Bruno Taut is a local hero here in Berlin, a city that was a crucible for so much of the modern movement. Unlike his more famous colleagues such as Walther Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, Taut touted a softer, friendlier approach to architecture and new urbanism that really only started becoming fashionable from the 1970s onward, 30 years after his early death in Turkish exile in 1938.
Hufeisensiedlung, 1925-33. Photo Hiepler,Brunier.
Taut, togehter with the social democrat controlled city government of Berlin, pioneered housing schemes that were walkable, in tune with nature, well connected to public transport, and whose sparse and economical proportions (Germany was reeling from WW1 reparitions payments) were aleviated by brilliant and thoughtful color palettes.
Never too stern to make lovable environments that have stood the test of time, nor too playful to be taken seriously, Taut walked the line between the faux rural kitsch of the English garden village movement and the brutality of more celebrated modernists.
That Taut spent time in Japan, in exile from the Nazi reigime where he was the first european to study the famously minimalist and proto-modernistic 17th century Katsura Palace. As Japan joined the Axis, Taut moved on to Turkey, where he was awarded a professorship and died too soon, age 58, with his German homeland gearing up for war.
Onkel Tom Siedlung, Zehlendorf, Berlin
His vision of walkable housing estates, in tune with nature, was not taken up in the rebuilding of Europe after the war, with the Corbusian ideal of industrial scale housing winning out in both the West and behind the Iron Curtain.
His human scale urbanism came back into fashion in the 1970s and 80s, and one could even say that his use of color-block graphics anticipated the instragram-driven aesthetic moment that we are living through right now.
you can stay in his home at the Hufeisensiedlung at your next visit to Berlin.