2012 - Ongoing
"Gropiusstadt, that's high-rises for 45,000 people, with lawns and shopping malls in between. From the outside everything looked new and very well-kept. But when you were between the skyscrapers, it stank of piss and shit everywhere. That came from the many dogs and the many children who lived in Gropiusstadt. It stank the most in the stairwells."
This is how Christiane F. described the place where she grew up as a child in her famous story "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo".
Gropiusstadt was built in the 1960s and 1970s as a satellite settlement on the Berlin state border and is still known far beyond Berlin both through the life story of Christiane F. and its famous namesake. The high-rise buildings with around 18,500 apartments were planned by Walter Gropius. Originally, the large housing estate was to be lower and more extensive, but the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 thwarted this plan. Consequently, denser and higher buildings had to be constructed. The highest building - the Ideal high-rise residential building on Fritz-Erler-Allee - has 30 floors and at 89 meters was the tallest residential building in Germany.
Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius designed it with the aim of the "manifold elements of conventional city life" with each other, the residential buildings should residential buildings were to stand out and radiate from within: modern, geometric, bright. I myself grew up in the 1980s just a stone throw away but on the other side of iron curtain in a much more tranquil neighborhood in East Berlin. After the fall of the Wall we as kids made our first trips to the "golden west" heading there, although being warned about Gropiusstadt as a place that stood for drugs and violence.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, things changed yet again. The Berliners moved out, the subventions of the Senate were cut, and many former GDR citizens moved into the apartments. But it wasn’t social housing anymore. In fact, in the past 10 years the apartments of the Gropiusstadt became so popular again that local politicians decided to establish a social housing management program that is established in order to keep the neighborhood well mixed (as opposed to selling to foreign investors and renting out to affluent tenants).
My work TRABANTEN I attempt to approach the myth of Gropiusstadt visually. A portrait along the photographic border between documentary realism and poetic subjectivity.
What does it look like, the individual reality beyond the promise of more "light, air and sun"? In what does it become visible, the ambivalent attitude to life of this city, proudly cast in concrete over half a century ago and which is now seen to be failed. Does living in the large housing estate on the edge of the city also mean living on the edge of society? Since the 50th anniversary of Gropiusstadt in 2012, I have repeatedly portrayed the place and its residents. To get a little closer to them in the brief moment of the encounter. The surroundings are deliberately chosen. Not the flat as a private retreat but the public space planned on a drawing board. In the satellite-city on the outskirts of Berlin, where the hopes of modern life in the big city border on the sewage fields of Brandenburg. I hope that in the portraits I took of the people and the place will reveal something: A glimmer of the contradictions of this planned utopia between light, air and concrete.
With the help of the grant, I like to continue my long-term project TRABANTEN in 2021. The aim is a publication to mark the 60th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of Gropiusstadt in 2022. All of this is connected with all kinds of expenses, which I unfortunately cannot raise myself due to the consequences of the Corona crisis. The project would only be feasible with the help of a working grant.