“Middle Germany” by Philip Stapel

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“Middle Germany� Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies

“Middle Germany” Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies philip stapel may 2011 human culture & environment - ö!r. gör.dr. cem beygo istanbul technical university - faculty of architecture


human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


Content 1.Introduction




2.Regional Definition of “Middle Germany"


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„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies

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Introduction the supra-regional crisis – as planning default value Concerning regional and urban planning, “Middle Germany” – a re-neologism for a part of the East German space - offers a special challenge for nowadays planners. After a long time of agreeable living conditions in this region rich on natural resources and fertile ground located in the present federal states Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, the postindustrial, post-reunification society faces huge problems. Besides the globally known phenomenon of shrinking cities in the old industrial nations, primarily the collapse of the real-socialist republic and the instant transformation to a capitalist economy led to abandoned spaces, having been widely unable to transform their factories to market capable locations. Additionally to the massive emigration, the general demographic change increases the population loss. Still 20 years after Germany’s reunification, villages, towns and cities suffer from dwindling population, empty apartments, demolished buildings, ailing factories, abandoned mining pits, defective infrastructure and so on and so forth. While some larger regional centres could relatively recover and may list a slight rise of influx, the rural communities and smalltowns are still heavily faced by mentioned problems, which shape the discussion of regional development like nothing else. In this process, the term `development` can interestingly be associated with removal, dismantling or relocation as well as these properly symptoms of regression are mainly considered as progress in environmental revitalization. Handling the low potential of development within an, at first sight, economic checkmate situation and finding the core of interest and identity of neglected towns, which are multi-layered shaped by the European history; that´s what can be seen as the controversial foreground of the planner´s work in “Middle Germany”.


human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip



Regional Definition of “Middle Germany”

questionable geographical terms – as a political expression The introduction to the issue of “Middle Germany” should not neglect a differentiation of its geographical term. Constitution of space by linguistic practices, which especially don´t refer to topographical characteristics in favour of a political construction, always imply inclusion and exclusion of regions and its inhabitants complemented by an suppression of original smooth transitions. With the implementation of political borders and terms, these natural transitions and similarities were pushed back by internal prescription of a certain language and a collective historical background with the intention of creating a regional – or usually national - consciousness. While the English core term in “Middle Germany” refers to the racial definition of the German tribes, which settled - the acceptance of the racial classification provided -, however, in various regions of northern Europe, but not throughout modern Germany, the German term of “Deutschland” relates to a language area, which is also problem-afflicted due to linguistic transitions of dialects and German speaking regions besides manifested Germany. Within this political construction, that shifted its outlines in the course of interior imperialistic aggression and lost wars several times, the contemporary renewed expression of “Middle Germany” attempts grammatically superficially to appear as its geographical centre. Topographically taken seriously, the term neglects that the eastern-most point of present Germany is located within the region and corresponds historically rather with the boundaries before 1945, when this area was then regarded to be in the middle of Germany due to it being approximately midpoint between Aachen and Königsberg. Apart of that, the name was associated with the core of German progression being one of the most advanced areas of Germany as a centre of both the Protestant Reformation and the 19th century Industrial Revolution as it included inter alia the “Middle German Chemical

Triangle”. After the separation of the former eastern territories and the later West German governmental acceptance of the Oder-Neisse line as the fixed eastern border of Germany by the 1970 Treaty of Warsaw, far-rights and revanchists only promoted the view of declaring the region as original centre of Germany.

linguistic comeback – as formulated faith in recurring strength Today, the current situation, which started with the reunification in 1990, experiences the comeback of “Middle Germany” as an omnipresent vocabulary. The activists newly promoting the expression, endeavour, however, mainly to establish a new economical identity including getting rid of the dusted image of “Eastern Germany”, separating from the more rural states like Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, underlining the central location in Europe and reminding of the area´s industrial glory in former times. Based on these aims, it became an advertising slogan when the three federal state governments formed a corporation called “Initative Mitteldeutschland” to intensify the relations between various economic clusters. Furthermore, the public broadcaster for the states of Thuringia, Saxony and SaxonyAnhalt uses the term in its name “Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk” since 1991 as well as private companies, that are located primarily around Halle and Leipzig like the “Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding”, the regional branch of the Evangelical Church and sports competitions like the Middle German Championships. Certainly, the term´s initiators do not intend to be associated with the revanchist ideas mentioned earlier and are rather followers of boundless global economy, but they still may be associated with the context of contemporary glorification of the Wilhelminian era, which finds i.e. architectural expression in the reconstruction of historical palaces besides the affirmative

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies


dealing with historical vocabulary. Anyway, this way of linguistic practice follows, in fact, the rules of a global locational competition, within which the crisis-ridden area of “Middle Germany” tries to reposition itself confidently.

regional characteristics – as perimeter of a constructed space

German Democratic Republic. In little anticipation of the following, this brief intersection analysis determines the scope of investigation, which should deal from a purely material perspective with the development of man-made environment in so-called “Middle Germany”.

Starting from the assumption of a region called “Middle Germany”, it could be naturalgeographical defined as an area, which is bounded approximately by the Harz Mountains in north west, the Thuringian Forest and the Franconian Forest in southwest, the Erzgebirge and the Lusatian Mountains, the Saxon Switzerland and the Lusatian mountains in southeast and the Fläming in the north. In search of regional specifics, some mainly transregional - characteristics might be found, which shape the special environment as an intersection. First of all, the area is defined as part of Central Germany, which corresponds with the geological region of the hilly Central Uplands that stretches from the North German plain to the South German Scarplands and roughly coincides with the transition region between the Benrath line and Speyer line isoglosses, where Central German dialects are spoken. While this definition would include wide regions of the federal states Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse in Western Germany, it likewise excludes the northern region of SaxonyAnhalt, whose integration can yet be justified by historic administrative arguments. Until 1944, the regarded north around Magdeburg was under administration of the Prussian province of Saxony like the “Middle German” core part Halle or northern Thuringian parts, what left an state-wide equal political history like the present federal state construct does. Additionally, the region experienced a similar history of industrialization and is nowadays integrated in the “Industrial Initiative Middle Germany”, which comprises the three states in general. As well as it gives another reason for previously mentioned integration, the western states can easily be removed by the acknowledgement of a 40 years and beyond lasting social and economic influence of the 6

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip



Settlement, industrialization and development until WWII first settlements – as initial of regional population While the oldest human remains around Leipzig/Saxony are classified as 280.000 years of age, findings of skeletons around Bilzingsleben/Thuringia from 400.000 BCE are traces of the earliest appearance of Homo erectus in Central Europe. With the transition from human status of hunter-gatherer to farming and cattle breeding, first tracks of regional settlement history are dated 5500 BCE. Settling was focussed to several spaces of fertile ground - normally located at the river´s floodplains -, which have been continuously used from farming communities. Excavations of circular ditches inter alia near Dresden and Leipzig refer to organized and settled living in the area around 4800–4600 BCE. Seen as remains of Europe’s oldest advanced civilization, function and creators of the monuments are still unknown and simply called as “central location” of an unidentified civilized culture. Further important testimonies of regional culture were found with the “nebra sky disc” near Nebra/Saxony-Anhalt, associatively dated to 1600 BCE, confirming astronomical knowledge and abilities of the people. Less archaeological recovery from 0-400 CE is a hint of significant decline of settlement between Harz Mountains, Thuringian Forest and Mulde River, inhabitans of which were named “Elbe Germans” by the Romans. Permanent settling started only around 6th century after the Migration period, during which the Elbe Germans emigrated from the eastern region, where Slavic tribes moved up. In the nonSlavic parts, the German tribe of Thuringians established a kingdom, which however rested not a hundred years, being defeated in the war with the Franks. Expansion of the Frankish empire towards west guided to a demarcation line through today´s Saxony between east

Franconia-Saxon kingdom and West-Slavic territory. With the “German eastward expansion” (“Ostkolonisation”) starting in 9th century, parts of the sparsely settled WestSlavic region were colonized by Germanspeaking settlers, overtaking existing structures and imposing German law.

status of town fortification – as image of early urban development Although town-like settlements already existed, as craftsmen and merchants formed suburbs of fortified strongholds in close vicinity to the castle walls, settlements were usually characterized by being open to the environment - due to the agricultural field of activity - and dependent to the regional nobility until these days. Now, the “east colonization” accelerated the formation of towns. Initiated by the sovereigns, the citizenship there was promoted by privileges, to gear up the regional development, to implant fortified, military locations and to recruit settlers. Nevertheless this development happened in the eastern specific context, a huge part of towns in the German settlement area was also founded in this time. The potential development of a town was closely related to the given privileges and the geographical position. Initial point was the settlement´s receipt of the town law “granting them autonomy from local secular or religious rulers. Such privileges often included the right to self-governance, economic autonomy, criminal courts and militia”.1 As being places of production, trade and increasing wealth, the new towns were rapidly fortified with walls as protection against robbery and unwanted visitors. Another important status was the market rights, enabling the citizens the access to agricultural goods, that couldn´t be grown inside the walls and stressing the town´s meaning of civil trade. The majority of the elder settlements, which developed to bigger 1 2 3

from: wikipedia from: wikipedia Furthermore, Leipzig hosted one of the first and biggest universities of Germany - founded in 1409-, which widened the town´s meaning to a scientific location and attracted a broad intellectual elite.


became a centre of mechanical „Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlementsMagdeburg 7 to contemporary problems and resulting strategies engineering in

Germany, Jena led the optical industry and the region of

towns, were located at important trading routes, especially at the antique roman paths of Via Regia and Via Emperia, like Eisenach, Erfurt, Weimar, Jena, Leipzig and Dresden or at the Old Salt Route like Halle and Magdeburg. These towns – having mainly received town law during the 12th century became important regional centres for trade, handcrafting and education creating some of the oldest universities of today´s Germany in the 15th century. Lying exactly at the crossing of the significant routes, Leipzig became a special centre of the region. The regional towns, formed after receiving the German town rights during the early second millennium, often had similar layouts. The centre was usually defined by a market place surrounded by a row of residential and storehouses – characterized by steep saddle roofs - of wealthy merchants and artisans featured by a close church. Main streets connected the market with the entrances of the town, while secondary roads appeared around the centre in a planed grid system or concentric circles, where less wealthy citizens lived. Defensive walls, gates and ditches manifested the town´s outline. Due to increasing population and resulting town expansion in course of the centuries, the early fortifications had to be offset and upgraded reflecting the current level of military development. This development culminated in the 17th century, when massive strongholds were built to resist canon fire. Being much more difficult to remove, the intense fortification limited the expansion of the cities and led to increasing population density inside the walls. “In the wake of city growth and the ensuing change of defensive strategy, focusing more on the defence of forts around cities, most city walls were demolished”2 from the end of the 18th century. At this time, several middle-German towns had already developed to cities with crossregional significance on the basis of being royal residence of the Saxony Kingdom like Dresden, having rich influence on culture and education like Weimar or locating an 2


from: wikipedia

important hub for European trade and traffic like Leipzig. This outstanding relevance of Leipzig was promoted by its trade fair law received in 1497, which formed the basis of the world´s first fair and Leipzig´s reputation within the East-West trade tradition.3

industrialization – as background for urban explosion and human exploitation The time of defortification coincided with the upcoming industrialization. Towns expanded rapidly over the ditches in need of space for factories and the masses of labourseeking people immigrating from the countryside. Comparable to the development in England, the first period of industrialization in later “Middle Germany” was marked by the increasing mechanization of the textiles and mining sectors, but with huge differences in the regional spread. Apart from some basic industrial approaches in the regional centres, traditional agriculture and handicrafts dominated the appearance of the sparsely populated north - around Magdeburg - and west – in Thuringia - during this period. In these regions, significant changes occurred first in the second industrialization phase with mechanization of farming and the sectors of mechanical engineering and optical industry. In the late 19th century, the salt mining industry of Bernburg and Halle (and Bitterfeld) dominated the world market and the local mineral resources supplied the rapidly growing chemical and metal processing industry.4 The kingdom of Saxony - represented by Chemnitz, Leipzig and Dresden - played a special role from the very beginning of industrialization. Titled as 3


Furthermore, Leipzig hosted one of the first and biggest universities of Germany - founded in 1409-, which widened the town´s meaning to a scientific location and attracted a broad intellectual elite. Magdeburg became a centre of mechanical engineering in Germany, Jena led the optical industry and the region of Halle set up important chemical factories. Between 1815 and 1915, the population of these towns substantially increased: from 20.000 to 200.000 in Halle, 30.000 to 300.000 in Magdeburg.

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


German Manchester, Chemnitz was an early technologized and productive location of textiles industry followed by the two other mentioned cities, which hosted approximately 200 factories in 1830 (1500 around 1860). Supported by their traditional significance in interregional trade and infrastructure of traffic, which was expanded in 1839 with the first railway line between Leipzig and Dresden, the industrialization grew quick. To be mentioned are the upswing of railway and machine construction, the large scale lignite mining in the periphery and the chemical industry. In 1850, already more than 50% of the kingdom´s population didn´t work within the agricultural sector any more. With about 100.000 inhabitants, Leipzig was already a city in 1864; quadrupling its population until 1895 by influx and incorporation of surrounding municipalities. With the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 (“Gründerzeit”), a construction boom started, which lasted undampedly until 1905 and included the erection of a huge range of representative buildings besides the densification of cities by housing development.5 Nevertheless, housing was mainly characterized by blocks of tenements, which were massive constructed, multi-storey “rental barracks” supplying water and closets for collective use on the corridors, being moistly and offering little light and fresh air due to the courtyard structure. Furthermore, the on-going lack of housing caused high rent expenditure to the labourers, which amounted until three quarter of wage. Compared to other parts in Germany, the situation of labourers in Saxony – to be considered as particular industrial area – was especially bad. Extreme living conditions, which showed up as dense and unhygienic housing situations, poverty both under the unemployed and the wageworkers and diseases related to working and living environment, shaped everyday live. As a result of the rapid urbanization, social 5

The Wilhelminian construction activity still shape large areas of Leipzig around the pre-industrial old town; visible inter alia in the rich eclectic facades of the block perimeter housing in Waldstraßenviertel or in the rather functional industrial architecture of Plagwitz.

crisis and struggles embossed the end of the 19th century in Middle Germany.

new housing concepts – as progress in social urbanity With the outstanding industrial and urban development of Saxon and other Middle German cities followed by social crisis, the region became the heartland of labour movement and social democracy in Germany. Besides the progress in politics, the activities around social issues led to new strategies concerning a social urban development. Inspired by Ebenezer Howard´s idea of “garden cities”, which were intended to be planned, self-contained, communities surrounded by greenbelts, several settlements were implemented in Middle German cities. Hellerau near Dresden, founded in 1909, can be mentioned to be the first, most completed and most radical realization of a garden city in Germany.6 While the socio-reformist implementations were still limited to some regional exceptions during the Wilhelminan period, social housing of reasonable quality became a main issue of town planning after the WWI. The progressive trend of New Objectivity, which was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus in Dessau, formerly located in Weimar until 1926, evolved the typos of stretched row-structured buildings to provide a better supply of light, air and sunshine. Built in serial production, equipped by optimized floor plans and surrounded by green spaces, the buildings should pay attention the economical possibilities and defined needs of the working people´s families. Whereas most well-known extensive and self-contained settlements in Germany manifested in Berlin or Frankfurt/Main, examples of modern housing development in Middle German cities often appeared as extensions within existing settlements. Nonetheless, the achievements of Bruno Taut in Magdeburg or Walter Gropius in Dessau led to materialized large-scale examples of “New 6

Further examples are Leipzig-Marienbrunn (i.a. Hans Strobel, 1912/13); Magdeburg-Reform (i.a. Bruno Taut, 1910-1930); Gartenstadt Erfurt (from 1913)

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies


Building” in these towns.7 Progressive architects in towns with conservative heads of the municipal planning control office had a more difficult situation. Still, contemporary housing development could be inserted also in Leipzig with the Niebelungensiedlung in Leipzig-Lößnig planned by Hubert Ritter or the Kroch-Siedlung in Leipzig-Gohlis. After an innovative and active building period, which should set standards in social housing for many decades, the seizure of power by the National socialists in 1933 signified a drastic caesura to the modern development of towns.

NS era and WWII – as caesura of human development The Bauhaus´ shutdown in 1932 at the instigation of the NSDAP was an early unequivocal sign of rejection against the international, functionalist modernity. The later potentates propagated a “national socialist style”, which often appeared as neoclassicist variants, but can hardly judged as a homogeneous style. The Nazi´s idea of the character of towns was rather ambivalent being marked by an urban-antagonistic mentality in questions of housing development on the one hand and plans for monumental redesign of city centres on the other. Between 1933 und 1939, new settlements usually followed the principles of the “Heimatschutzstil”, where saddle-roofed detached houses were grouped in a village-like atmosphere.8 In contrary, the generally smallscaled, historically grown spatial structure of various cities should be morphed into a chequered urban layout with extensive places and broad axis flanked by monumental government buildings. The urban master plan for Dresden was - regionally seen - the most comprehensive and included inter alia the completed grandstands for mass meetings in front of the Elbe River. Further, nonimplemented intentions were articulated with plans of the monumental axis configuration 7 8

Angersiedlung-Magdeburg (i.a. Bruno Taut, 1922-1933); Dessau-Törten (Walter Gropius, 1926-1928) Leipzig-Thekla; “Siedlung an der Krähenhütten” LeipzigLößnig


crossing the city as a part of the “Gauforum Dresden”. Similar plans existed for Leipzig, where NS-architects intended to create the spatial reflection of the supposed trade fair city of a global German Reich. As a result, the inner city “Messemagistrale” or the fair areal became enlarged complemented by oversized buildings. Brutal effects on the population structure in “Middle Germany” were caused by the discrimination, expulsion and murder of the Jewish population and other minorities. A diverse Jewish culture had developed over the centuries especially in Leipzig, the community of which had approximately 14000 members at the beginning of the Nazi regime. After the start of repressions, the majority emigrated abroad, while the remaining were almost completely deported and killed in the concentration camps.9 The radical consequence of the national NS-ideology of race killed with the people a cultural power, which influenced and created urban culture and built environment in a significant proportion.10 The German invasion of Poland, which unleashed the Second World War in 1939, marked furthermore the initial point of decline of industrial landscape and cities. Since “Middle Germany” had become a significant location inter alia for the chemical industry and railway and machine construction, the region was intensively attacked by area bombings within the first strategic air strikes by the Allies, which aimed industrial and traffic facilities. Thereby, the Leuna-Werke between Halle and Leipzig formed a particular aim producing the basics for explosives and 9

At the day of liberation in 1945, only 24 people of Jewish faith, who could hide and evade the deportations, had survived in Leipzig. Some other 220 people could return from the camps and rebuilt their community. 10

It was not unusual that the persecution of Jews coincided with the combat against modern architecture: The housing development in Leipzig-Gohlis started as a huge scale project initiated - inter alia by Jewish financer Hans Kroch -, where distinct influences of the “New Objectivity” were apparent. This development came to complete standstill, when Kroch left Germany after the national socialist takeover.

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


fertilizer and also toxic gas during the war. As an answer to the German air-raids on English towns and within the tactics of “moral bombing”, the Anglo-American bombings left massive destruction of the historical structure of most inner cities in “Middle Germany”. The complete demolishing of Dresden´s baroque old town in February 1945 might be the most well known example for visible results of the aerial warfare. But also Leipzig was in the focus of British and American air raids, for hosting an important railroad intersection and the leading trade fair of the German Reich and being its sixth biggest city with over 700.000 inhabitants. At the end, the raids had killed 6000 people in Leipzig, while 40% of the housing and 80% of the trade fair construction was destroyed.11


To add some more numbers concerning the urban material destruction in “Middle Germany”, the aerial warfare destroyed the old town of Chemnitz to 95 % (urban area to 75 %), the urban area of Dessau to 80 % and the old town of Magdeburg to 90 %.

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies



Overall concepts of regional planning in DDR the post-war period – as potential for a new beginning Due to the destruction during WWII, the reconstruction of cities became the scope of duties for the cities, their planners and inhabitants in the post-war period. Right from the end of war, principally women12 – historically named “Trümmerfrauen” - worked on the clearance of ruins and on provisional repair of housing, before the new German states constituted and developed rebuilding concepts. The comprehensive dimensions of devastation, however, provided the opportunity to open a new chapter in urban planning13, which was pursued differently on the two sides of the upcoming Iron Curtain. Being part of the Soviet Occupation Zone, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt suddenly became a region with external frontiers to Poland, Czechoslovakia and little later also to the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD). While the rebuilding in the jointly managed, but municipally self-contained western cities was characterized by personnel plus conceptual persistence, one wanted to follow new ways with the idea of “socialist spatial planning” in the centrally organized cities of the 1949 founded German Democratic Republic (DDR). Soon after foundation of the DDR, the People´s Parliament enacted the Building Act, which included the 16 principles of urban planning and built the foundation of the East German urban development. With the decisions of the intended implementation of socialism, urban planning became an explicit task of governmental policies being mainly influenced by the principles of modernity, manifested in the Charta of Athens in 1933. 12


“Between 1945 and 1946, the Allied Powers, in both West and East Germany, ordered all women between 15 and 50 years of age to participate in the postwar cleanup. […] Recruitment of women was especially useful since at that time, because of the loss of men in the war, there were seven million more women than men in Germany”; (from wikipedia) e.g. concerning the transfer of progressive theories of the CIAM conferences


Besides the rejection of old urban-planning traditions (i.e. concerning the dense Wilhelminian city), the creation of a new order was based on the abolition of private ground property and on overcoming the sociospatial segregation within towns.

territorial planning – as result of deliberation concerning production structures With an administrative reform in 1952, which led to the dissolution of the federal countries and the creation of 15 districts in the DDR, the spatial planning became more and more a part of the socialist economic planning appearing as the special system of territorial planning. As a result to the “Middle German” region, centrally controlled district planning commissions were responsible for the location distribution of industry and housing estates in the new districts of Magdeburg, Halle, Leipzig, Dresden, Karl-Marx-Stadt (former Chemnitz), Gera, Erfurt and Suhl. While the earlier industrial development was only focusing the urban territories, this territorial planning method had the opportunity to provide spatial compensation by targeted settlement of companies. Peripheral regions should be integrated with industrial bases and connected housing estates to amortize the urban-rural-oppositions, which led inter alia around Halle and Leipzig to the extension of the Leuna Werke. Besides the development of large-scale industrial complexes and agricultural communities, the system of territorial planning and the general development plan of the DDR, nevertheless, geared towards the central cities and large housing units.

industrialized mass production – as solution to lack of housing Due to the slow reconstruction process after WWII, the conference of construction in 1955 decided to compensate the lack of housing by the expeditious erection of extensive housing estates. The inner city old-town areas were

now extremely neglected, while the outskirts and peripheries received modern settlements intended to reflect a socialist lifestyle. Following the ideal concept of the structured and loosened city hosting the socialist family of working parents and two children without social segregation, large housing estates were built using a normed large-panel system design. Until the 1990´s, 386 post-war settlements of more than 1000 accommodation units were erected all over Eastern Germany with a focus on the southern region. Outstanding examples are the Fritz-HeckertGebiet in Chemnitz14, Leipzig-Grünau15 or Halle-Neustadt16. Last mentioned settlement was built in 1963 as part of the “location distribution of productive forces” at direct behest of the SED Politburo, which intended to create a chemical worker city close to the factories of Leuna.

the socialist city – as expression of a new self-conception The socialist “beautiful German city” should be typically national in its form and socialist in its content; realized in the planning of new towns and districts as well as in the transformation of inner cities. As the destructions of which by the aerial warfare had been massive, new structures were sometimes easily to realize. Especially the inner cities of Dresden, Magdeburg and Chemnitz had to be rebuilt intensively. A central demonstration space, broad streets, magnificent buildings with central political or cultural function and a “socialist vertical dominant” became features of the socialist city centre. The latter found expression e.g. in the skyscrapers of Jena and the University of Leipzig, which was Germany's tallest building upon completion. The ambitious plans, however, could be realized only on the basis of comprehensive land reform legislation, the nationalization of the housing sector and often a radical dealing with the remains of the old towns. The remains of the university´s church in Leipzig 14 15 16

31.306 accommodation units; 90.000 inhabitants in 1990 38.545 accommodation units; 85.000 inhabitants in 1989 40.550 accommodation units; 93.446 inhabitants in 1988

e.g. - expression of the obsolete clerical system - were removed to provide space for an extension of the university; a building characterized by an objective, functional design supplemented by a large Karl Marx relief. The attached place - one of the biggest in Germany - was restructured and later dominated by a new concert hall (“Gewandhaus”) and the above-mentioned skyscraper. Furthermore, another huge, stretched building at the close south beltway (“Ringbebauung”) visibly represents the socialist architecture of “National Tradition”, which shaped various “Middle German” cities during the early DDR era.

system-immanent problems – as supporter of the latter urban crisis Besides the construction of representative inner city areas and peripheral settlements, yet the historic built volumes of the old towns were largely neglected. By the middle of the 1960´s, wide parts were endangered, whereupon the municipalities demolished whole quarters. It took until the 1980´s that their value was regarded as basic fund for housing supply and urban heritage worthy of preservation, but still a huge part remained in bad condition. The reorganization of various inner cities with its large squares and broad ways, intended for manifestations or parades, however, also produced empty space. The concept of the city centre as “location of communicative centrality” was often criticized for not being working, at least when the mainly present buildings for education, culture and congresses were unused: “Especially in the evenings and weekends, the centers of virtually all cities in the DDR offered often frightening boredom” (Bruno Flierl). The centres seemed to lack urbanity, despite the focussing of housing development in the central towns, which can be recognized as a reasonable alternative to the suburbanization and urban sprawl in western Germany. Moreover, the centralist territorial planning of the DDR had an emphasized sectorial and less overall orientation, which led inter alia to a product specialization in new

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies


founded rural clusters. The regional dependence on a specific production structure made the environment more susceptible for potential crisis within the sector.


The environmental post-reunification crisis economical collapse as regression for a whole region With the breakdown of the DDR and incorporation to the BRD in 1990, the conditions of urban development shifted immediately in East Germany as well as the living context for most of its inhabitants. The reunification signified also the instant transformation from the socialist, centrally organized territorial planning to a marketdriven economy. As wide parts of the existing economy were relative underdeveloped in relation to the decisive forces of the global competitive industry, the transition implied massive dismantling of market-incompatible production locations followed by intense unemployment. The effects of the reintroduction of private property of the means of production and ground should be softened by governmental measures for the promotion of the “reconstruction in the East”17 with hardly visible achievements. This process, which rather led to an on-going crisis in the “New Federal States”, however, took place on the background of the general stagnation of international economical growth associated with tertiarisation of production and pure downsizing of traditional production sectors. Integrated as a non-established actor in the global competition, therefore, the East German region was double affected by the “deindustrialization”. Besides the effects of the general “deindustrialization”, specific aspects like “de-collectivization” of 17

To be mentioned are tax concessions for investment in East German company and real estate projects and subsidy policies of the federal and state governments towards Eastern cities and towns.


agriculture, “de-administration” and “demilitarization” of the extensive DDR´s state apparatus had considerable influence on the economic situation in Eastern Germany. Altogether, it led to massive unemployment, abandoned production locations and shrinking cities due to incipient emigration of a notable percentage of population to West Germany intensified by the social phenomenon of demographic change.

urban politics as measure of structural adjustment The reintroduction of private property of land and ground, privatization of peopleowned or cooperative housing, politics of restitution, re-establishing of communal selfadministration - including the exchange of the local elites - or political initiatives for urban reconstruction are the main topics which shaped the context of urban development in the “New Bundesländer”. Additionally, the replacement of the idea of the inner cities as communicative centres by the priority on a consumer-oriented retail business structure changed the appearance and social environment of the cities. Due to the economical crisis and the lack of purchasing power following on the re-implementation of capitalism, pedestrian precincts were, however, characterized by the vacancy of numerous premises and indirect exclusion of poor people. Moreover, targeted demolition of the materialized real-socialist history - as a part of former mentioned “urban reconstruction” – formed a notable amount of the new system´s practical implementation, which affected i.e. the renaming of cities and streets or the demolishing of representative

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


buildings and monuments. With the giving-up of centrally planned condensed housing and economy in urban or rural clusters, the process of structural transition, inter alia, became visible in the open countryside nearby the cities as tax-privileged, scattered commercial areas and detached housing estates rose up. Second mentioned supported a kind of urban sprawl promoted by the middle class´ emigration from the town´s ramshackle housing areas to the outside, while the further countryside with its widely collapsed agricultural, large-scale mining and production locations was more and more abandoned. Thereby, the benefited suburban trend had also its impact on the shrinkage of the urban population as addition to the above mentioned superior issues of economic caused east-towest emigration and demographic change.

concrete disaster-schemes as image of the general crisis The administrative, economic collapse and restructuring hit the conurbation of Halle/Leipzig, which was characterized by the regional importance of mining and chemical industries, in multiple ways. The region around the 40 kilometre close industrial city Halle and the trade location Leipzig including also the towns of Bitterfeld and Wolfen, which were shaped by the chemical industry, as well as the baroque town of Weißenfels – was intensively affected by the “deindustrialization”. The transition to the market economy in Bitterfeld/Wolfen - former epitome of the DDR´s chemical and mining industry – caused large degradation of its production accompanied by a employees’ reduction from 18.000 to 6.000 between 1900 and 1994. The related, above mentioned Leuna-Werke - employer for a huge percentage of Halle´s and Leipzig´s population - were dissected into smaller units and sold leaving the majority of its personnel unemployed. Furthermore, the open mining pits production, which built the material base of the “Chemical Triangle Middle-Germany” with 20 pits mining 150 million tons of lignite until 1990, was intensively reduced leaving unemployment and large nature-spatial

destruction. South of Leipzig, several abandoned pits shaped the region in an area of more than 175 square kilometres. Certainly, the “deindustrialization” affected the urban industry of the regional centres like the machine and vehicle construction in Halle or the production of diverse technical, mechanical or chemical combines in Leipzig. In consequence of this process, the unemployment rate in the region increased to approximately 20 per cent. The corollary of wave of emigration to the old federal states was followed the by an intensive trend of suburbanization of housing, business and retail from the middle 90ties. While individual communities profited from this development, the region´s general population decreased. Especially the cities had to struggle with growing vacancy as well in medieval and baroque centres (i.e. Weißenfels), Wilhelminian blocks (i.e. Leipzig) as in mono-structural, large housing estates (i.e. Wolfen-Nord, Leipzig-Grünau, Halle-Neustadt). Since 1989, Weißenfels lost around one-seventh, Leipzig around one-sixth of its population, while Wolfen shrinked from 45.000 to 27.000 inhabitants. Until today, 55.000 flats (of 320.000) are still vacant in Leipzig, meanwhile, 34.000 duplex houses were built in the periphery.

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies



Contemporary city-morphology urban regeneration as survival of the smartest Nevertheless, the major focus of urban development in Leipzig was now set in the reconstruction of the inner city. Since the historical built volumes of the old town were largely neglected and new settlements were mainly implemented on the outskirts during the DDR era, which led to 196.000 apartments in need of rehabilitation in 199018, housing policy shifted to the motto: “urban regeneration on stock”. In the following years, 29.000 units in the central Wilhelminian quarters were renovated as well as a major part of the older buildings, which could be preserved from complete dilapidation. Due to emigration and suburbanization, the intraurban upgrading took place, however, without an increasing demand of housing and resulted in city-internal movements from the large settlements and urban areas, which weren´t part of renewal.19 Incidentally, the measures of “urban regeneration” were often combined with an ideological reconstruction in terms of demolishing socialist monuments, replacement of representative buildings or renovation of the testimonies of bourgeois merchant´s structure. First became a controversial issue with the removal of the former mentioned Karl Marx relief during the replacement of the end 1960´s university building by a new university extension, whose design included the erection of a modern church. The attached place was, of course, already renamed from Karl-MarxPlatz to Augustusplatz on the same day as reunification. Other downtown buildings of the socialist modernity representing the people´s republic, like i.e. the fair trade house at the market square, were replaced by lavish department store architectures, while the 18 19

... of 257.000 apartememts in total. As consequence, a heterogeneous development between attractive locations and other historic quarters, which fell behind, became visible since 1997.


historic retail passages, like Mädlerpassage and Barthels-Hof, were costly renovated. The intensive construction activity, which took place in Leipzig soon after reunification, was supported by governmental support within the “Reconstruction in the East” on the one hand, but also due to the fact that the city could establish as relatively attractive location for investments on the other hand. Although the structural transformation had its serious impact on the decline of industry and inhabitants, Leipzig could gain not negligible upswing in the longer term, as Leipzig had always been a place of advanced production technology, supra-regional trade and academic education. After the main emigration, inter alia the influx of students amortized more or less the downtrend of population figures, but also the settlement of research facilities, automobile manufacturers or big logistics companies played a part during the course of the new century. The advantages of having already established a significant knowledge sector and technological progress during the socialist period simplified the tertiarisation to a great extend. Jena, i.e., saved its status as a spot of optical industry and - like Weimar or Erfurt – of university education and research; Dresden underwent a similar development like Leipzig, so that it recovered meanwhile more or less from the most intensive hardships.

urban transformation as survival attempt of the normal-town The comparative success of revitalization was, however, generally reserved for the major regional centres, but not for the minor towns or rural clusters, which were often dependent on a singular sector. The loss of employment in agriculture, mining, military bases and specific production could hardly be compensated by other structures and led to shrinking towns and deserted villages all over Eastern Germany. The handling of the shrinkage (and economic desertification), therefore, became the paramount of the

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


communal discussion. In contrast to the construction activity in the few revived cities, the building companies offside these locations are rather engaged in dismantling of “surplus” housing and ruinous factories. This omnipresent dismantling of large settlement structures at the peripheries shows the trend of urban policy towards a accelerated centrestrengthening20, which had been neglected• with the de facto benefit of urban sprawl with regard to the construction of detached houses in the post-reunification years. The buildings of DDR´s housing development are particularly affected, as they often seem to require refurbishment as much as they are not fitting into the aesthetic ideas of the leading municipal politicians and planners. Along with the strategy of structural reduction to the urban core, the efforts towards the implementation of a contemporary identity mean a reduction to a promotionally effective image as the individual towns is placed in locational competition for influx of people, companies and capital. According to that and the usual lack of advanced infrastructure, the town´s strategists mostly tie into the historic fabric and past glory. Not rarely, the memory of economic and cultural strength of the Wilhelminian era is used, whereby the revitalization of its architectural heritage and the removal of the constructed DDR testimonies play an important role. Comparable to the strategies at enterprises, the locational promotion of towns should be sharpened by a corporate identity evoking attraction on investors and identification of their inhabitants. As the concern about their emigration is still in focus, measures to increase the citizen’s communal integration and the level of satisfaction are often applied by participatory projects, which result in lowcost upgrading of urban problem areas. Due to empty coffers at the municipalities, these tactics form a not insignificant part of environmental revaluation. Structural realization is, however, largely limited to soft practices like cultural temporary use or 20

collective renaturation of brownfield sites as it is usually implemented apart of capitalavailability and elaborated planning. In this context, also municipally directed measures of upgrading appear as questionable practices; as cosmetic procedures rather remind on veiling tactics, than having the power to face the basic problems.

An activity, which also takes place in the rather recovered cities like Leipzig and Dresden.

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies



conclusion crisis-contextual urban planning – as treatment of symptoms As the chronology of the “Middle German” modern era shows, the most intensive effects on population and built environment were certainly not caused by natural disasters neither earthquakes, floods nor epidemics marked the decisive points - but rather derived from the context of socio-economic processes. The history of environmental development is, freely adapted from Marx and Engels, in particular the history of economic oppositions, which is represented by the region as a mirror of central European evolutions. With the decreasing significance of the feudalagricultural society, the region strode the early phases of towns, which were established at trade routes, centralizing the market as urban focus, being fortified in protection against economic outsiders and reflecting the social value of its inhabitants within the housing structure. Along with industrialization and the forced rural exodus, the extended regional centres were venues of massive construction activity concerning the erection of factories and representative buildings of bourgeois prosperity as well as the implementation of mass accommodation for the dependent labourers. Their bad conditions led especially regionally to a strong social movement, which created the basis of social housing shaping the discussion of urban development to a large extent during the early 20th century. While the towns were previously the spot of marketdriven, compelled immigration, the century´s second half was firstly shaped by governmental distribution of labour and construction during the DDR era, later by an absence of work and emigration-caused “surplus of housing” after reunification. Until 1990, the urban history was rather associated with influx and expansion21 coming 21

Although i.e. Leipzig reached its population peak already in 1930 followed by decrease of population during WWII, construction of large-scale settlements went on. Even after reunification, suburbanization enlarged the city´s outline,


to an end as result to the intensive economic transitions. With the re-establishment of market forces in Eastern Germany within the post-industrial society, where capital and business tend to concentrate in individual clusters, that offer infrastructural density and specific networks, the “Middle German” normal-towns were put in a precarious situation.22 Phenomena like factory demolishing and housing destruction became omnipresent as the result of system-immanent logic of investor-depending allocation of production. This certainly takes place with the absence of a superior, guiding distribution plan, which could have been the chance of the DDR´s system of territorial planning, but failed as well due to preference of several locations and ideological neglect of urban housing stock. Of course, this also takes place offside a perspective, in which the combination of unemployed people and abandoned factories formed already the basis of regional subsistence. Of course, this couldn´t evoke a region-wide solidarity of the many municipal losers towards economical self-empowerment. Instead, the laws of capitalism lead the towns to a severe competition for invest or – if this hope is given up – for touristic attraction. Empty coffers due to lacking tax revenues increased as locational promotion for remained enterprises – and closed public buildings – decreasing the local living quality - after previous privatization are only singular results. The usually EU-funds sponsored measures of urban beautification attempt to establish a positive image, which doesn´t arise on its own due to non-existing prosperity, whereby they are rather forced to handle the symptoms of regional decline. In this context, the work of the heads, trying to form the towns, gets a morbid appearance as they more design their decay, accompanied by the but, however, accompanied by intensive shrinkage of inhabitant figures and upcoming internal dismantling. 22 The EU´s eastern expansion might have increased their situation as the continental remained production of material goods obtained better locational conditions in the new single market neighbour countries, which could hardly be competed in spite of the governmental promotion for businesses to locate in Eastern Germany.

human culture & environment istanbul technic university faculty of architecture may 2011 Philip


acceptance of a system-immanent necessity of their shrinkage. But anyway, without a basic change of economic structures, where competition is replaced by a production focussing the needs of people, whose labour force and abandoned factories imply natural potentials, a different treatment of the problems in “Middle Germany” seem impossible.

„Middle Germany“ Man-made environment; from early settlements to contemporary problems and resulting strategies


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