Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gropiusstadt-Berlin is 50 Years Old

If you want to meet real Berliners and experience Berlin without the tourists, high prices, and attitude, then visit Gropiusstadt. The people are unusually friendly and open.

Gropiusstadt (Gropius's City) is a planned community located in the Berlin borough of Neukölln. It was designed by Walter Gropius, a founder of the Bauhaus School of Architecture and one of the pioneers of modern architecture. Gropius believed that modern architecture should include all the arts, including graphic design, interior design, industrial design and landscape architecture.

Gropiusstadt is a celebration of the high-rise. With its towering apartment buildings, green open spaces, pedestrian zones, bicycle paths, and magnificent views of the city, Gropiusstadt was designed as a vision of the future: sleek, efficient, and community focused. Today, Gropiusstadt has a population of 36,000, including its own hospital, shopping mall, and four subway stops (U7 Line: Johannisthaler Chaussee, Lipschitzalle, Wutzkayalle, and Zwickauer Damm).

This week Gropiusstadt celebrates its 50th anniversary. Over the last five decades, Gropiusstadt has had its ups and downs. Initially, Gropiusstadt was viewed as a peaceful refuge from the noise, pollution, and crime of the inner city; but, like most planned communities, it developed a reputation as a sterile and isolating place where people went about their business largely detached from one and other.

In the 1970s, Gropiusstadt served as the setting for Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (The Children of Bahnhof Zoo), a shocking exposé that showed the ugly underbelly of this seemingly ideal community. (The film version, Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, still resonates in its realistic portrayal of drug addiction.)

In the 21st century, Gropiusstadt faces new challenges as immigrants (20 percent of the population) clash with the established German residents. Yet, despite its setbacks, most residents agree that Gropiusstadt has been successful in providing many amenities at affordable prices.

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