As a city neighborhood should be: Hackesche Hofe
Posted May 22, 2008
Is it urbanist, or just urban? Or just exceptionally pleasant? East Berlin's Hackesche Hofe represents many of the things we want our city neighborhoods to be - architecturally impressive yet low-key; a place for living, shopping, playing, and visiting; highly walkable and transit-accessible.
Steps away from the Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station (left), one enters from one of the main streets into a delightful complex of eight interlocking courtyards. Designed by architect August Endell at the beginning of the 20th century, these were live-work places for "middle class and official circles," according to my guidebook. (Many were Jewish, which evokes all those horribly painful associations.) The courtyards fell into disrepair after World War II and were restored in 1995.
It is a bit of an intentional community: after the restoration, the business proprietors and tenants worked out a scheme that requires that all restaurants and shops must be run by their owners. In other words, no chains. Mixed uses - apartments, offices, cultural spaces, workshops and restaurants - must remain, with rents at a variety of price points. Although it's the sort of place that shows up in guidebooks like mine, it feels calm, not intense. Take a look: