Why we went for an Altbau

We visited several Aufbau flats buit after WWII, between 1955 and 1960. They are all neatly planned and very rational. But there are a lot of them on the market, and that we could always find one, if we fancied it. Like the one herebelow, in Moabit.

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We felt these flats are quite abundant on the market, whereas Altbau are definitely  rare, especially those at reasonable prices.

Sometimes the Altbau is just “old” and not particularly exciting. Sometime it’s fine, but the Kiez is a bit of a social desert. Sometimes it’s magnificient, but someone just snapped it up!

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Still with a lot of dedication and patience you may find a flat in an Altbau which needs some refurbishing but offers:

1) interesting architectural patterns and facades: Jugendstil, Gruenderzeit, Historicismus, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus, Bayerisch, Gothic… you name it.

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2) nice lobbys with big portes cocheres and staircases with wooden boiseries

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3) the flats have high ceilings: close to 4 metres on average, some retain the original stuccos

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4) iron, heavy heating systems, sometimes with nice shapes, forms follows function etc etc

5) beautiful windows, bow-windows – and BIG ones, not tiny!

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6) old oak parquet, or at least, portions of it;

Of course, there are also some minuses:

1) awkward layout, due to the post-war cut-and-paste: in many cases a large buergerlich flat has been divided into 2 or 3 smaller units, the Grundriss sometimes has an innatural feeling, with small rooms, big corridors, odd room shapes;

2) very thin walls were added in order to carve out more rooms out of bigger ones, they have external pipes in many cases;

3) uneven floor surfaces. Nice parquets mix and match with poor wooden planks or are hidden below old carpets. Sometimes the original parquet was substituted with laminat, which is ok for a 50s flat, but looks out-of-synch in an Altbau

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In a nutshell, you have the uniqueness, but lots of work to do, and some money needs to be spent on the property.

Still, they did know a thing or two on building techniques, one century ago. Those Altbau which resisted to 2 wars have done their homework pretty well, and they feel solid and glorious.

It DOES gets emotional…if you fall for an Altbau, it’s also for it being still there, 100 years or more after it was built. It’s for that bit of boiserie, still up. Or for those thick exterior walls, conserving so well the heat, and for those thick, solid heating systems, which were extremely modern at the time of construction, and still are.

Photos: StripedCat (all Altbau photos were taken in Schoeneberg)

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