Preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Classic Modernism

Purpose of the project:
In times of rapid urban growth, it is both an honor and a challenge to bridge the sustainable preservation of historic monuments while striving for financial stability. Deutsche Wohnen AG is the owner of four of the six Berlin classic Modernist housing estates, which have been awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 2008." data-share-imageurl="">
Monday, April 27, 2015

Purpose of the project:

In times of rapid urban growth, it is both an honor and a challenge to bridge the sustainable preservation of historic monuments while striving for financial stability. Deutsche Wohnen AG is the owner of four of the six Berlin classic Modernist housing estates, which have been awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 2008. Deeply committed to these estates, Deutsche Wohnen has taken on the task of preserving the historic buildings with own resources and with great personal commitment, tenacity and innovation.

Approach:

Since 2010, Deutsche Wohnen fully refurbished three of the four UNESCO world cultural heritage sites, according to ist listed building status and in accordance to the Standards of sustainability. In remodelling the sites as closely as possible to the historical original, Deutsche Wohnen used complex methods to analyse black and white photographs in order to refurbish the facades to their original state, while creating energy efficient measures. The Weiße Stadt, for instance, tells a unique story of Berlin’s building history: during World War II, the Weiße Stadt was heavily damaged. With no substantial investment in fixing up the estate, we see today the original building material. For decades the Facades were decaying and the crown-piece Bruckenhaus, a five-storey bridge house which stretches over a large promenade, suffered severe damage. Deutsche Wohnen invested more than EUR 10 M in the refurbishment of this historical building. Refurbishments are coming to a close by 2014, after several years. Here, Deutsche Wohnen aims to create the most sustainable energy efficient efforts by insulating the roofs and windows. Further, Deutsche Wohnen has put Germany’s largest block heating station into operation here. In addition, Deutsche Wohnen extensively refurbished the balconies, windows and facades as well as fully renovating the staircases, all while maintaining color schemes from the 1930s. This refurbishment program is conducted under the supervision of the World Heritage Office.

Results:

As an innovative way to grant access to the unique heritage of the Modernist era, Deutsche Wohnen has set up an Info Station in a former store front apartment. The Info Station stands for architectural brilliance with atmospheric quality and social engagement, while offering more than a regular museum. Under the guidance of a conservator and the architects Susanne Gunter and Thomas M. Kruger, this abandoned apartment was practically saved and fully refurbished in accordance with its listed building status. The most significant part of the reconstruction phase included the uncovering of the original decor and mouldings, and the unveiling of the original tile floor which was buried under debris for decades. Visitors can now experience the original intention of the pioneer architect Bruno Taut, both in the store as well as in the adjacent garden. Unique in its existence, the Info Station resembles life of the 1920s, with the sustainable standards of today.

“We see architecture as a key component of our culture and history. In the management of our holdings we show sound judgement and sensitivity and demonstrate thereby that preservation and commercial success don't have to contravene. The UNESCO world heritage settlements are practically fully let, which shows that they still work and offer a good living quality today.” - Michael Zahn, CEO of Deutsche Wohnen AG