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Märkisches Viertel

this is what 17000 homes looks like when it’s not in rows of terraces. 36,000 residents and a significant swathe of park land, cycle network, playgrounds, shops, restaurants, banks, 7 schools, an indoor beach volley-ball centre, football fields, a hotel, bus service, and a thousand (?) fully grown trees.
from the view of a single bicycle ride-by, the impact is not as expected. social housing built in the 1960s and 70s the buildings rise up to 16 stories in heavy masses, separated by carparking and green space. there is every indication in the satellite view that this is an overwhelming space to be in, dominated by tower blocks. but in reality it feels like any ride through an unfamiliar neighbourhood, albeit with large colourful markers poking out from behind the trees. I suppose no matter how brutal the architecture, everything becomes calm when experienced through an abundance of green.
a neighbourhood of this size sustains significant local facilities as well as a decent website for residents photos, webcams, forum, chat, news. i don’t know how successful Märkisches Viertel is in terms of its social health, but the public spaces were plentiful, active and well maintained. the focus on sport, the outdoors and well-being reminds me of something I heard in a talk by Geoff Mulgan: imagining if we designed cities not around retail and commerce (or policing), but through the lens of health.
it’s about 53 dwelling/ha. a new neighbourhood of this density built today would be most likely 4 storey buildings covering the same site area: a cheap-to-build density at ground level with tightly controlled overlooked public spaces now wins against expensively constructed density above wide open spaces.

Märkisches Viertel’s own online description is lovely: (excuse bad translation)
“Domestic idyll and drug consumption, art and kitsch, often only one floor apart. And nevertheless – or therefore- endeared to the inhabitants, who are to be found from all parts of the world. “

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