Gartenstadt Falkenberg is located in the south-east of Berlin near the city boundary. Its limits are the street Am Falkenberg in the North, Bruno-Taut-Straße in the East and the thoroughfare B 96a in the West. Not far from it in the North passes the line of the former Berlin-Görlitz railway (opened in 1867) with the commuter station of Grünau. The housing estate was erected in two phases and the houses of each phase form open groups around the two residential streets “Am Akazienhof” (acacia yard) and “Gartenstadtweg” which branch off in northern direction of the street Am Falkenberg.
The first development phase began in 1913 and produced the intimate courtyard “Akazienhof”. It has a total of 34 residential units. 23 of them were erected as single-family terraced houses in several groups. Eight were built in multiple dwellings, two in a double house and one in a single-family house. Two separate villa-like houses frame the narrow access road to the courtyard: one is “Haus Otto” (Am Falkenberg 119) designed by Heinrich Tessenow which is his only contribution within the housing estate and the other one is the double house Am Falkenberg 120 by Bruno Taut. Another double house by Taut – Am Falkenberg 118 – is also located here. It was completed in 1916 and is the only completed building of the third phase.
Because of its sensational use of colours people started to call the garden town “Tuschkastensiedlung” (paint box housing estate) soon after its completion. At that time it was quite remarkable that the renowned garden architect Ludwig Lesser was employed for designing the gardens and public outdoor facilities. By means of green spaces accompanying the streets – avenues, hedges and rows of trees – Lesser managed to highlight the spaces created by architecture at Akazienhof and Gartenstadtweg. Trellises at the façades bearing fruit trees and climbers make the colours change with the seasons.The gardens are an essential element of the particular Falkenberg housing estate image. Lesser was a pioneer in designing small gardens (allotment gardens).
Social:Houses and ground plans are standardised for saving cost and rationalise construction. The residential units are small. Thier rooms are smaller than in the average flats in the tenement houses in the inner-city areas, but here at Falkenberg each of the flats has a kitchen, a bathroom and a garden. Only the difference in colour marks the limits of the residential units.At Gartenstadt Falkenberg its founders wanted present as much variation as possible of ground plans and small houses with gardens so that the estate could become a kind of sample housing estate representing the garden town idea and advertising for it.
Cultural & Aesthetic:Among Europe’s garden towns that at Falkenberg is the most colourful one. For the first time Taut used here full, bright colours: red, green, blue, yellow and also brown, ochre, black and white. He used them in combinations in which no one had dared using them to that date for painting the outside of residential buildings. At the multiple dwellings Taut marked entrance doors and wall sections with abstract geometrical patterns in colours which stood out in lively contrast. In this way Taut gave his very own artistic expression to the social and urban development model of the garden town which had been taken over from England. Colour in the intensity in which Taut used it is supposed to stimulate the senses of the inhabitants moving into the small but intelligently designed row houses and flats. Colour is cheaper than even the simplest plastic decoration and the colourful painting of house walls, cornices and doors was to be not only an expression but also a means of fundamentally reforming the habits of living and perceiving. The Berliners first did not understand this new provocative blaze of colour and called the estate “paint box housing estate”. Later they got used to its colourfulness and kept the name.
Historical:The Falkenberg construction cooperative had been founded by initiative of “Deutsche Gartenstadtgesellschaft ” which was the core and ideological centre of the garden town movement in Germany and whose protagonists Hans and Bernhard Kampffmeyer, Adolf Otto, Hermann Salomon and Albert Kohn were the executive members of the cooperative. In line with the bourgeois moderate reform ideas of the garden town movement the builders of Falkenberg did not intend at all to erect it only for people from the low income groups. Their model was a community in which people lived together without class divisions on a cooperative basis and in which ideally the inhabitants of the housing estate would produce their living in cooperation of trades, agriculture and industry. This required housing facilities with a variety of dimensions and ground plans so that everyone would have a space for living in line with his/her needs and means.
General assessment:With its mix of garden town patterns and innovative composition of colour and space Gartenstadt Falkenberg is a unique example for the wealth of variation in reform housing development and the interest in experimenting of architects and clients shortly before 1914. With the uncompromising simplicity of the buildings and the anarchistic use of the element of colour, Taut laid the foundation for new modern housing estate architecture. This “at last started the death of the residential architecture of the pre-war period” (Ernst May).