The Greater Berlin Competition of 1910 signals a key transformation in the conception of the city. For the first time, the city was no longer drawn as a continuous bounded urban fabric, but as a set of linked and dispersed urban components distributed across the region. The competition drawings show the beginnings of a set of principles that architectural history usually attributes to modernism: a shared programme to plan the city as a linked but differentiated system of social, technical and biological functions.
This paper traces lines of continuity between the urban vision of Hermann Jansen, one of the two joint competition winners, and subsequent planning thought, in particular the ‘Zehlendorfer Plan’ of 1947. It argues that Jansen can be understood as having initiated the concept of the strategic urban plan—his ‘skeleton’ of urban growth—that can adapt and change according to need, and in negotiation with a range of disciplines and stakeholders. Jansen saw the residential quarter as a distinct component of this growth, which could be resolved at a different moment in time, by a different set of expertise. The ‘Zehlendorfer Plan’ exemplified this flexible adaptable form of planning in which the drawing serves as an instrument of negotiation.