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highlife in the hochhaus

Hester Underhill

The construction of Plattenbauten in Berlin began in the 1960’s and arose out of necessity as the city’s housing crisis deepened. Mass destruction after the second world war, was followed by a large population increase as refugee numbers increased. This resulted in an urgent need to build scaleable low cost housing.


The estates now offer affordable housing to Berlin's poorest residents, and are also highly desirable for students and young people looking for cheap accommodation in the ever-gentrifying city. Despite the intimidatingly drab grey concrete surroundings, the estates are home to a lively community and lots of big families (plus always smell of turkish food, which is pretty nice). 


The courtyards are home to the estate’s other, furrier residents; a large community of rats. But anyone who has ever watched Ratatouille will know that rats make excellent living companions due to their culinary talents (though, admittedly I never actually experienced this, plus they never actually came inside the buildings). Constantly overflowing garbage containers were also a common sight and the elevators were rarely working (and when they did, they are mostly a terrifyingly juddering experience that feels like you are risking your life in order to save the energy of walking up a few flights of stairs… interesting to note how my laziness meant I often considered this a risk worth taking). But despite the homogenous exteriors inside the apartments they are personal, cosy and impressively well built (in true German style). 


I lived this Plattenbau estate on Bergfriedstraße in Kreuzberg for 7 months, only a stones throw away from the crackhead colonies of Kottbusser Tor. But with its impressive view of the iconic TV tower from our big fourth floor windows, huge sunny balconies and set of wunderbar German flatmates, I certainly wouldn’t have liked to live anywhere else. 

All Images by Hester Underhill 

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