominant, and England and Wales, where council

housing and home ownership flourished in parallel. In Scotland,

the vast new schemes catered for lower middle class and working

class, skilled and unskilled alike, and rents were exceptionally

low—less than half of English levels in 1959. Overall per-capita

public-housing output in Scotland from 1945 to 1970 was

1 Steve Merrett, State Housing

in Britain (London: Routledge,



2 Roehampton Lane, London.

twice that of England and Wales, and by the early 1960s, the

proportion of all housing directly built by public agencies in Scotland

(79 per cent) was much higher than that of any other Western

country: in Glasgow between 1960 and 1975, 95 per cent of

new housing was council-built. Central-government politicians

and civil servants trembled in the long shadow of Glasgow and

its municipal Housing Committee: ‘Glasgow Corporation was

the power in the land—no Minister sitting in Edinburgh could do

much about Glasgow!’ 2

In many ways, however, the underlying approaches to

public housing development were similar in both Scotland and

England. For example, both placed a huge emphasis on ‘slum

clearance’ redevelopment of ‘obsolete’ housing by the big industrial

cities in their inner areas, as opposed to the peripheral

grands ensembles/Grosssiedlungen of most continental countries.

Partly, this was because the early suppression of private

landlords had caused faster housing decay than in many other

countries, and partly because the municipalities had gained far

more radical powers than in West Germany for compulsory

2 Miles Horsey, Tenements and

Towers: Working-Class Housing

in Glasgow (Edinburgh:

RCAHMS, 1990), p. 35.

Multi-Storey Housing in Britain

5 Hutcheon Street, Aberdeen.


emphasis on architectural individualism (notably Lambeth and

Southwark, with high rise blocks, and Camden, with low rise).

The greatest enthusiasts for LCC-style ‘enlightened’ design were

the New Towns, whose governance by appointed administrators

insulated them from local municipal housing politics. Smaller

and more run-of-the-mill ‘provincial’ towns looked up to all these

as exemplars. To a councillour from the West Midlands town of

Halesowen, visiting London in 1960, Hackney Borough Council’s

fifteen-storey towers at Paragon Road (1957) ‘made his own

authority, which thought it was progressive, look like a snail which

had lost its way’. 5

The ‘canonical story’ of post-war housing architecture is

almost entirely focused on elite designers, in and around London.

In London, in 1945, flats in some form seemed unavoidable, despite

the general English (but not Scottish) distrust of urban flats.

The first post-war modernist council flats were designed by

young private practices reacting against stodgy interwar galleried

‘block dwellings’ in favour of a mainstream modernist approach,

using long slabs arranged in Zeilenbau groups. Examples

include the Hallfield estate by Denys Lasdun and Tecton (from

1949), or Powell & Moya’s Pimlico, from 1947. By the late 1940s,

however, many designers were clamouring that council housing

needed greater architectural diversity. In response, the ‘mixed

development’ concept emerged, picturesquely combining low

and high block types, including at least some terraced houses

and some towers. From 1950, the LCC designers led this initiative,

and all major estates became mixed developments, the

prime exemplars being at Roehampton: Alton East-Portsmouth

Road (from 1952–53, by the ‘soft’ faction, with point blocks and

red brick terraces) and Roehampton Lane (from 1955, with concrete

‘Corbusian’ slabs, by the ‘hards’). 6

Compared to the point block, slab blocks in the Gropius/

Hilberseimer tradition were less popular overall, despite the efforts

of the LCC Hard faction, and also of some private architects

such as Ernö Goldfinger, in his two inner London estates

in Paddington and the East End. From the later 1950s, however,

avant-garde housing designers (led by the Smithsons and others)

rejected both extremes (tower and slab) for a more complex

pattern of conglomerate designs—the leading example being

the Park Hill project in Sheffield, with its pioneering deck-access

network, designed by city architect Lewis Womersley’s famous

department—probably the only example of a top-rate leading

5 Miles Glendinning and

Stefan Muthesius, Tower Block

(London: Yale University

Press, 1994), p. 162.

6 Muthesius and Glendinning,

Towers for the Welfare State

(above, n. 4).

The Crux of Inward Development

development, such as nineteenth-century urban extensions, in

that the quality of their entire urban design can suffer from the

ill-considered replacement of even a few structural elements.

It is crucial to consider how post-war housing estates’ structural

urban design can be preserved, ensuring that future generations

can experience the urban design ideas and social ideals

of this era.

Protecting Structures Rather Than Objects

The Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites (ISOS) equips Switzerland

with a tool to consider and evaluate entire locations’ quality of

place, including their structural urban design attributes. In this

assessment, relationships between individual elements and

open spaces are more important than individual buildings. This

provides a basis for addressing urban densification and renewal

in post-war neighbourhoods, taking their structural urban

design and open space qualities into account. And yet the drive

for inward development is placing ISOS under pressure; the

current political debate frames it as an obstacle to inward development

rather than as a call to attend to the qualities of the

existing built environment. 5

The Stadtlandschaften verdichten publication launched

in 2018 draws on research departing from the initial thesis that

post-war neighbourhoods provide opportunities for urban densification,

even whilst handing their architectural and cultural

attributes on to posterity. 6

Assessing the quality of urban design and open space

before and after urban densification in German and Swiss best

practice case studies helped develop criteria and strategies to

redevelop these types of neighbourhoods whilst respecting

their characteristics in terms of design culture. Scrutiny of already

densified neighbourhoods revealed the importance of

developers’ awareness for the existing built environment’s qualities,

and the selection of adequate quality assurance procedures

such as architecture and urban design competitions.

Specifically, it emerged that, rather than preventing inward

development, instruments such as ISOS hinder inept, knee-jerk

redevelopment urges.

5 ‘The Director of Building

Department of the Canton of

Zurich has […] expressed his

concern about the continuous

updating of ISOS for the

Canton of Zurich. He fears

challenges, particularly to the

implementation of the revised

RPG (Spatial Planning Act)

target for increased inward

development.’ ‘Der Baudirektor

des Kantons Zürich hat […]

seine Besorgnis über die

laufende Aktualisierung des

ISOS für den Kanton Zürich

mitgeteilt. Schwierigkeiten

befürchtet er insbesondere bei

der Umsetzung des mit dem

revidierten RPG erteilten

Auftrags einer verstärkten

Siedlungsentwicklung nach

innen.’ (Bundesamt für

Raumentwicklung ARE, ‘ISOS

und Verdichtung: Bericht der

Arbeitsgruppe’, 2016, p. 4,




(last accessed 28 November


6 Anke Domschky, Stefan

Kurath, Simon Mühlebach, and

Urs Primas, Stadtlandschaften

verdichten: Strategien zur

Erneuerung des baukulturellen

Erbes der Nachkriegszeit

(Zurich: Triest, 2018).


Urban Densification Destroys (Affordable)


Following the Stadtlandschaften verdichten publication, it became

apparent that certain housing policy issues had been

given insufficient attention. For example, it transpired that the

inept replacement of post-war neighbourhoods leads to a destruction

of affordable housing. This is because it is often forgotten

that apartments in post-war neighbourhoods are amongst

the cheapest because they are often either owned by cooperatives

who rent them out at cost (i.e. not for profit), or because

these older, smaller apartments do not justify high rents. 7

Emphasis is often placed on low-cost housing when housing

estates of this kind are replaced, and these efforts are fairly

successful in comparison to new, market-rate housing. However,

additional environmental, technological, and building regulations,

and the adaptation of layouts and space standards to

match today’s expectations, make rents considerably more

expensive than those of existing buildings. This drives residents

barely able to afford the new homes out of the neighbourhood.

A suitable strategy in this case is to replace only parts of the

neighbourhood. This helps maintain cheaper living space. Simultaneously,

bespoke housing offers can diversify neighbourhoods

and make them attractive for people of all ages and lifestyles.

This strategy also makes it possible to change homes

within the neighbourhood, with the advantage that residents

can stay in the neighbourhood if their personal living conditions

change. Providing people whose children have moved out with

smaller, less expensive apartments helps reduce the number of

under-occupied family apartments, facilitating a generational

change. 8 This strategy has the advantage of letting structurally

less significant elements of the development be replaced in

order to improve the neighbourhood’s overall urban design.

The replacement of buildings has revealed a further issue,

insufficiently explored in the Stadtlandschaften verdichten publication.

Investigating urban densification projects revealed that

a denser built fabric does not always result in more apartments

and residents in the neighbourhood. During the post-war period,

the main concern was to use limited funds to create new housing

for as many people as possible. Since then, increasing prosperity

has seen a manifold expansion in living space per capita.

Correspondingly, apartments in replacement buildings usually

7 As of 2017, Swiss average

rent levels according to period

of construction are lowest in

buildings built between 1946

and 1970. Cf. Schweizerische

Eidgenossenschaft, Bundesamt

für Statistik, ‘Durchschnittlicher

Mietpreis in Franken

nach Bauperiode und Zimmerzahl,

nach Grossregion’,


assetdetail.7346199.html (last

accessed 28 November 2019);

As of 2017, the difference in

average rent levels per square

metre is less pronounced, but

identifiable, between post-war

buildings and buildings

completed during the last ten

years. cf Schweizerische

Eidgenossenschaft, Bundesamt

für Statistik, ‘Durchschnittlicher

Mietpreis pro m2 nach

Bauperiode und Kanton’,


7346199.html (last accessed

21 January 2020).

8 See John Klepel’s contribution

to this volume.

The Crux of Inward Development

3 Bebelallee estate, Hamburg. At the Bebelallee housing estate, up

to two floors are added to existing buildings. The unchanged footprint

preserves trees and shrubs. Existing apartments are refurbished.

At double height, the altered buildings fundamentally change the

perception of open space.

consume significantly more floor space for the same number of

rooms. Frequently, the absence of occupancy regulations allows

one-person and two-person households to occupy four and

five-room apartments. This results in greater physical, but not

social density, which is diametrically opposed to inward development’s

actual objectives. The increasing consumption of land

and resources urgently necessitates an examination of living

space per capita, such as research into generously designed

apartments on small floor plans. Therefore, new-build redevelopment

actually only makes sense if it increases the number of

residents in the neighbourhood.

Some of the projects analysed in Stadtlandschaften verdichten

address the dual challenge of raising density in tune

with criteria for design culture whilst also protecting affordable

housing. It appears that new-build replacements are of limited

interest to owners of buildings in Germany because of protective

tenancy laws. For example, neither of the two Hamburg

case studies Bebelallee and Altenhagener Weg even took replacement

buildings into consideration. Instead, floors were

added on top of the existing structures and, in the case of


4 Tscharnergut estate, Bern. A three-metre extension of slabs to the

west allows buildings to be adapted to meet current energy and

earthquake safety requirements. No longer present as it existed before

densification, the original façade design is reinstated. This extension

also allows a diversification of housing stock.

Maintenance, Repair, and Renovation of the Finnish Post-War Housing Stock

1 Hilding Ekelund, apartment building at Pohjolankatu 43, Helsinki,

1952, before façade renovation.

phase, usually either led by architects or individually from architects

and engineers, and then for the actual renovation work

from building companies. Hence, no emphasis is put on quality

(contrary to public procurements) and the decisions are made

based on lowest costs only. When housing companies are doing

plumbing renovations, the main designer is usually an HPAC engineer,

which means that the architect has limited possibilities

to influence common repair principles and solutions.

Repair Strategies

As mentioned above, the practice of doing comprehensive renovations

has prevailed over the past decades. This means that

renovations usually include all technical fields; thus, residents

need to vacate their homes for six to twelve months. A benefit of

comprehensive renovation projects is that all the construction

work can be done at once, and the inconvenience for the residents

is minimised. The downside is that, in a comprehensive

renovation, the time and money available for design and building


2 Hilding Ekelund, apartment building at Pohjolankatu 43, Helsinki,

1952, after façade renovation by Arkkitehdit Mustonen Oy (2008–11).

is insufficient for designing and implementing all details with

sufficient care. A general rule is that the more comprehensive

the renovation project, the more likely it is that the authenticity

of the building will suffer and the quality of the details will be

bad. Careful explorations of alternatives and discussions of

principles are often lacking; only broad outlines are considered

and details and nuances are ignored. In comprehensive one-off

repairs, the buildings suffer.

The 2010s brought the principles of continuous maintenance

and repairs into consideration again. In particular, repairing

structural components and technical systems of buildings

constructed before the arrival of prefabrication, such as brick

laid on site piece by piece, has become more popular. This

approach is supported by the new Housing Companies Act,

which requires the boards of directors of limited liability housing

companies to update their short-term and long-term repair

lists annually.


1 Halbehof, historical view.

category includes the Steimker Berg executive housing estate

of the 1930s, and the Höfe worker housing built during the National-Socialist

era. In these monument groups, protection extends

to the urban layout, façades and open-air facilities, as well

as any interior elements pertaining to the monument, even if the

latter have often not (yet) been decisively recorded. Research

and conservation work on ancillary open spaces and elements

essential to the design of group monuments—and thus worthy

of protection—has also been inadequate.

More recent buildings, some of which are today considered

worthy of protection, have so far received little attention in

the designation of monuments. Individual monuments have been

added, but Lower Saxony’s State Office for Monument Preservation

has only recently initiated a systematic update. Therefore,

since 2006, Wolfsburg has kept a list of proposals for ‘Buildings

and sites of the 1960s and 1970s worth protecting’, but this is

not a legally binding instrument.

This paper will present three example strategies for housing

estates worthy of protection. These include the inner-city

Höfe neighbourhood (built during the city’s founding in the


2 Höfe, entrance detail, 2009.

National-Socialist years), the Wellekamp housing estate (built

during the years of growth and development), and Detmerode (a

satellite city typical of new urban design in the century of the ‘Athens

Charter’). The different strategies seek to exploit funding opportunities

whilst taking into account relevant legal circumstances.

The Höfe

Building work on the neighbourhood began when the city was

founded (in 1938) and ended four years later, making it one of

the first housing estates in Wolfsburg. 3 The development merges

garden city ideas with National-Socialist mass housing construction.

Its architecture features multi-storey blocks of flats

with continuous building lines, constant eave heights, and uniform

render façades. The entire complex conforms to a strict

axial design. Criss-crossed by their own network of pedestrian

and cycle paths, green courtyard spaces offered communal

areas and tenants’ allotments. 4 The two- to three-storey buildings

usually accommodate fifty-square-metre apartments of

two-and-a-half rooms, intended for a family of four.

3 Urban design: Peter Koller


4 Open space design: Wilhelm

Heintz (1888–1966).


5 View from Don Camillo tower block to the new Detmerode neighbourhood.

windows required only partial renewal. Another finding was that

the average cost of reconditioning even severely-damaged timber

box-type double windows was lower than that of replacing

them with completely new windows that complied with the preservation

order. The heritage value of refurbishing windows (seen

as expensive) and of refurbishing the estate as a whole requires

skilful advocacy in the current debate.


In the case of the listed Wellekamp housing estate, built for

Volkswagen factory workers in 1955–58, explaining the heritage

value of both the outdoor and indoor design is equally challenging.

10 The estate includes eight four-storey residential terraces

fanned out around a green centre, and one tower block. The

white volumes float above a dark plinth. Designed as affordable

housing for the lower middle class, and relatively small by today’s

standards (57 square metres), flats are now mainly inhabited by

pensioners. Façades and interiors are sparse, but nonetheless

10 Urban design: Paul

Baumgarten (1900–1984);

Landscape design: Walter

Rossow (1910–1992).


6 Detmerode, entrance detail, 2013.

very well thought through. Latter-day thermal insulation has

substantially altered the terraces’ original filigree design, which

featured steel bars accentuating windows and balconies.

Façades are currently being refurbished in order to re-instate

the strength of the original architectural design. Particular

attention is being paid to reclaiming even minor design details,

such as the distinctive window paintwork.

Parts of the building fabric (such as the flats’ spatial structure

and floor plan, the terrazzo floors in bathrooms, and the preserved

period doors) are also considered worthy of protection.

There are no plans to renovate entire terraces and, inasmuch as

a long-term plan is necessary, flats are only ever refurbished or

adapted to today’s requirements when tenants move out. An

overall implementation schedule is unfeasible, and approvals

are usually sought on an ad-hoc basis.

Lower Saxony’s State Office for Monument Preservation

has instigated further collaboration between the involved parties

in order to develop a monument protection strategy. This reflects

on housing refurbishments carried out to date, and identifies

Future Prospects for the Neue Vahr

1 The architect Richard Neutra visits Neue Vahr in June 1960.

after the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto is the highlight of the


Neue Vahr’s urban layout has hardly changed over the

last sixty years. Apart from a new shopping centre, there have

barely been any new buildings of note. And yet the neighbourhood’s

appearance has altered significantly: initially defined by

the buildings, its urban character is today dominated by lush

foliage, whilst buildings all but melt away into the well-tended


Neue Vahr was a sensation when it was built, not only

because of its size, but also because of its modern buildings and

urban design. It received much attention in professional circles.

For example, a surviving sequence of photos shows a delegation

headed by Richard Neutra viewing the recently completed development

with great enthusiasm.

Regular surveys reveal that Neue Vahr’s residents have

felt very comfortable in the neighbourhood, from the outset to

this day. 2 Long-established tenants refer to themselves as ‘Vahraonen’

(Vahraohs), identifying with the place and wanting to

keep almost everything as it is. And yet, as with many large housing

estates, perceptions of the Neue Vahr are not purely positive.

2 E.g. Neue Heimat, ed., ‘[…] am

Beispiel “Neue Vahr”: Dokumentation

der Arbeit des

Bürgerausschusses zur Umgestaltung

der Neuen Vahr, Bremen’

(Hamburg, 1972); Janpeter Kob,

Monika Kurth, Rüdiger Voss,

and Manfred Schulte-Altedorneburg,

Städtebauliche Konzeptionen

in der Bewährung: Neue

Vahr Bremen: Lehren einer

Fallstudie, Beiträge zur Stadtund

Regionalforschung 3

(Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &

Ruprecht, 1972); Uwe Riedel,

Bernd Szemeitzke, Neue Vahr,

Bremen: Ökologische Wohnquartiersuntersuchung


Polis, 1992); IWS – Institut für

Wohnpolitik und Stadtökologie

e.V., proloco Stadt und Region,

Planung und Entwicklung,

‘Integriertes Handlungskonzept

Neue Vahr: Endbericht’

(Bremen, 2006).


2 View of the park surrounding the Vahr lake.

Initial Situation

In contrast to other apparently similar neighbourhoods, Neue

Vahr seems at first glance to be a well-functioning large housing

estate without the need for any major change. Nevertheless,

GEWOBA, which still owns most of the housing stock, initiated

an exceptionally broad-based, interdisciplinary development

process, unusual in many respects.

Why is this? CEO Peter Stubbe started the process by

asking the following questions: ‘What will the qualities of the

future be? Which issues need to be dealt with today in order to

prepare Neue Vahr for the next sixty years?’ 3 A major housing

estate designed as a Gesamtkunstwerk requires a well-considered

plan and long-term strategy for change. 4 Uncoordinated,

apparently insignificant additions and modifications can easily

unbalance the finely-tuned urban landscape, both spatially and

socially. To prevent this and ensure long-term stability, future

plans and scenarios were developed for the Neue Vahr’s further

development. These were intended to inform decisions, influence

specific projects, and help safeguard or even raise the

3 ‘Was werden die Qualitäten

der Zukunft sein? Was sind

die Themen, die heute

nachgefragt sind, um die

Neue Vahr auf die nächsten

60 Jahre vorzubereiten?’

(Jürgen Tietz et al., ‘Eine

sichere Bank für das bezahlbare

Wohnen in Bremen: Ein

Gespräch’, in Potenzial

Grosssiedlung, edited by

Katja-Annika Pahl, Iris

Reuther, Peter Stubbe, and

Jürgen Tietz (Berlin: Jovis,

2018), pp. 18–31, p. 19).

4 Cf. Sabine Kraft, ‘Die

Grosssiedlungen: ein

gescheitertes Erbe der

Moderne?’, Arch+ 44, no. 203

(June 2011), pp. 48–53, p.

53; Hildebrand Machleidt,

Renaissance der Grosssiedlung?’,

Bauwelt 105,

no. 40–41 (31 October

2014), pp. 32–33, p. 32.

Conservation or Replacement of Large Housing Estates?

1 The Bijlmermeer in the municipal leaflet of 1968: high-rise blocks

in the park, as urban living for mankind of tomorrow.

2 Aerial view of the Bijlmermeer just after completion in the



The Glorious Ideas

Initially, the Bijlmermeer area was promoted as the most modern

place to live, as ‘a modern city where the people of today can

find the residential environment of tomorrow’ 2 . Between 1968

and 1975, architect Siegfried Nassuth supervised the construction

of 13,000 dwellings in 31 very large blocks, each ten storeys

high and housing 300 to 500 apartments. The buildings were

laid out in a honeycomb pattern. All the ideas of Le Corbusier

and the CIAM on modern living were applied: separating functions

(living, working, recreation), creating large park-like landscapes

between the apartment blocks, and separating traffic

flows through raised main roads (three metres above ground

level). The dwellings themselves were, and in some respects

still are, of a high standard: large floor space, luxurious sanitary

facilities, central heating, and their own store room. All the dwellings

were in the social rented sector, though not in its least expensive

segments. The planners aimed to attract households

with children and a middle-income.

2 Quoted in Frank Wassenberg,

Large Housing Estates:

Ideas, Rise, Fall and Recovery:

The Bijlmermeer and Beyond,

Sustainable Urban Areas 48

(Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2013),

p. 79.

Problems and First Measures

The Bijlmermeer is one of the most prominent examples of a

deteriorating housing estate. 3 The first problems appeared soon

after its completion, and rapidly multiplied in the following decades.

They can be divided into three groups. 4 Firstly, the district

was not finished. Many of the planned facilities (such as stores

and spaces for sport and recreation) were not delivered because

of funding shortages.

Second, there were enormous liveability problems. Numerous

uncontrollable semi-public and collective spaces such

as entrance lobbies, alleys, corridors, 13,000 ground level storage

spaces, 110 kilometres of galleries, and 31 parking garages,

turned out to be dangerous blind spots instead of cosy places

to meet friendly neighbours. Because the flats were in the hands

of sixteen different housing associations, all based in downtown

Amsterdam, management was chaotic. Accordingly, the most

important grievances uncovered in many resident surveys were

pollution, degradation, vandalism, and lack of safety. 5

Third, the Bijlmermeer did not properly respond to the

demands of the housing market. From the early 1970s onwards,

the envisaged inhabitants (middle-class families) preferred

3 There is abundant literature

explaining the process of area

deterioration. A helpful

overview is provided by Ellen

van Beckhoven, Gideon Bolt,

and Ronald van Kempen,

‘Theories of Neighbourhood

Change and Decline: Their

Significance for Post-WWII

Large Housing Estates in

European Cities’, in Mass

Housing in Europe: Multiple

Faces of Development, Change

and Response, edited by Rob

Rowlands, Sako Musterd, and

Ronald van Kempen (New

York: Palgrave Macmillan,

2009), pp. 20–50.

4 See Wassenberg, Large

Housing Estates (above, n. 3),

pp. 171–73.

5 Ibid., pp. 157–65.

Conservation or Replacement of Large Housing Estates?

4 The situation in 1992 (left) and in 2010 (right, with Bijlmer Museum

marked), before and after physical renewal.

The physical renewal was supplemented both by socio-economic

measures and by intensified maintenance. Social renewal

strongly focused on job creation. Watchmen and policemen

patrolled more frequently. Pollution was reduced by an outdoor

underground garbage collection system, which replaced the

pungent containers in the internal streets within the blocks. Furthermore,

several consultation projects were carried out to engage

with residents.

The relative location of the Bijlmermeer changed radically

from an isolated location into a hot spot. Since the mid-1980s,

various facilities have opened close by: a metro line to the city,

a major shopping centre, a new stadium for Ajax football club,

and large cinemas and theatres. Furthermore, an expensive office

area was built just opposite the railway station. These developments

helped to rebuild the image of the Bijlmermeer, generating

demand for extra housing and creating plenty of jobs at

all levels.

Plans to renew the Bijlmermeer were made in close consultation

with the residents. By 2001, halfway through the operation,

all of its current residents (6,500) had been interviewed. 6

Although most of them were happy with their apartments, the

majority of residents in all but two blocks opted for replacing

6 Ibid., pp. 205, 208, 222.


their high-rise with other housing types. This vote became the

official plan. Residents’ applications for social housing were

given priority, no matter whether they intended to move to a

replacement building or to any other social housing accommodation

anywhere in the city. In addition, they received a lump sum

to cover their removal costs. Around two-thirds decided to move

to the newly built houses in the area. The popularity of the houses

built here in the 1990s certainly contributed to this result.

In 2002, shortly after the residents’ survey, the ‘Final Plan

of Approach’ for the urban renewal of the Bijlmermeer was approved.

It was almost completely delivered by 2012. Today, little

has remained of the characteristic honeycomb structure. More

than half of the original high-rise blocks have vanished, being

replaced by low-rise apartments and single-family houses. On

the whole, there are some 7 per cent more homes than before,

so neighbourhood density has increased.

In total, more than 1.6 billion euros have been invested in

the former high-rise estate. Within this, around 450 million euros

did not produce any returns, equating to approximately 35,000

euros per household. These figures include all physical and

management expenses, but not expenses for the social and

economic measures. The renewal was supported by a grant

from the European Communities URBAN fund for social-

That’s How It Works!

4 Sketch by Werner Wirsing, 1972.

for couples) set the spatial context for the southernmost arm

of Heinle, Wischer and Partner’s housing scheme (the men’s

village) and mediated between the elevated pedestrian platform

and the natural ground level.

The second, larger area comprised an extremely dense

low-rise settlement, accessible only to pedestrians, with a total

of 800 terraced homes set out in a north-south alignment. Wide

walkways, narrow side lanes, and diagonal alleys provided access,

forming squares and dividing the neighbourhood into five

areas. The 2.30-metre-wide lanes provided access and lighting

to homes on either side. Their semi-public character provided

ample opportunity for informal socialising.

Every student had their own two-storey mini-house and

roof terrace: each 24-square-metre studio (or 36-square-metre

double studio) housed a kitchen, bathroom and flexible living

area on the ground floor and a gallery and small roof terrace

above it. This arrangement was intended to meet the need for

individual living whilst also encouraging communication between

residents. The homes offered what Wirsing described

as ‘scope for individualisation’, 6 both indoors and outdoors.

6 ‘Spielräume zur Selbstgestaltung’

(Christian Kammann,

Rekonstruktion als Ensembleschutz’,

Tec21 133, no. 35

(27 August 2007), pp. 55–61,

p. 61).


5 Four original dwellings and new-build under construction, 2008.

Students could sleep and work on either level, fill the alleyways

with greenery, and decorate roof terraces and façades

according to their own tastes.

Wirsing’s radical reinterpretation of student housing soon

became an enduring success on the Munich market for student

housing, and it remains an outstanding example of minimalist

living in the present day.

Conservation by Demolition

Built under extreme time pressure, and typical of their era, the

simple, partially prefabricated buildings 7 had deteriorated badly

thirty years after completion: roofs leaked, the majority of

the insulation in external walls had become damp and caused

mould, and heating and water pipes in the ground beneath the

houses had fractured in many places. 8 The student union appointed

two experts to carry out preliminary investigations for

the inevitable restoration of the complex. Meanwhile, Wirsing

was commissioned to carry out refurbishment and densification

studies—partly for copyright reasons, but also because

7 A mixed heavy concrete

system was selected, whereby

prefabricated elements for

horizontal structural elements

and façade panels (4.20 by

3.00 metres) were cast in an

on-site field factory, and

vertical structural elements

were cast in situ using

large-scale steel formwork.

Plastic bathrooms were

specially developed for the

construction project. See ‘Das

Olympische Dorf der Frauen’,


Sonderband, no. 3 (1972),

pp. 30–31, p. 30.

8 Kammann, ‘Rekonstruktion

als Ensembleschutz’ (above,

n. 6), p. 57.

That’s How It Works!

Olydorf 2.0

The new design reduced individual houses’ grid span from from

4.20 to 3.15 metres, thereby raising density and making homes

compliant with contemporary funding guidelines for student

accommodation, which limit individual living space including

bathrooms to a maximum of 18 square metres. 13 The complex

has gained 252 homes as a result. Now fitted with single-skin

external walls and internal insulation, the 1,052 new mini-homes

were built using modular, prefabricated concrete elements. Cellars

for one row of houses in each site section accommodate

plant rooms and bicycle storage, as well as access tunnels and

media ducts to the other rows of houses. Reducing individual

homes by nearly nine square metres has resulted in a complete

reconfiguration of floor plans. Double-height voids and walk-in

wardrobes have been eliminated in favour of an additional window

and a more spacious upper floor. Moving bathrooms and

open kitchenettes to the rear area has enabled the two living

levels to be used more freely, with the more private area now

upstairs. A show home was built in 2007 to test the houses’

functionality and design.

Previously occupied by a square, steel complex of telephone

booths, the heart of the development is now home to a

large, cantilevered roof which residents refer to as ‘the petrol

station’. At its rear, a functional block separates this area from

neighbouring housing, and accommodates a kitchen, storage

rooms and WC facilities. The redevelopment of this area has

made it more versatile for joint activities.

The landscaping by Keller Damm Rose elaborates on

what was already in place, picking up on distinctive elements

such as concrete planting rings, planting strips along terraced

houses and paving materials, and adding some elements such

as new tree clusters. Houses now boast green roofs. The houses’

colour scheme and Stauss+Pedrazzini’s wayfinding system

draw inspiration from Otl Aicher’s design guidelines for the 1972

Olympics. 14 Overhauling and updating the original design has

addressed its functional weaknesses. For example, house numbers

originally grouped in blocks are now sorted alphabetically

by alleyway. 15

Ten years down the line, the new ‘Olydorf’ is well-loved

and has proved itself in use: open front doors, homemade furniture,

plant pots, and benches between homes testify to its

12 Ritz Ritzer, telephone

interview with the author on

21 August 2019.

13 Bavarian funding guidelines

for student housing.

14 Kilian Stauss and Josef

Grillmeier, ‘Massstab Design:

Spiele München 72’, in

Demokratisches Grün:

Olympiapark München, edited

by Stefanie Hennecke, Regine

Keller, and Juliane Schneegans

(Berlin: Jovis, 2013), pp. 52–73.

Reprint of design guidelines:

Otl Aicher, Richtlinien und

Normen für die visuelle

Gestaltung: Organisationskomitee

für die Spiele der XX.

Olympiade München 1972

(Salenstein: Niggli, 2019).

15 Beate Kling and Torsten

Krüger, Signaletik: Orientierung

im Raum (Munich:

Detail, 2012), pp. 14–17.

16 Wirsing, interview (above,

n. 9), p. 132.


popularity. Colourful murals and luscious, planted alleyways

abound once again, albeit more strictly regulated than before.

The core idea (rather than the original substance) of this

housing scheme has been preserved and further developed.

This idea is manifest in the urban structure, in open spaces, and

in the typology of residential buildings as well as in the ‘social

gene code’, 16 the communal idea typical of so many of Wirsing’s

projects. Wirsing’s involvement in the design created ideal conditions

for successfully putting this approach into practice. Preserving

the core idea was crucial both because the housing

complex forms an integral part of the seminal Olympic Park

estate, and because—despite its great success as a form of

student housing—it remained without followers for fifty years.

Preserving the Legacy of Álvaro Siza

1 Sketch by Álvaro Siza, 1974.

The Siza Way of Preservation

In recent years, Álvaro Siza has been heavily committed to the

preservation of some of his own early works, including the Boa

Nova Tea House and Restaurant (1958–63; 1992; 2012–14), the

Bouça Housing Complex (1975–78; 2000–06), the Faculty of

Architecture of the University of Porto (1985–92; 2016–18), the

Swimming Pool at Quinta da Conceição (1958–65; 2016–18),

and, more recently, the Swimming Pool in Leça (1960–66;


The conservation of the Boa Nova Tea House and Restaurant

in 1992 was his first intervention on a former work and, in

his own words, was an important experience for his following

works on pre-existing buildings. 4 After his first intention of making

changes to the original design (designed by a much younger

4 Álvaro Siza, ‘Conferencia

para el CAH2’, in Intervention

Approaches in the 20th Century

Architectural Heritage:

International Conference

CAH20thC. Madrid Document

2011, edited by J. M. Hernández

León and F. Espinosa De Los

Monteros (Madrid: Ministerio

de Educación, Cultura y

Deporte, 2011), p. 186.


2 General plan with phase I in yellow, 1973–78.

self), Siza was then able to recognise the building’s value and

coherence as a whole. He thus resisted the temptation to correct

his own work, and decided to maintain the original design,

arguing that ‘in a rehabilitation there is a mandatory requirement,

which is […] absolute integrity. No changes should be performed

[…] unless extremely necessary’. 5

In 2012, twenty years after his first conservation of the

Boa Nova Tea House and restaurant, Siza was called on to

perform a second intervention for the preservation of the building

after it had been abandoned and vandalised. In these recent

works, Siza preserved or reproduced all the exterior and interior

features, with the exception of updating the services (toilets

and kitchens) and technical infrastructures. Additionally, because

of the maritime location, the property required repairs to

the concrete as a result of spalling and cracking caused by

0 20 40 100 m

5 Ibid., pp. 186–88.

Preserving the Legacy of Álvaro Siza

6 Exterior view of phase II.


ground floor windows and closed balconies on the upper floors. 15

Also, small updates were made in the dwellings: the social area

is now more open, with the kitchen part of the living room, a

sliding door between the dining area and the living room serves

to increase functional flexibility, the WC is separated from the

bathroom, and the size of the winter gardens is reduced. 16 Moreover,

underground parking was added to accommodate the increased

number of private cars.

These updates to the original design also took into account

new construction technologies (concrete blocks were

replaced by reinforced concrete sheets), as well as current standards

of comfort and energy consumption. 17 While the interior

finishes and the window frames were made from materials identical

to the original ones, the exterior coatings were modified to

improve thermal performance, through the use of the External

Thermal Insulation Composite System (ETICS) in the façades. 18

Although the use of ETICS may change the modernist morphology

and aesthetics profoundly, in this case Siza managed to

reduce its impact on the building’s appearance.

We can conclude that this recent project retains the typological

characteristics and the internal organisation of the

houses, specifically in terms of access, interior circulation, and

the relationship between the kitchen and the common areas.

These constitute an outstanding characteristic of the design

and are one reason why La Bouça is still discussed within the

context of national and international post-war architecture. 19

From an early stage, this work was considered a masterpiece

by renowned international and national architectural critics, and

it is now listed in the Heritage Map of the Municipal Masterplan

of Porto, as well as in other national inventories such as SIPA, 20

IAP20, 21 and the World Heritage Tentative List. 22

Final Remarks

This paper has focused on the survival of post-war architecture,

and, in particular, on the legacy of Alvaro Siza and his contributions

to the design and preservation of his own post-war modernist

housing. Having been heavily committed in recent years

to working on the built heritage, including several of his own

projects, 23 Siza maintains that in ‘conservation there is a compulsory

requirement, which is […] absolute integrity. No changes

15 Ibid.

16 Wang, ‘Bouça and Public

Housing at the Beginning of

the 21st Century’ (above, n. 9),

p. 69.

17 Pimenta do Vale, ‘The Social

Rise of a Housing Intervention’

(above, n. 12), p. 10.

18 Ibid., p. 11.

19 Nuno Grande and Roberto

Cremascoli, eds., Neighbourhood:

Where Alvaro Meets Aldo

(Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2017).

20 Patrimonio Cultural, ‘Bairro

da Bouça / Bairro SAAL da

Bouça / Conjunto Habitacional

da Bouça – IPA.00025032’,


aspx?id=25032 (last accessed

2 April 2020).

21 IAP20, ‘nº 100223’, http://

default.aspx (last accessed

2 April 2020).

22 Permanent Delegation of

Portugal to UNESCO, ‘Ensemble

of Álvaro Siza’s Architecture

Works in Portugal’ (above,

n. 2).

23 Teresa Cunha Ferreira,

‘Conservation of 20th-Century

Architecture in Portugal: The

Lesson of Álvaro Siza’, in Metamorphosis:

The Continuity of

Change, Proceedings of the

15th International Docomomo

Conference, edited by Ana

Tostões and Nataša Koselj

(Ljubljana: Docomomo, 2018),

pp. 338–44.

Bremer Punkt

1-Zi 1-rm Whg apt. 2-rm 2-Zi Whgapt. 3-rm 3-Zi Whgapt. 4-rm 4-Zi Whg apt. 5-rm 5-Zi Whg apt. 6-rm 6-Zi Whg apt.

2 Kit of flats, conceptual diagram.

sites in the neighbourhood, and a third location was found. In

order to achieve an intergenerational balance, the initial two new

buildings provide housing aimed primarily at existing neighbourhood

residents. The third Bremer Punkt accommodates an inclusive

group housing project, bringing a new initiative to the


The first three Bremer Punkt buildings were completed

by February 2017. Special attention was paid to making the

subsidised two- and three-room flats as varied and comfortable

as possible. At 44 and 58 square metres, the smallest flats are

affordable and offer an above-average standard through timber

construction, generous openings, spacious private outdoor areas,

barrier-free access, optimum south-west orientation, and

up-to-date, sustainable building technology. Reducing circulation

space to a minimum and overlapping uses such as living,

cooking and eating makes for space-efficient homes, without

precluding high-quality spaces. The recessed balconies become

an integral part of the apartments thanks to the room-height

glazing. Thus, they form a spatial unit with the interiors. As an

interface between indoor and outdoor space, access balconies

provide spaces for residents to meet and options to bridge to


44m²/58m² 42m²/48m²

53m²/40m² 107`m²







44m²/58m² 42m²/46m²/47m²

47m²/58m² 40m²/63m²



53m²/40m² 107`m² 40m²/42m²






Bremer Punkt 1-3




Bremer Punkt 4



Bremer Punkt 5 Bremer Punkt 6

53m²/40m² 107`m² 40m²/42m²


47m²/58m² 40m²/63m²

40m²/63m² 42m²/46m²/47m²




Bremer Punkt 6 Bremer Punkt 7

3 Kit of flats, floor plan variations.

Bremer Punkt

4 Bremer Punkt 1, Gartenstadt Süd.

existing buildings. The free arrangement of generous, square

openings creates an interplay of mass and lightness, which lends

the compact structure a varied expression. Reflecting the cubes’

heterogeneous interiors, their façades convey a new image of

the neighbourhood. Depending on the mix of flats, the Bremer

Punkt presents an individual façade at each new site. Varied

colour schemes, accentuated façade areas, and a variety of

parapets create additional character and support the sense of


Timber Element Construction

The Bremer Punkt’s modular design is mainly based on prefabricated

components. This makes it possible to vary floor plan

sizes and layouts. The modular construction allows buildings to

be built very quickly, with minimal site equipment. Relocating

some construction work to the factory hall significantly reduces

the impact of noise and dirt on the neighbourhood. The Gartenstadt

Süd prototypes were erected within four weeks. Semi-precast

concrete elements are positioned to create the access


5 Bremer Punkt 1, Gartenstadt Süd.

areas as soon as the floor slab is in place. This safeguards structural

bracing and the first escape route. Next, prefabricated,

timber-frame loadbearing exterior wall elements are delivered

and aligned floor by floor. Insulation, windows, sunshades, and

cladding are preassembled in the factory. Depending on the site,

reinforced concrete or composite timber-concrete floor panels

are used. The building envelope is sealed and fully insulated as

soon as the shell is completed. Interior fitting is then finished,

regardless of weather conditions.

The timber structure uses a renewable, climate-friendly

building material. From the extraction of raw materials through

to their disposal, this consumes much less grey energy than brick

or concrete. The highly insulated building envelope almost reaches

passive house standard. A nearly self-sufficient in-house photovoltaic

system and air-to-water heat pump with buffer storage

covers electricity and heating demand. A low-temperature underfloor

heating system ensures comfort and contributes to

energy efficiency. The Bremer Punkt meets the KfW55 energy

standard and is certified according to the Verein zur Förderung

der Nachhaltigkeit im Wohnungsbau e.V. (NaWoh) system.


Mark Escherich completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter.

He has studied civil engineering, architecture and art history. In

2008, he completed his doctorate in urban history. Since 2008,

he has collaborated with the monument protection authority for

Erfurt, and since 2011 he has also collaborated with the Chair

for Heritage Conservation and Architectural History at the Bauhaus-Universität

Weimar (teaching and research). Since 2016,

he has been a council member of the DFG-Research Training

Group 2227 Identity and Heritage. Since 2019, he has been a

visiting professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning,

University of Applied Sciences, Erfurt.

Teresa Cunha Ferreira holds a degree from the Faculty of Architecture

at the University of Porto (FAUP) and European PhD at

the Polytechnic of Milan (2009). She has professional experience

in Heritage Public Offices such as DGEMN in Porto and SPBAP

in Milan, among other consultancy and works. Since 2007, she

has been teaching in the Polytechnic of Milan 2007–08, School

of Architecture of the University of Minho 2009–17 and FAUP

(2012–present). In 2009, she joined the Centre for Studies in

Architecture and Urbanism (CEAU). She is member of the Board

of ICOMOS-Portugal (and member of ICOMOS ISC20C).

Nicole Froberg studied architecture at the TU Braunschweig.

As a freelancer, she collaborated with the City of Wolfsburg on

several projects. Starting in 2001, she set up and managed the

architectural forum of the City of Wolfsburg, which focuses on

architectural communication. She was responsible for communication

in the context of the Phaeno Science Centre by Zaha

Hadid. In 2010, she took over the direction of the office of the

Netzwerk Baukultur in Lower Saxony. Since 2018, she heads

the department for heritage conservation and building culture

of the City of Wolfsburg.

Miles Glendinning is Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation

Studies and Professor of Architectural Conservation

at the University of Edinburgh. He has published extensively on

modernist and contemporary architecture and housing, and on

Scottish historic architecture in general: his books include the

award-winning Tower Block (with Stefan Muthesius) and The

Conservation Movement. His current research is focused on the

international history of mass housing, especially in Hong Kong.


Martin Hahn studied geography, art history, and preservation

of monuments in Marburg and Bamberg. He earned his Ph.D. at

the Technical University of Berlin. Since 2000, he has been a

consultant for urban monument preservation in the State Conservation

Office Baden-Württemberg. Since 2018, he has also

been head of the department for the listing of historic structures.

In addition, Martin Hahn teaches Preservation of Monuments at

the Universities of Applied Sciences Nürtingen and Stuttgart.

Maren Harnack is an architect, urban planner and professor for

urban design at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. She

studied architecture, urban design and social sciences in Stuttgart,

Delft and London. In 2011, she published her Ph.D. dissertation

Rückkehr der Wohnmaschinen. Sozialer Wohnungsbau

und Gentrifizierung in London. In 2018, she and her colleagues

founded the Post-War Modernist Housing Research Lab at

Frankfurt UAS. Her research revolves around large-scale housing

in Western Europe.

Natalie Heger is an architect and postdoc at the Post-War Modernist

Housing Research Lab at Frankfurt University of Applied

Sciences. She is co-founder of the interdisciplinary cooperative

u Lab, Studio für Stadt und Raumprozesse. She studied architecture

in Berlin and Barcelona. She taught and researched for

over ten years at the University of Kassel’s faculty of Architecture,

Urban Planning and Landscape Planning. Her work focuses on

Housing, processes in planning and methods of architectural


John Klepel is an architect and researches building typologies

at TU Berlin (with Professor Finn Geipel). Since 2009, he has

been the manager for brownfield regeneration/redensification

housing projects at LIN Architects and Urbanists, Berlin. Aside

from the Bremer Punkt, design projects completed in post-war

housing estates include improvements and work to raise density

in Munich’s Fürstenried West area and the Typen-Wohnhochhaus,

a modular, flexible tower block prototype in Berlin.


© 2020 by jovis Verlag GmbH

Texts by kind permission of the authors.

Pictures by kind permission of the photographers/holders of the picture


All rights reserved.

Cover: Hirschsprung housing estate, Dreieich-Sprendlingen, 1956–63,

photo Ben Kuhlmann.

Design and setting: Felix Holler (Stoffers Grafik Design, Leipzig)

Lithography: Torge Stoffers, Stefan Rolle (Stoffers Grafik Design, Leipzig)

Printed in the European Union

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