Berlin Monument Authority  


Berlin Housing Estates of the 1920s - on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Exhibition - UNESCO-World Heritage: A title with obligations
The six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates

The six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates

In 2008, six Modernist housing estates in Berlin were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This list is the most important tool the international community has at its disposal for protecting the cultural and natural heritage of mankind. In the more than 30 years since the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage came into force, 184 states have made a binding declaration that outstanding cultural and natural sites located within their territories will be protected and preserved for future generations.

The World Heritage List currently includes more than 850 sites across all continents. Certain obligations are associated with the acquisition of the World Heritage title. These are not just limited to the physical preservation of the heritage and its care, but also include sustainable, future-oriented improvement, educational and information programmes. With the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, the German capital can now lay claim to three World Heritage Sites, the other two being the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and the palaces and parks of Potsdam and Berlin.

On behalf of the international community

The UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage stipulates that each state party to this convention shall be individually responsible for the acquisition, protection and conservation of the World Heritage Sites located within its territory. This primarily involves the creation of the political framework conditions necessary for the conservation and care of this heritage and ensuring it a vital function in society by means of long-term planning. In addition to the necessary scientific and technical measures required to protect the cultural and natural heritage, states also focus on information and educational programmes which strengthen society's awareness of the value and universal importance of these sites. Because each World Heritage Site is unique, these objectives can only be achieved via individual strategies - what are known as management plans.
As a central planning instrument, they help to optimally integrate the respective measures for the protection, use, care and further development of the World Heritage Sites.

The Berlin Modernism Housing Estates

Special note should be taken of the fact that these are not museum settings, but geographically disconnected, urban neighbourhoods where thousands of people live normal lives - something which, above all, is of great importance for the tourism development of these housing estates in connection with World Heritage status.
The exhibition shows that Berlin is taking the mission of UNESCO seriously. Specific examples are being used to demonstrate how the objectives and requirements associated with the title UNESCO World Heritage will be harmonised with each other and implemented on site.

Heritage with responsibility

The implementation of the UNESCO guidelines for the six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates requires close collaboration between participants from very different fields. The preservation, care and sustainable improvement of the World Heritage Sites does not just involve the buildings; it also relates to parks and the surrounding neighbourhoods as well as questions of modernisation and the expansion of the tourism infrastructure. In order to accommodate these sometimes contradictory and complex requirements regarding the preservation of historical monuments, architecture, urban planning, residents' interests and tourism, comprehensive strategies involving all parties were developed for each individual estate. These strategies give consideration to the particular requirements of each area and allow long-term planning as laid down in the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.


Exhibition panel UNESCO-World Heritage
Exhibition panels

The 'look' of the tourist guidance system was developed in a competition. It includes a tactile model for the blind and visually impaired, as well as stelae and signposts.; Photo: Erik-Jan Ouverkerk
Tourist guidance system
Photo: Erik-Jan Ouverkerk