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Berlin Modernism

Industrial heritage in Berlin

Facade of the Kabelwerk Oberspree in Berlin
Kabelwerk Oberspree in Berlin © visitBerlin, Foto: Steve Simon

Art in the factory hall, fashion shows in the cold store, theatre in the transformer station – all over the city, Berliners have brought former industrial heritage buildings back to life. The former factories, industrial complexes and industrial areas are what make Berlin so charming, as they have had a lasting effect on the cityscape – and still do to this day!

At the time of industrialisation, people not only worked hard - the general need to be able to live better also increased - in affordable flats, with light, air and a bit of green. World-famous architects build revolutionary housing estates in Berlin in which the ideas of modernism are implemented and which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Every three years, the Triennale der Moderne dedicates itself to building culture and the ideas of modernism with a supra-regional festival: in the cities of Berlin, Weimar and Dessau, a diverse programme of experiences is offered, with a focus on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Industrial heritage today

Go on a journey of discovery and explore industrial heritage sites such as the Ullsteinhaus or the AEG turbine factory, which made architectural history. The rapid development of the city created the preconditions for the merger of the individual towns into a common city with a uniform infrastructure and administration. In 1920, the time came: Berlin became a city – in 2020 we are celebrating 100 years of Greater Berlin.


From the beginning of the 20th century until today

Industrialization established a long tradition of technicians, engineers and inventors in Berlin. Today, we use many of their inventions as a matter of course without worrying about their origin.

The following 10 inventions - made in Berlin - also date from this period.

Top events for Industrial Heritage

On interesting guided tours you can look behind the scenes and learn more about the history. In the here and now, the festivals and events are concentrated in the old factory halls and industrial buildings, which are now coming to life as original creative locations. I

Every three years at the Triennale zur Moderne you have the opportunity to look behind the scenes, take part in guided tours, visit interesting exhibitions or develop new perspectives at workshops and events.  

From Industrial Heritage to Bauhaus

The industrial buildings created a new architectural landscape with trend-setting forms and materials. At the same time, new challenges were emerging with industrialisation: Workers lived in miserable conditions in dark, crowded apartments in rear houses.

The Bauhaus with its bright, modern apartments provided an answer to the difficult situation. In a period of only 14 years, the Bauhaus revolutionised the language of architecture, helped to create the foundations of modern functional design and dared to think in new ways.

Metropolis of Modernism

Berlin was a relatively young city and, according to the understanding at the time, more like an American city than a European one with a long tradition and fortified structures. The city was open to people who wanted to come with their ideas and pioneering spirit and create something new. Within a short period of time, the city rose from an insignificant provincial capital to the metropolis of modernity.

10 inventions from berlin

Industrialization established a long tradition of technicians, engineers and inventors in Berlin. Today, we use many of their inventions as a matter of course without worrying about their origin.

The following 10 inventions - made in Berlin - also date from this period.

Factories, breweries and transformer stations

Where is the AEG turbine factory located? How do you get to the Schöneweide Industrial Museum and what is there to see there? On the map you will find the most important places of industrial heritage clearly marked out. We have also compiled a complete overview of industrial heritage with all the information you need for your visit as well as exciting background information.

Many places are included in the Route of Industrial Culture Berlin, for which the Berliner Zentrum Industriekultur has produced a brochure. You can download the brochure and find lots of exciting information on their website.

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Rapid development

Technology and industry have shaped Berlin since the middle of the 19th century. The first areas in the city to be built included the factory site in Oranienburger Strasse, which was called Feuerland (land of fire) because of its smoking chimneys. Later on, the factories moved to extensive sites on the outskirts of the city, creating new challenges for transport and infrastructure. The waterways were crucial: ships transported goods and raw materials to and from the factories on the outskirts of the city.
Prussia's first railway and the world's first tram began operating in Berlin. An underground network was built, connecting homes and workplaces.


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Forced labour under National Socialism

The period of National Socialism cast a dark shadow on the historical development of German companies and industrial sites: During the Second World War, around 13 million people from all over Europe were forced to work in National Socialist Germany – not only in armaments factories and on construction sites, but also in all other German production facilities. In Berlin alone, more than 3,000 labour camps in which forced labourers had to live in collective accommodation under inhumane conditions have been identified so far. The Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre in Berlin Schöneweide, since 2019 a location on the Industrial Heritage Trail, holds exhibitions on this theme at the historical site and is dedicated to educational work.

Berlin Modernism in all its diversity

Berlin Modernism encompasses many aspects; it is architecture and design, but also art, creativity and a whole attitude to life - yesterday and today. Learn more about the diversity of Berlin Modernism, read exciting stories and backgrounds.

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