The Siemensstadt residential estate was launched by the Berlin Senate in 1928. it was designed by a group of architects, namely Hans Scharoun, Walter Gropius, Otto Bartning and Hugo Häring. Collectively they called themselves 'The Ring' (der Ring in German). Two further architects, Fred Forbat who worked with Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus and Paul Henning who were not members of the group, participated in the project.
Thanks to the close proximity of the Siemens plants and the existing rail transportation lines, the Siemens-owned building society was given permission to build a large-scale residential estate (with some 18,000 units for Siemens workers) on an undeveloped site.
Hans Scharoun who also designed the master plan for the project grouped the buildings according to the principle of "neigbourhood units" a term loosely related to Taut's concept of "outside living space". One of his main concerns was the preservation of a large central park area. Unfortunately this area was later lost due to the construction of a parking lot. Scharoun emphasized the access route into the estate nearby by flanking the entrance with two buildings placed at acute angles to each other. They are pointed to the railway underpass and provide a link with the neighbouring industrial area.
Contrary to Taut's Hufeisensiedlung, the estate opens up to the surrounding area. The facades of the buildings, designed by Scharoun himself, are accentuated with unusual elements such as projecting balconies, porthole windows and sundecks on the roofs - deliberate reminiscences of naval architecture.
Another characteristic feature of the estate is the long curving building designed by Bartning which forms a kind of protective barrier along the railway line. The terraced housing by Häring is not laid out at exact right angles to Bartning's building, thereby lending the space a dynamic tension. Häring has varied the design of west facades by using different materials adding curved balconies. The rear of the adjoining row of houses has a much less expressive design and seems to retreat further than it actually is, thereby widening the space in between. Häring's detailing clearly manifests his philosophy of an organic functionalism.
By contrast, the section of the estate designed by Walter Gropius represents a strictly rational functionalism. His buildings, with access balconies and glazed staircase towers, appear highly graphic with clearly defined edges and characteristic interplay of dark and light areas. Unlike Häring's sculptural treatment of the building volume which radiates an almost Mediterranean feeling, Gropius' building appears rather austere.
The Ring Estate combines the advantages of terraced housing with an impressive variety of expressive detailing and design. The spectrum of architectural vocabularies suggest a loosely knit association of individual personalities rather than a true collective of designers and epitomises the different facets and of approaches taken by the pioneers of modern city architecture.
Since 2008, the Ring Settlement is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage.