Carl Legien was a major SPD politician and trade unionist of the imperial period and a member of the German parliament. In 1920, the final year of his life, the former wood turner organised the general strike against the Kapp Putsch. Several sites in Berlin are dedicated to Legien’s memory. On the Pankow estate, striking lettering on one of the building’s facades refers to its namesake. This can be seen from far away and was restored by Deutsche Wohnen in 2014.
There are a total of 1,149 flats on the estate, built in short order between 1928 and 1930 in what is now Prenzlauer Berg. The estate’s planning and design was based on a brand-new concept. This was to be a new architecture for a new society: modern, airy and light and with a neighbourly feel. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the buildings in the neighbourhood still bore the imprint of war. The once-colourful facades were plastered in dreary grey.
Refurbishment works began on the estate in the mid 1990s and were completed in 2004. Facade details, the garden courtyards, the colours – everything was arranged the way architect Bruno Taut had planned it: every garden courtyard a different colour, white balconies, red stairwells, contrasting black and white door and window frames. This was individuality the like of which tenement housing had never seen. Taut is even said to have instructed that only flowers of particular colours should be planted on the balconies.
The people of Carl Legien Estate
Incidentally, a very famous German actor lived here for many years, until the 1950s: Horst Buchholz. The global star and popular idol was a real Berliner and lived at Sodtkestrasse 11 – albeit long before he became a famous actor. Today, a plaque there commemorates him.