Friday, 21 October 2011

Ode to a Plattenbau

People in Berlin often do a double-take when I tell them where I live.

"You're living in Lichtenberg? Why?" they ask, gaping at me. Sometimes they laugh and add, "Please, at least tell me that you don't also live in a plattenbau!" Well, I do and I love it, although I have to admit that I often wish for nicer scenery (and better cafes).

For those of you who don't know, plattenbau are prefabricated apartment buildings that were favoured by the East German government as a cost-effective means of delivering quality housing to the masses. They are among the newest structures standing in Berlin but are often criticized by aesthetes for their lack of character. They have other benefits though, which I've found myself explaining over and over to the skeptics. Finally, I decided that it would simply be more efficient to simply write them down... and this tongue-in-cheek poem was the result.

My Plattenbau

By Miss E. E. Elain

Down in Lichtenberg
Where the "Asi's" roam,
Is a funky old plattenbau
That I call home.
It's 10 stories tall,
Not too wide,
A little beat up maybe, but cozy inside.
"Wessies" sometimes point at it and laugh,
But they should be jealous of what I have.
While they fear rent rises and relocation
I know my home's safe from gentrification!

lt was built by Russians to conserve their roubles,
Yet it still stands tall while the altbauten crumble.
They may have high ceilings and historical quirks,
But I have a home where the heating works...
Where the walls are thick; where the insulation's great,
Where, anytime I want, I can elevate.
In fact, the only thing I don't like about plattenbaus
Is that there aren't more of them around!


  1. I'm writing a blog post on Evol, a graffiti artist who uses plattenbauen as his 'inspiration' for graffiti, and your poem gave me a short, quick insight into life of a plattenbau! Thank you :D I can find hardly anything about them in English!

  2. Hi!
    I am a writer from Sweden and have started to be interested in various things and enviroments in Berlin. Im writing a story about Plattenbau houses and would like to publish your poem, if its OK for you.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    With best regards,
    Peo Rask

  3. Hi there, sorry for the slow reply. Sure, you can republish it as long as you include an attribution and/or linkback to this blog. Thanks for reading & enjoying the post!