Plattenbau is the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word for a building whose structure is constructed of large, prefabricated
Prefabrication is the practice of assembling components of a structure in a factory or other manufacturing site, and transporting complete assemblies or sub-assemblies to the construction site where the structure is to be located...

 concrete slab
Concrete slab
A concrete slab is a common structural element of modern buildings. Horizontal slabs of steel reinforced concrete, typically between 10 and 50 centimeters thick, are most often used to construct floors and ceilings, while thinner slabs are also used for exterior paving.In many domestic and...

s. The word is a compound of Platte (in this context: panel) and Bau (building). Although Plattenbauten are often considered to be typical of East Germany, the prefabricated construction method was used extensively in West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 and elsewhere, particularly in public housing
Public housing
Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is owned by a government authority, which may be central or local. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the...

 (see tower block
Tower block
A tower block, high-rise, apartment tower, office tower, apartment block, or block of flats, is a tall building or structure used as a residential and/or office building...

). In English the building method is also called large-panel system building or LPS.


Prefabrication was pioneered in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, based on construction methods developed in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The first German use of plattenbau construction is what is now known as the Splanemann-Siedlung in Berlin's Lichtenberg
Lichtenberg is the eleventh borough of Berlin, Germany. In Berlin's 2001 administrative reform it absorbed the former borough of Hohenschönhausen.-Overview:...

 district, constructed in 1926–1930. These two- and three-story apartment houses were assembled of locally cast slabs, inspired by the Dutch Betondorp in Watergraafsmeer
The Watergraafsmeer is a polder in The Netherlands. It was reclaimed in 1629. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were many buitenplaatsen in the Watergraafsmeer, though nowadays only one, Frankendael, remains....

, a suburb of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...


In East Germany, Plattenbau areas have been designated as Neubaugebiet (“New development area”). Virtually all new residential buildings since the 1960s were built in this style, as it was a quick and relatively cheap way to solve the country's severe housing shortage, which had been caused by wartime bombing raids and the large influx of German refugees from further east. There were several common plattenbau designs. The most common series was the P2
-Technology:* P2 , a "Professional Plug-in" solid state data storage technology employed by Panasonic* DSC-P2, a Sony Cyber-shot P series camera model* Honda P2, a 1996 Honda P series of robots, an ASIMO predecessor...

, followed by the WBS 70. the WHH GT 18, and Q3A. The designs were flexible and could be built as towers or rows of apartments of various heights.

There have been projects with low rise "plattenbauten" such as the town of Bernau
Bernau bei Berlin
Bernau bei Berlin is a German town in the Barnim district. The town is located about northeast of Berlin.-History:...

 just north of Berlin. This town had an almost complete historic center of mainly wooden framed buildings within its preserved city walls. Most of these were torn down after 1975 and during the eighties to be replaced by 2–4 story buildings constructed of prefabricated concrete slabs. To fit in with the medieval church and the almost complete city wall, the houses used rather small design units and decreased in height the farther away they were from the Church and the nearer the came to the city wall. A similar project was the Nikolaiviertel
Founded about 1200, the Nikolaiviertel of Alt-Berlin, together with the neighbouring settlement of Cölln, is the reconstructed historical heart of the German capital Berlin...

 around the historic Nikolai church in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

's old center. In the case of the Nikolaiviertel the buildings were made to look more historic.

Plattenbau apartments were considered highly desirable in East Germany, the main alternative being overcrowded, deteriorating prewar housing, often with wartime damage still visible. Since reunification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

 a combination of decreasing population, renovation of older buildings, and construction of modern alternative housing has led to high vacancy rates, with some estimates placing the number of unoccupied units at around a million. Many plattenbau apartments were built in giant settlements, often on the edge of cities (such as Marzahn
Marzahn is a locality within the borough of Marzahn-Hellersdorf in Berlin. Berlin's 2001 administrative reform led to the former boroughs of Marzahn and Hellersdorf fusing into a single new borough...

 and Hellersdorf
Hellersdorf is a locality in the borough of Marzahn-Hellersdorf in Berlin. Between 1986 and Berlin's 2001 administrative reform, it was a borough in its own right, consisting of the current area of Hellersdorf as well as Kaulsdorf and Mahlsdorf.-History:...

 in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 and Halle-Neustadt), making them inconveniently located.

While many plattenbau apartments have been renovated to a high standard, some are being torn down, although a lack of funds means many have been left to become derelict. Because of the modular construction some are dismantled and moved to a new location.

See also

  • Panelák
    is a colloquial term in Czech and Slovak for a panel building constructed of pre-fabricated, pre-stressed concrete, such as those extant in Czech Republic and elsewhere in the former Soviet bloc...

  • Panelház
    Panelház is the name of a type of block of flats in Hungary and Hungarian inhabited areas of the Pannonian Basin. Transylvanian Magyars call these buildings tömbház . It was the main housing type built in the Socialist era. From 1959 to 1990 788,000 panel flats were built in Hungary...

  • Khrushchyovka
  • Million Programme
    Million Programme
    The Million Programme is the common name for an ambitious housing programme implemented in Sweden between 1965 and 1974 by the governing Swedish Social Democratic Party to make sure everyone could have a home at a reasonable price. The aim of the programme was to build a million new dwellings in a...

  • Tower block
    Tower block
    A tower block, high-rise, apartment tower, office tower, apartment block, or block of flats, is a tall building or structure used as a residential and/or office building...

  • Urbanism
    Broadly, urbanism is a focus on cities and urban areas, their geography, economies, politics, social characteristics, as well as the effects on, and caused by, the built environment.-Philosophy:...

  • Hansaviertel
    The Hansaviertel is a small locality between Großer Tiergarten park and the Spree river within the central Mitte borough of Berlin...

  • Unité d'Habitation
    Unité d'Habitation
    The Unité d'Habitation is the name of a modernist residential housing design principle developed by Le Corbusier, with the collaboration of painter-architect Nadir Afonso...

  • Pruitt–Igoe – similar housing project in the United States
  • Grosvenor Atterbury
    Grosvenor Atterbury
    Grosvenor Atterbury was an American architect, urban planner and writer. He studied at Yale University and then travelled in Europe. He studied architecture at Columbia University and worked in the offices of McKim, Mead & White. Much of Atterbury’s early work consisted of weekend houses for...

  • Eastern Bloc economies
    Eastern Bloc economies
    After the Soviet Union's occupation of much of the Eastern Bloc during World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin implemented socioeconomic transformations of each of the Eastern Bloc economies that comported with the Soviet Communist economic model...

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