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The Hut on the Garden Plot - Informal Architecture in Twentieth-Century Berlin

Abstract

In Berlin, self-built huts and sheds were a part of the urban fabric for much of the twentieth century. They started to proliferate after the First World War and were particularly common after the Second World War, when many Berliners had lost their homes in the bombings. These unplanned buildings were, ironically, connected to one of the icons of German orderliness: the allotment. Often depicted as gnome-adorned strongholds of petty bourgeois virtues, garden plots were also the site of mostly unauthorized architecture and gave rise to debates about public health and civic order. This paper argues that the evolution and subsequent eradication of informal architecture was an inherent factor in the formation of the modern, functionally separated city. Modern Berlin evolved from a struggle between formal and informal, regulation and unruliness, modernization and pre-modern lifestyles. In this context, the ambivalent figure of the allotment dweller, who was simultaneously construed as a dutiful holder of rooted-to-the-soil values and as a potential threat to the well-ordered urban environment, evidences the ambiguity of many conceptual foundations on which the modern city was built

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