In the late 19th century, the working-class neighborhoods of Berlin were in devastating conditions. Very often families would live, sleep and cook in a single room, in very confined spaces. During the day, the sleeping place would be assigned to a shift worker, a so-called “sleeper”, who can only afford the rent for a place to sleep. The reason behind the spatial issues was the massive migration of the rural population to the cities during the 19th century. This migration was caused by the so-called “liberation” of the peasants, which had relieved them from their drudgery only to push them into unsecure social and financial future. Simultaneously, the ongoing industrialization promised new working opportunities in the cities. The cities, which were not equipped for this, were initially unable to cope with the arrival of so many new residents. In retrospect, this phase was described as “urbanization”.
Financial instability, confined spaces, overcrowdedness, noise, heat, and the lack of drainage and sanitary utilities- the dominant problems of the German worker society of that time are somewhat similar to the issues the population of Dharavi must faces today. The German worker neighborhoods also contributed to a separation of societal levels.
However, there were some key differences. In the late 19th century, German workers would be employed by big-scale industries and worked in big factories, while the population of Dharavi thrives on their small-scale industries and handicraft. Also, the architecture of the houses in Germany was very different. The complexes in which the workers-society resided were called “Mietskaserne”.