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Werner Düttmann: the man behind Berlin's modernist masterpieces

This month, Berlin celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Werner Düttmann, the architect and urban planner largely responsible for the city as we see it today. Düttmnan’s post-modern, brutalist style, which brazenly exposes a building’s structural bones and the imperfect textures of its (predominantly concrete) materials, pervades Berlin’s Western neighbourhoods.

Düttmann was West Berlin’s Senate Building Director, with an interest in revitalising both the residential and cultural abodes as he took on the mammoth task of rebuilding the city after the war. We have him to thank for the striking St. Agnes Church which now houses the König Gallerie, as well as the Brücke-Museum, envisioned for its current purpose of exhibiting the largest collection of Expressionist artists in the Brücke group that so shaped the movement.

Berlin's Brücke-Museum. Photo: Gortyna via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Indeed, the Brücke-Museum is launching an exhibition on Düttmann which starts in its building and radiates across Berlin in a number of ‘satellite exhibitions’ at Düttmann’s other buildings; watch the trailer here:

Düttmann was however a controversial figure amongst his contemporaries, for aggressively disregarding the Altbau predecessors that had recently occupied the sites of his radical projects. His Mehringplatz redevelopment of the Baroque Belle-Alliance-Platz, flattened in the Battle of Berlin, remains divisive today after Düttmann replaced its fanciful facades with functional social housing blocks.

Housing in Berlin-Kreuzberg, designed by Düttmann. Photo: Gunnar Klack via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Read FAZ’s fascinating profile on Dütmmann here.

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