Architecture in the German Democratic Republic

Architecture in the German Democratic Republic describes construction projects, architecture and urban planning in the German Democratic Republic.

The architecture in the area of the GDR after 1945 was dominated by ideas of modernity, but which found little political support. Instead, sat down to 1955, the Socialist classicism or sugar confectioner style, which coined the Soviet architecture under Joseph Stalin. The architecture in the cities followed the model of the Socialist City with its broad highways, city dominants and a central parade ground. In 1953, Nikita Khrushchev initiated austerity measures in the construction industry, which ultimately led to the departure of socialist classicism and the industrialization of building and the dominance of large-block construction, later to prefabricated buildings in the GDR.

Within the GDR, the preferred expansion of East Berlin into the capital caused rivalries with other cities and districts, which felt significantly disadvantaged in the allocation of construction materials and planning and personnel capacities. The central representation architecture in Berlin includes the Stalinallee (now Karl-Marx-Allee) and the Alexanderplatz including the Berlin TV Tower as well as the University Tower in Jena.

An important city founding was Eisenhüttenstadt. Other cities were substantially enlarged, so the population of Neubrandenburg increased sixfold between 1945 and 1990 and that of Schwedt and Hoyerswerda even tenfold.

The architecture in the GDR was by no means uniform over the nearly 41 years of its existence. Styles and emphases were influenced by political-ideological circumstances, but also by economic constraints. In the foreground, however, was basically the solution of the housing problem.

Post-war and early years
In the early days of the GDR, ideas of modernity prevailed. The destruction of the cities offered the opportunity to turn avant-garde approaches, especially of the Bauhaus, into reality. Hans Scharoun, on behalf of the Allied Control Council, drew up plans for a redistribution and decentralization of the city. Residential cells, in the form of a loose garden city and surrounded by green, should contrast with the dark and narrow apartments of the working-class district.

A well-known example is the beginning of the construction of the then Stalinallee in Berlin, today’s Karl-Marx-Allee and Frankfurter Allee. The two arcades on Karl-Marx-Allee between Warschauer Straße and today’s street of the Paris Commune are typical examples of this phase. After the splendid Soviet sugar confectioner’s style prevailed in the 1950s, trees were planted in front of the buildings, which they still almost completely conceal. The façade front of the sugar confectioners’ building on the avenue has been moved forward by a few meters, so that the arcades are no longer perceived as part of the ensemble today. The functionalist architecture and the idea of the garden city – which were actually related to the early conceptions of the “socialist city” – became, as in other branches of art, the slogans of “formalism” and “politics” popular in the 1940s and 1950s fought against the “petty-bourgeois ideology”. Buildings of the avant-garde phase of the first years of the GDR are rarely to be found today.

Socialist Classicism of the 1950s
These ideas of a relaxed and restrained architecture did not find political approval and were increasingly abandoned in 1950. In its place, representative buildings were to be built in dense buildings. In the now emerging Socialist Classicism (also known as the ” Zuckerbäckerstil “), historical styles were quoted as qualified in the sense of a “national tradition”. Actually used elements and shapes vary in individual buildings and depending on the location. Here, ornamentation and other decorative elements of the past combined with modern living comfort. The background was a cultural-political ideology in the entire Soviet sphere of influence in Europe, which provided for the processing of national elements in contemporary architecture.

In accordance with the cultural program of the time, in 1951, according to the ” 16 Principles of Urban Planning “, a “building style continuing the National Cultural Heritage” was built. In the GDR these were predominantly echoes of classicism. There were also region-specific Neo variants of the Baroque (for example in Dresden and Neubrandenburg) or the brick Gothic (Lange Straße (Rostock)). The avant-garde as well as constructivist ideas from the Bauhaus, which Scharoun and others were still trying to implement in the GDR, had to stand back. Instead, they wanted to create elegant classic business and residential areas for the entire population, the East Berlin chief architect Hermann Henselmann coined the term “workers’ palaces”.

During this time, a number of settlements and quarters emerged. Well-known examples are the Berlin Stalinallee or completely newly built cities like Eisenhüttenstadt. The reconstruction of the Dresden Altmarkt, begun in 1953, cites the Dresden Baroque. The baroque style elements can be seen here, for example, on the curved arches, which were built rectangular in Berlin Stalinallee. In the same phase, in the sense of the “national cultural heritage”, individual reconstructions were begun, such as the Dresden Kreuzkirche, which was consecrated in 1955.

The Grunaer Straße 7-41 in Dresden was the first example of housing in the style of socialist classicism with hints of the Dresden Baroque. In the area of the Pirnaischen suburb was built in the years 1951 to 1955 by Bernhard Klemm and Wolfgang Hänsch a new settlement construction in the architectural style of socialist classicism. In the process, emphasis was placed on a “technically complex construction method”. As part of the expansion of bismuth – uranium mining 1953 to 1954 were built by Albert Patitz the large Nuremberg street in the south suburb of Dresden, with echoes of the Dresden Neo-Baroque as the Homeland Security.

Material shortage and type construction of the 1960s and 1970s
Although the sumptuous style of the 1950s created apartments whose living comfort was an unprecedented climax, this style era found its gradual end as early as 1955. On the one hand ideological as well as on the other concrete economic reasons can be cited, the GDR was soon no longer able to afford this architecturally elaborate method of construction. With the de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union, which gradually spread to the other states in the Soviet sphere of influence, also the representative Neoclassicism was in distress. Above all, however, it was recognized that with the elaborate buildings in this style no large-scale housing construction was possible, but still lived millions of people in poorly repaired old housing or under extremely poor living conditions.

As a result, more industrialized housing was developed with a focus on minimizing costs and enabling quick and massive housing construction. Design issues moved into the background. In Berlin, this development can again be observed in the former Stalinallee, which was already called Karl-Marx-Allee in the current phase. West of the Strausberger Platz now joined a section whose planning corresponded to the “socialist city”. Instead of the splendid neo-classical buildings in the spirit of the Schinkel school, the avenue front was now characterized by purely functional residential buildings in industrial construction. Sporadically flat pavilions were created between these buildings, housing cafés (Café Moskau) and other places of coexistence. Behind the tall dwellings, flatter buildings in small slab construction were arranged, which were arranged in a garden city-like environment. The architecture that replaced socialist classicism was thus more geared to the functionalist ideas of modernist housing construction. This was often not a deliberate design decision, but due to the increasing material needs of the GDR from the 1960s.

In this phase, the type buildings that are today dominating the large housing estates and parts of inner cities in the new federal states were developed. Particularly widespread was the type WBS 70, the first built in 1961 P2 and the high-rise point WHH GT 18/21. Thanks to prefabricated parts, these types made building quick and extremely cost-effective. The average construction cost for an apartment in 1965 amounted to 20,478 marks, while an apartment in the 1951/52 high-rise building on the Weberwiese – the now listed prototype for the Stalinallee – required more than 90,000 marks in construction costs.

In the 1960s, the Council of Ministers of the GDR decided to accelerate the construction and redesign of important cities in the country. So-called “city dominants” should give historic city centers a new, “socialist” appearance and tower above all other buildings, especially the church towers. Thus, the Berlin TV Tower was to become an “urban-planning height-dominant”, a city crown that towers above everything, especially the Marienkirche, and announces the “victoriousness of socialism”. For Jena, the state architect Hermann Henselmann was commissioned to design a round tower, which should be a symbol of binoculars. The building was to be used as a research center of the Carl Zeiss Jena combine. Between June and September 1970, the reinforced concrete core was constructed using a sliding scarf construction. For cost reasons, the building could only be implemented in a reduced version of the original Henselmann draft.

In addition, industrial complexes were built in Schkopau and Leuna in the early 1960s. Erik Neutsch processed the everyday life on the local construction sites to a novel, Trail of the Stones (1964), one of the most successful book phenomena in the GDR, the film adaptation of the stones (film) by Frank Beyer from 1965 was banned immediately after the theatrical release in 1966. An adaptation of the theme of construction in the field of theater in the GDR was Heiner Müller’s piece of cement from 1972 to a model by Fyodor Wassiljewitsch Gladkow.

Individualization and Postmodernism in the 1980s
After the massive construction program by industrialized construction in the 1960s and 1970s, the housing problem was still not solved, yet the construction went into another phase in the 1980s. Now, in spite of the higher costs compared to the new building, a large-scale renovation of the old building stock started. In Berlin, for example, as part of the 750th anniversary of the city around Kollwitzplatz, Wilhelminian-style buildings were renovated and located in Husemannstr. a kind of “museum street” furnished, which should represent the everyday life of Berlin in the working-class quarters. In Neubauten we went now two ways: The first was a departure from the monotonous type construction in relaxed ensembles. Instead, a denser development of cities was again made. Examples include the Berlin Nikolaiviertel, which was also newly constructed or reconstructed during the 750th anniversary celebrations, where historic architectural styles were modeled using prefabricated slabs. In addition to these industrial buildings, which differ significantly from the block construction of the 1960s and 1970s, in the same quarter also buildings were built, the facades of which were modeled true to past centuries. Apart from the inner workings, these are exact reconstructions in a partly different place compared to Original.

Other examples can be found in the Baltic Sea towns of the GDR, where a melange from the Plattenbauweise and Hanseatic gable-Bügerhäusern was created. Particularly noteworthy here is Rostock, for example with the brick gothic inspired Fünfgiebelhaus at the university square by Peter Baumbach, which was completed in 1986.

In addition, however, large residential areas still emerged, but now deviated from the rigid facades. For example, bomb blasts in the densely built-up Berlin center were closed block by block with new buildings. This also created individual houses that did not correspond to any of the previous building types. In Halle (Saale) and Erfurt, too, efforts were made to vary the panels in such a way that gaps could be closed or replacement new buildings could be built that adapted to the historical city structure.

The Hilton Dresden, formerly the Hotel “Dresdner Hof”, on the Neumarkt in Dresden is a striking example in the old town of Dresden for the changed urban planning guidelines in the late phase of the GDR in the East-Postmodern era. It was “no longer radical break with history [insisted], but sought a mediation of” historical heritage “and a modified postmodernism.” The complex of buildings was the “old Münzgasse in historical latitude ” . The building marks a turning point in the inner-city construction policy of the GDR.

“The ‘Postmodern’ is z. Z. defines it from the West perspective: “Countermovement to Modernity, which is characterized not by strict functionality, but by ‘fiction’ and ‘narrative’ and wins them out of a historicizing eclecticism. Instead of dogmatic rigor, popular imagery, stylistic pluralism, sometimes irony. ‘ (Quote: Berlin Architecture, Architecture Guide 2003) The postmodern trends in the GDR have so far not been explored. Too much of the previous perception of the decaying postmodernism is focused on the reception of the buildings in West Germany and Western Europe / USA. By contrast, postmodern construction in East Germany and Eastern Europe is hardly known in the West. But building in the 1980s was different in the East than in the West. The specific manifestations of the ‘reformed panel’ (in Dresden at the former ‘Platz der Einheit’, behind the Rundkino or at Böhnisch Platz), the history of architecture in a special way (like the hotel ‘Bellevue’ at the log cabin or the guesthouse annex in the Ekberg Castle Park) represent a different kind of constructive confrontation with the mistakes and aberrations of post-war modernism. ”

Historic Preservation and Renationalization after 1980
When building the GDR Walter Ulbricht demanded on the III. Party Congress of the SED the departure of (“Western”, founded in the Bauhaus in Weimar) ” formalism “. The architecture has to be national in form. This attitude, as well as Ulbricht’s intense personal influence, was reflected in the founding of a German Academy of Architecture and magazines titled “German Architecture” and several contradictory demolition and construction projects. Under these demolition measures, the demolition of the Leipzig University Church was particularly controversial and caused strong protest for GDR conditions. In the sense of referring to the “national heritage”, many new buildings were erected in the 1950s, reminiscent of regional and nationalist Classicist or Baroque forms.

A recovery of old craft techniques as well as the development of monument preservation skills took place in the GDR later than in Poland and the Federal Republic. A central object was the reconstruction of the Semperoper in Dresden, which was re-opened in 1985. Symbolic ruins such as the Dresden Frauenkirche or the Berlin Monastery Church were preserved as a memorial after their destruction in the Second World War until the end of the GDR or to the present day. Other important historic buildings such as the Berlin Cathedral or the Old Town Hall in Leipzig were rebuilt after war damage. The churches in East Germany also received support from the West during construction measures. In contrast to the many alterations in the West, the historical substance of the prewar period was in many places still decayed in the GDR, but still preserved in original form. In the 1980s, the East German government increasingly restored references to the historical past, such as the Berlin Gendarmenmarkt, the re-installation of the equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in 1980 Unter den Linden as well as in Meissen, Weimar and Naumburg.

In addition to housing, there was also a lot of construction in the area of private homes in the GDR. In 1972, a stock of 2.5 million homes was counted, but this number decreased until 1989.

Rationalization was also the focus of homeownership. Already after the land reform in the Soviet zone of occupation a large number of “Neubauerhäusern” developed in the following years, which resembled in structure and appearance strongly. In them came the peasants, now equipped with their own land, who formerly had to live as farm laborers, servants or city dwellers in poor living conditions. The rational simplicity applied to these houses continued in the homes of the following years.

In general, however, it remains to say that homeowning never acquired the importance of mass housing construction in the GDR. Although homes were available even in the outskirts of the cities at relatively low prices, but due to the poor supply of building materials, fittings and craft services, many people shunned the purchase of a house. The risk of getting in trouble with necessary repairs was very high. In addition, rents in the GDR were restricted by law and often accounted for less than five percent of the family income.

Alternatively, the allotment gardening in the GDR developed much stronger than in the Federal Republic. Allotments served both as a substitute for missing travel opportunities and as an important compensation for supply bottlenecks with fruits and vegetables. In this context, the small animal husbandry in East German allotments was occasionally classified. The allotment gardening in the GDR was adapted to the specific economic and cultural conditions, which was expressed for example in a much more liberal allotment garden law than in the West, which led to some difficulties after the turnaround – even today, the overwhelming majority of East German allotment gardeners “offend” the federal allotment garden law. The parcels were also larger on average than in West Germany. Allotments could be used for extremely low fees from state or private, eg. As ecclesiastical, possessions are leased. In addition to allotment gardens, the more remote from the cities weekend properties were spread, which were based on the Russian counterpart of the dacha. One consequence was that the word “dacha” is mistaken today as a term of everyday language for a small garden of the GDR with bungalow. Apart from a few individual bungalow buildings, mainly bungalows made of prefabricated modules were used, which, in contrast to the small garden houses in the Federal Republic, made it possible to stay longer with bathrooms, kitchens and several rooms. East German allotment garden colonies are typically characterized today by the bungalows “B14”, “B19”, “B26” etc., which were delivered as a kit and built by the allotment gardeners themselves.

Sacred buildings
After the Second World War, several emergency churches were erected in the east of Germany until the early 1950s as a substitute for war-torn churches, including several of the type designed by Otto Bartning. Another early new building was the New Synagogue in Erfurt, which was built as a simple two-storey plaster building in 1951/52 to plans by Willy Nöckel. It remained the only synagogue built in GDR times.

After these early buildings, however, there were only occasionally new religious buildings until the end of the 1970s, such as the Catholic Church of Christ in Rostock built by Ulrich Müther in 1971. The buildings were often hardly recognizable as churches to the outside. In particular, in the new planned cities such as Eisenhüttenstadt and the later large housing estates originally no church buildings were planned and built. In his so-called “Tower Speech” on the occasion of the naming of the newly built city as Stalinstadt Walter Ulbricht 1953 spoke of “bourgeois-capitalist dumbing institutions” and gave to understand that in the socialist city there is no room for churches: “We were asked whether we will also build towers in this city. Yes. The building that represents the new people power, the town hall, will of course get a beautiful tower. And in the city plan a beautiful cultural building is provided, which will get an even more beautiful tower. But otherwise we do not need towers anymore. ” These statements are not found in the written speech manuscript, but are often proven by partially differing memories.

This changed only after 1976, when in the context of a construction program New churches for new cities the establishment of first ten church new buildings in new districts of the GDR was approved by the state. In contrast to earlier isolated new buildings, these were supposed to be “no clubhouses”. Albrecht Schönherr understood this invitation to him by the Secretary of State for Church issues so that the new buildings should be clearly recognizable as churches and should be limited to the “purely religious”. The first of these new churches was inaugurated in 1981 in Eisenhüttenstadt, more followed in Dresden – Prohlis, Jena – Lobeda, Leipzig – Grünau, Magdeburg -Nord, Berlin-Fennpfuhl, Greifswald -Schönwalde, Gotha -West, Karl-Marx-Stadt- Markersdorf, Schwerin – Great Dreesch. In the 1980s, then many other sacred buildings. Most new churches were financed by West German or other European churches (especially in the years after the war). For this reason, building materials (clinker, copper) could often be used in the construction of new churches, which were otherwise hardly available in this quality in East German construction.

In the 1980s, sacred buildings of other denominations and religions such as the Mormons emerged. Other religions, such as Buddhism, were mainly privately exercised.

Representation of the GDR abroad
The Permanent Representation of the GDR in the West was a functional building built in Bonn- Goesberg, which today houses the German Nutrition Society. For the construction of embassies and commercial representations (1955-1958) Franz Ehrlich was the architect of the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

Directly connected with the exploration of the architecture of the GDR was the building of the permanent representation of the Federal Republic of Germany. It originally served the Academy of Sciences and in 1949 received a studio opened by Hans Scharoun. Here on 1 January 1951 the German building academy and at times the editorship of the magazine “German architecture” was accommodated. In 1973, the German Academy of Construction cleared the house, which was rebuilt for the Permanent Mission.

Interior architecture
Interior architecture and home decor
In terms of home decor, differences between rural living and industrial districts in the GDR were clearly visible.

Traditional companies such as the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau were used in the GDR for industrial large-scale production of interiors for hotels, colleges and theaters. The original focus on individual equipment with high-quality interior decoration for individual objects came only rarely to bear. As an exception which applies Meyer villa in Radebeul, a “rare example of an East German entrepreneurs Villa” and in the home style of Albert Patitz designed.

In the wake of 17 June, there was a 1953 furniture touring exhibition and a consumer survey. The traveling exhibition presented living room, bedroom and children’s room furniture from GDR production at 25 selected locations and questioned the opinion of the population on the design studies by means of a questionnaire. The Socialist furniture design drew on historical models, less on the Bauhaus Modernism. Innovative approaches, such as those at the Ulm College of Design in the West, were also observed with considerable mistrust in the GDR.

Functional buildings
Because of its extraordinary acoustics and quality as well as simple interior design known to this day Franz Ehrlich radio station Nalepastraße in Berlin Oberschöneweide. From 1956 to 1990, the broadcasting of the GDR was based here.

Franz Ehrlich was also 1950-1952 as director of the United State-owned enterprises industrial design for the design and construction of numerous industrial buildings and facilities responsible u. a.Shipyards in Wismar and Stralsund, the iron and steel works in Freital / Saxony and the Elbe power plant in Vockerode / Saxony-Anhalt and next to the Nalepastraße radio station also for the Berlin-Adlershof television center.

Everyday life was shaped by the consumer cooperative Konsum and the HO (trade organization).

Transmission towers for telecommunications were built in the 1950s at many locations in the GDR. In contrast to telecommunications masts, A towers were block-like structures with a square layout. They served as straightening towers and radio towers of the People’s Police as well as for monitoring telephone lines. The environment was mostly protected as a restricted area from access by unauthorized persons.

Legacy and Heritage
The architecture of the GDR shapes many larger cities in the new federal states. These include a looser development of war-torn inner cities and monotonous prefabricated housing estates on the outskirts. At the same time, the maintenance of the housing stock of inner cities was massively neglected. Gerhard Schürer concluded in October 1989 in a submission to the SED – Politburo : “Since 1970, more than 3 million homes were rebuilt or reconstructed and therefore for 9 million people d. H.more than half of the population of the GDR, qualitatively created new living conditions. As a result of the concentration of funds, the most urgent repair measures were not carried out at the same time, and in such cities as Leipzig, and especially in middle-class towns such as Görlitz u. a.There are thousands of dwellings that are no longer habitable. ”

Few East German buildings were after reunification monument asked. Examples are the teacher’s house with the adjoining congress hall in Berlin or ensembles of the sugar confectionery style. In most large housing estates in the new federal states, demolition programs are now taking place, in which entire sections are demolished or the number of levels significantly reduced, the background is a massive exodus of residents, both in the increasingly renovated historic district as in other regions. Instead of leaving entire blocks, which are inhabited only sporadically, an attempt is being made to preserve the urban character by dismantling the real needs with an improved quality of life and a minimum housing density.

The widespread demolition of style-forming buildings of the GDR era culminated in the highly controversial demolition of the Palast der Republik in Berlin and the associated, planned reconstruction of the Berlin city palace. Reasons are not only new aesthetic demands, interests in use and political contexts, but also high land prices, especially in the city centers, which clash with the large-scale and loose construction of GDR architecture. Such a case was a large-scale shopping center in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, which was almost completed in 1989, and which eventually had to give way to a narrower development. In the case of the central Marx-Engels-Forum In Berlin, on the other hand, the popularity of inner-city open space contributed to the preservation.

The ruin of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) had a similar effect only as long as the surrounding open space of the socialist city was present. The Frauenkirche would have largely lost its memorial character in today’s dense urban development. Because of the diverging debris, it had already come to static questionable movements for the environment.

The historical significance of the socialist city is and has been the subject of comparative research, especially in social geography. Compared to the original characteristics, there were now massive interventions and an increasing city formation. Thus, the Prager Straße in Dresden was heavily rebuilt and rejected the then loose and spacious building concept by complementary buildings in the gaps. At Alexanderplatz in Berlin, the ensemble, which was typical of the socialist city, was considerably impaired by subsequent structural compaction. The striking reference points such as the world clock and in particular the television tower as the landmark of East Berlin remained.

The former socialist city centers are still characterized by a higher proportion of (affordable) apartments. An almost complete demolition of the city as in the eponymous area of the City of London was also in the West trying to counteract, but given the massive economic interests in the attractive inner city locations with little success.

Part of the legacy of the GDR’s urban planning policy is that, especially in the middle-class towns, the historic old town centers were largely preserved in pre-war condition because the money was lacking for large-scale urban renewal programs, as was done in West Germany. Although many parts of the Old Town were completely neglected in 1990, they still existed in their substance, so that they could be secured and preserved. A well-known example of this is the Andreasviertel in Erfurt, which was the subject of fierce arguments in the last years of the GDR. A second destruction of historic inner cities after 1989, as postulated in Erwin Schleich’s post-war Munich case was discussed in some areas of the former GDR and the World Heritage Site Quedlinburg prevented by a surface under protection.

Industrialization and standardization through prefabricated construction
Between 1949 and 1989, various standardized constructions were used in the construction of residential buildings. While in the construction phase of the 1950s, hollow blocks were used, began in the 1960s, the increased use of concrete slabs, which led to the general name Plattenbau. Due to the standardized and industrialized large panel construction (prefabricated building), the architectural freedom was severely restricted.

Both the facades and the apartment layouts were standardized. A typical example of this is the Q3A series. While these buildings still generally had stove heaters, central heating or district heating was integrated as standard in the building types of the 1970s. So the housing construction series WBS 70 or P2.

A total of approx. 3 million residential units were built between 1949 and 1990, of which approx. 1.5 million were built in prefabricated buildings.

According to Christoph Hackelsberger , before 1972 the GDR was a leader in building physics and in automated construction, especially in its theoretical foundations. In practice, there were shortcomings due to the lack of sufficient insulation materials due to the general lack of currency as well as specific, mixed construction (sulfur content of local lignite, composition of aggregates in northern Germany) caused problems in the production of concrete.

Source from Wikipedia