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German architecture in the 20th century was forged by the succession of political and social upheavals that swept through Europe during the century, so often with Germany at their epicenter. Conservative and progressive, as well as regional and international architectural tendencies battled for hegemony in trying to shape the German built environment, each in their own image. The result is a century of tremendously heterogeneous architecture with seemingly few continuities or unifying themes. Despite this diversity, a walk through many large German cities today gives the impression that German architecture, perhaps more than that of any other country in Europe, is an architecture of the 20th century. Indeed, many consider Germany to be one of the birthplaces, if not the home of modern architecture.

German architecture at the turn of the last century was characterized by continuation of many trends from the prosperous decades immediately following German unification in 1871. In architectural design, the use of extravagant historical styles flourished amidst increasing modernisation, particularly for the residences and commercial properties of the increasingly wealthy upper and middle class. Alfred Messel's Wertheim Department Store (1898-1908) in central Berlin, with it's mix of historicist exterior details and unprecedented use of steel and glass in a new building type celebrating the triumph of bourgeois, metropolitan consumer culture, epitomised this trend. The more nationalist and militarist tendencies of the German bourgeoisie were embodied in Bruno Schmicz's gargantuan Volkerschlacht denkmal outside of Leipzig (1898-1913), celebrating the centenary of the Prussian victory over Napoleon. The first sparks of a modern, non-historicist architecture came from the Secession and Art Nouveau inspired reforms against the conservative norm in Germany. The artist's colony on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt patronised by the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse (1900-1908) and the Folkwang buildings and artist community in Hagen promoted by Karl Ernst Osthaus (1898- 1912) both experimented with new forms. Houses and complete interior fittings in these communities by Peter Behrens, the Viennese Secession architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, and the Belgian designer Henri Van de Velde revealed to the public a fresh, anti-historicist sense of form and ornament. There was desire to escape history and dry academicism in favour of a more realistic unification of art, design, life, and the everyday world.

Such brief forays into the Art Nouveau (lugendstil) style at the turn of the century were soon subdued by : penchant for more reserved, monumental, and often neo-classically inspired forms that swept Germany in the years just before World War l. Olbrich's Ties Department Store in Düsseldorf (1906-1909), Paul Bonatz's main train station in Stuttgart (1911 1928), and Hermann Billing's Art Museum in Mannheim (1906-1907) are typical of this often monumental trend in stone construction.

This general call for architectural order and regularity was promoted by several reform institutions founded in the first decade of the century. Among the most important were the preservation oriented German Heimatschutz Bund (Homeland Protection Association), founded in 1907, and the German Gar- den Cities Association, founded in 1902, to promote the establishment of traditionally planned towns of suburbs with restrained, arts-and-crafts style architecture to contrast with the increasingly unliveable industrial metropolis. The most well- known reform organisation. however, was the Deutscher Werk- bund, founded in 1907, intent on promoting a greater cooperation of German artists and industrialists with the explicit intent of producing more modern consumer goods to increase German exports. Behrens' AEG Turbine Factory (1908-1909) and Walter Gropius' factories for the Fagus shoe last manufacturer (1911-1914) and for the Cologne Werkbund exhibition (1914) were typical Werkbund products as they expressed Germany's new industrial image with a reserved, classically inspired set of architectural forms. World War brought Germany's defeat in November 1918, and with it the end of empire, an unsuccessful communist revolution, the imposition of social democracy, as well as economically crippling war reparations payments imposed on Germany, Although there was little work for architects, culture and architecture took on increasing ideological power in the attempt to reform society in the new social democracy. In the wake of defeat, groups of young artists and architects such as the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Working Council for Art) and the Novembergruppe, led by Gropius, Bruno Taut, Mics van der Rohe, and others, dreamed up Expressionist, utopian architectural fantasies that spoke of a revolution in architecture and a longing for : new architectures of glass and steel, colour and purity. In 1919 state officials asked Gropius to unify Weimar's old art academy and applied arts schools and create state-sponsored Bauhaus, a school that unified all the arts under the leadership of architecure on the model of a medieval cathedral workshop. Although it produced very few buildings, the Bauhaus proved to be one of the most important forces in reforming and modernising design and architectural thinking in Germany and throughout Europe.

In the years immediately after the war, shortages of building materials and spiralling inflation made most construction impossible. The overcrowded cites and pone housing conditions, a legacy of Germany's rapid industrialisation, only grew worse. Some of the more successful attempts to create housing focused on do-it-yourself building, technology such as rammed-carth construction and the small-scale Volkswehnung (People's House), similar to those advocated by the Garden Cities Association. Many of the important commissions that were built after the war, such as the Grosses Schauspielhans (Large Theater) in Berlin by Hans Pockzig (1918-1919), the Einstein Tower in Potsdam by Erich Mendelsohn (1920-1921), and the Chilehaus by Fritz Höger in Hamburg (1922-1923), began to realise an architecture that was free of academic norms and focused on dynamic, expressive forms and a wide range of colourful materials. This Expressionism was a short-lived but very prevalent style that touched nearly all modern architects, but was rarely continued in the late 1920s. However, the organic functionalism of Hugo Haring and the ecclesiastical architecture of Domenikus Bohm are clearly related in spirit and form.

By the mid-1920s, through the help of American foreign aid, the German economy and building industry began to revive and came into one of the most vibrant and culturally avant-garde moments of 20th-century architecture, the so-called "Golden Twenties," when Berlin was the cultural capital of Europe. Al- though most construction in Germany continued regional traditions of the Heimail (homeland style) or the ornamental traditions of earlier decades, an unornamented, flat-roofed, tech- nonlogically oriented modern architecture, or Neues Basen (New Building) coalesced in urban centres such as Berlin, Frankfurt (Ernst May), and Dessau (Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and the Bauhaus), as well as Magdeburg (Bruno Taut), Celle (Onto Haeser), Hamburg (Karl Schneider), Munich (Robert Vorhoelzer), and Alrona (Gustav Oelsner). Progressive architects increasingly associated with new left-leaning social democratic policies that sought technologically oriented renewal for the masses, while many conservative architects chose to associate with right-wing nationalist groups in favour of a pure German culture and architecture.

The most important endeavour which brought about the Neues Bauen were the vast public housing projects made possible by the Social Democratic municipal governments all over Germany: over 135,000 new housing units in Berlin. 65,000 units in Ham- burg, and 15,000 in Frankfurt alone. Under the guidance of planners such as Martin Wagner and architects such as Taut, cities like Berlin taxed extant landowners steeply, purchased huge tracts of land, formed cooperative house-building associations that modernised the production of building materials, standardised building elements, and streamlined the construction industry, They produced government owned and subsidised housing of all types that allowed thousands of worker families to escape the infamous rental barracks and slums for small but efficiently planned apartment complexes with modern kitchens and other facilities. These innovative housing developments, most designed in a remarkably uniform style that would soon be dubbed the "International Style," drew almost universal international acclaim from architects such as Le Corbusier, J.J.P. Oud, and Philip Johnson. There was, however, increasingly harsh critique from within Germany, as the local press labeled the new architecture "Bolshevik" or "Jewish" attack on German architectural traditions and inappropriate for the German climate and culture.

When Hitler and his National Socialist regime took over political control of Germany in January 1933, the modern styles associated with social democracy were halted in favour of a mix of conservative styles, including the pitched-roof cottage for domestic architecture, monumental classicism for the urban civic centres, and a highly technical modern architecture for transportation and industrial facilities. Many of the most esteemed modern architects were forced to leave Germany because of their Jewish heritage, while others such as May, Meyer, Taut, Gropius, Mies van det Robe, Wagner, Ludwig Hilberseimer, and Marcel Breuer voluntarily left in search of more favourable political and architectural climates, especially in the United States.

Hitter took an intense personal interest in the development of a Nazi architecture; he chose Paul Ludwig Troost and later the young Albert Speer to oversee all major architectural production in the Third Reich. Speer and his teams of architects re- planned and even started construction in seven major representative regional cities to serve as parry headquarters, foremost among them Berlin. The severe, bombastic classical style, solid granite building, ensembles they envisioned were to evoke the power, glory and longevity of the German Reich. World War 11 put halt to most of these projects, although large ensembles remain in central Munich. namely the party grounds outside of Nuremberg by Speer (1934-1939), in the Gauforum in Weimar by Hermann Giesier (1936-1942), and in Berlin.

But the story of Nazi archirecture was more insidious and pervasive than a few monumental projects. German architects designed the concentration and extermination camps of the Holocaust for maximum efficiency. Slave labor from the camps was used in quarries, brick furnaces, and many points of the building industry, especially for the most representative architectural projects. Architects also designed factories and entire industrial towns for the machinery of war such as the cities of Salzgitter for coal mining (Werner Hebebrand, 1937), and Wolfsburg for Volkswagen (Peter Koller, 1938), as well as transport facilities such as the Autobahn, and even vacation facilities for German workers and soldiers such as the great beach facilities on the island of Rügen (Clemens Klotz, 1935-1939). Thousands of German architects of all persuasions joined the Nazi party in order to keep their practices, and most continued their work after the war, despite their Nazi affiliations.

The victorious Western Allied powers (under the leadership of the United States' Marshall Pian) exercised strong control over the redevelopment of Germany's post war economy, gowermment, society, culture, and architecture. Throughout Ger many, the immediate post-war years were dedicated to clearing and recycling literally mountains of building-rubble from bombed out cities- most of the work being done by women. This was followed by rapid rebuilding of society's basic architectural needs, including hospitals, schools, temporary churches, and above all housing, with peak production reaching 600,000 units/year.

Under the sway of Communist Russia, in East Germany, an early "National Building Tradition" was officially dictated by Moscow in deliberate contrast to the "American" International Style architecture in West. The references to Schinkel's classicism in the signature project of the Stalinalice(1952-1958) by Hermann Henselmann in Berlin was an attempt to distill references from history and region into the representational and monumentalizing goals of the regime intent on differentiating itself from both the Nazi past and the capitalist West. Over time, important historical monuments and historic city centres were restored with a care and expertise rarely seen in the West, as the best of architectural heritage was made available to the working class.

Following, Stalin's death, Khrushchev ordered a complete about-face towards rationalisation and standardisation, both out of economic necessary as the cheapest way to build, but also to symbolise the modernity of the East. After 1955 the entire build- ing industry was systematically reorganised to churn out factory prefabricated concrete apartment blocks both in and around every East German city. Housing developments in Berlin's Marzahn, Jena, and Hoyerswerda were technologically more primitive and less comfortable than similar developments in the West but represented a similar loss of urban and architectural quality and an exclusive orientation to function and economics.

In West Germany, the "Economic Miracle" brought on by reconstruction and the development of a capitalist, modern state radically reshaped the face of nearly every city and town by the 1950s. Minimalist, abstract modern architecture became pervasive, especially in the larger, representational projects that commenced after the primary needs of society had been met. Egon Fiermann's German Pavilion for the Brussels World's Fair of 1957 set the dominant tone for architecture that was to be trans- parent and simple, modest and modern. Increasingly successful German businesses chose to represent themselves with the image of American corporate modernism, such as Fiermann's designs for Neckermann (Frankfurt. 1958-1961), Olivetti (Frankfurt, 1968-1972), and IBM (Stuttgart, 1967-1972) and the refined glass slabs of the Thysenhaus skyscraper in Düsseldorf (Hentrich & Petschnigg, 1957 -1960). Entire new suburban business districts such as Hamburg's City Nord and Frankfurt's Niederrad were part of general loosening of the traditionally dense core of German towns made possible by the emphasis on transportation and technology in planning and architecture.

A vast array of museums, cheaters, and entire new university campuses built after the 1950s were visible symbols of the at- tempt by West German social democracy to rebuild German culture by heavily subsidising ants and education. The Ruhr University in Bochum (Hentrich-Petschnigg, 1962-1967), and the Free University in Berlin by the English designers Candilis. Josic and Woods (1962-1973) were highly ordered megastruecures built with purely functional and economic considerations. Mies van der Rohe's new National Gallery in West Berlin (1961 -1968) and Philip Johnson's museum in Bielefeld (1963- 1968) reinforced a trend towards a minimalist, highly technical and rectilinear, functionalist aesthetic.

As a counter-reaction to the strictures of this highly ordered, rational architecture inspired by Mies and American modernism, the Expressionist Hans Scharoun and others worked towards : more organic, anti-monumental planning and architecture. The freedom of the open spaces of Berlin's Kulturforum, as well as Scharoun's most well known architectural designs, the Berlin Philharmonic and Chamber Music Halls (1956-1963. 1979- 1984) and the State Library (1967-1976), each display a highly personal, expressive style based on curves and angled geometries. Located near the Berlin Wall at the heart of the Iron Curtain, they soon became symbols of Berlin's freedom, in opposition to the communist regime in the East. Some of the most evocative buildings by German architects after the war were churches and memorials such as those by Rudolf Schwarz, Gottfried Bohm, and Otto Bartning that provided simple but memorable spaces for worship and remembrance, often with organic plans and hope in the future represented by modern architecture. The draped tensile structures by Frei Otto and Günther Behnisch for the Olympic Stadium in Munich (1972) continued this alter- native trend in German modernism, precursor to some of the fragmented shapes of more recent postmodernist and deconstructivist architecture.

Housing, continued 10 be one of the most pressing issues facing German architects after World War 11. Although Ger- mans moved increasingly into single-family houses in the last five decades of the century, large-scale housing developments in the modern style such as those developed by the Neue Heimat housing agency still formed the dominant housing sype. The Interbau Building Exhibition, built with the parricipation of 53 well-known architects from 13 nations in the Hamaviertel dis- trier of West Berlin in 1957, was prototypical, replacing a dense city section with loose array of modern high-rise, low-rise, and single-family houses 4 in a park-like setting. In its wake came 3 largely successful though often maligned and short-lived trend of developing mega-scale housing complexes such as the Neue Var Siedlung for 30.000 residents outside of Bremen (Ernst May, Bernhard Reichow, Alvar Aalto et al, 1957-1962). and the Markisches Viertel for 60,000 in Berlin (Werner Durrmann, Georg Heinrichs, Oswald Mathias Ungers, et al., 1962-1972).

By the early 1970s there began to be an increasing reaction against the ascetic modernist planning ideas and architecture that had come to dominate the German landscape. Architects called for a more contextually sensitive and traditional approach to city building and architecture, and a wave of museum building throughout West Germany, including Hans Hollein's Abteiberg Municipal Museum in Mönchengladbach (1972-1978), James String's Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1977-1982), and O,M. Un- gers German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt (1979-84), demonstrated an overt connection to the past, traditions, and postmodern variety. Rather than tearing down extant buildings, preservation, restoration, additions, and even reconstruction be- came increasingly popular alongside a more contextual approach to architecture that coincided with post-modernism. Berlin's International Building Exposition (IBA, 1979-1987) sought tO reclaim some of the more run-down districts of West Berlin through program of careful urban repair, while new infill housing projects, often with architectural references to history, tradition, and region, signalled a return to the traditional urban closed facade and block formation.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to German unification and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The unified government invested heavily in the East and provided incentives for private industry to rebuild the infrastructure, renovate housing and cultural buildings, and set up branch offices and corporate head-quarters throughout the Eastern states. The capitol was returned to Berlin, which soon became one of the biggest construction sites in Europe and the world. Department stores on the Friedrichsstrasse by 1.M. Pei, Jean Nouvel, O.M. Ungers and others returned the street in the East to its former status as the most elegant shopping street in Germany,

Although Berlin continues to be Germany's dominant metropolis, the country's federal political structure gives large atttonomy to the States, and helps reinforce regional identity, pride, and wealth distribution such that pockets of the newest, most innovative architecture appear all over the newly unified Germany. The new bank towers blossoming in Frankfurt, the ex- panding port and business centers in Hamburg, the new State Parliament in Dresden (Peter Kulka, 1991-94) and the innovative Leipzig Convention Center (Von Gerkan, Marg & Partners, 1995-98) all resulted from unification as well as the internationalization associated with Germany's powerful role in the new European Union and general globalisation. Although German architects, with a few noteworthy exceptions, have received comparatively few opportunities to build abroad, the ubiquity of architectural competitions continues to make Germany more open than perhaps any ocher country to foreign and young architects, and new ideas. At the close of the 20th century bold experiments in theory and deconstructionism, in planning ideas, in environmental sustainabiliry, as well as in all manner of technology and building performance in Germany continued to stimulate and inspire new developments all over the world that will help define the architecture of the succeeding century.

 

KAI K. GUTSCHOW

Sennott R.S. Encyclopedia of twentieth century architecture, Vol.2.  Fitzroy Dearborn., 2005.

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
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INTERNAL LINKS

GROPIUS, WALTER; MENDELSOHN, ERICH; MIES VAN DER ROHE, LUDWIG; POELZIG, HANS;

FURTHER READING

Although the developments of German 20th-century architecture are summarized in every survey of modern archisecture, and the literature on the subject is rich and growing rapidly, an authoritative comprehen- sive survey of this complex and often difficult century has yet to be written. Monographs exist on most of the major and minor architeces, institutions and particular epochs, especially of the inter-war period. Guidebooks, including Nerdinger's, as well as studies on individual cities, specially Scheer's catalogue on Berlin, often provide the best overview of architecture across the century, The three catalogue volumes edited by Magnano Lampugnani (1992, 1994) and Schneider (1998) accompanied major retrospective exhibits at the German Architecture Museum and represent some of the best scholarship on German archi- secure, especially from 1900-1950. The best introductions in English to pre-WW11 architecture are Lane, Pommet and Zukowsky, while the best surveys of the developments after the war in English are Marshall, De Bruyn, and Schwart.

De Bruyn, Gerd. Contemporary Architecture in Germany, 1970-1996: 50 Buildings, edited by Inter Nationes, Berlin and Boston: Birkhäuser, 1997 Durth, Werner, Deatiche Architekten: Biographiche Verflechtungen, 1900-1970, Brunswick, Germany: Views, 1986, new edition 2001

Durth, Werner, and Niels Guschow, Architektar and Stadtebau der Finfeiger fahre, Bonn. West Germany: Deutsches National komitee für Denkmalschutz, 1987

Durth, Werner, J8r Duwel, and Niels Gutschow, Stadichu und Architektur in de D.D.R, Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 1998

Feldmever. Gerard G., Die neve deutsche Architekrur, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1993; as The New German Architecture, translated by Mark Wilch, New York: Rizzoli, 1993

Hoffmann, Hubert, Gerd Hatje, and Karl Kaspar, Neve deunche Architektur, Saungart: Hasje, 1956, as New German Architecture, translated by H.J. Montague, New York: Pranger, and London: Architectural Press, 1956

Huse, Norbert. Neses Banen: 1918 -1933: Moderne Archicktur in der Weimarer Republik, Munich: Moos, 1975; 2nd edition, Berlin: Emm, 1985

James-Chakraborty, Kathleen, German Architecture for a Mass Audience, London and New York: Routledge, 2000

Jakot, Paul B. The Architecture of Oppression: The SS. Forced taber, and the Nazi Monumental Building, Fennowy, London and New York: Routledge, 2000

Lane. Barbara Miller. Archivectore and Politics in Germany. 1918- 1945, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968: 2nd edition 1985

Magnano Lampugnani. Vittorio and Romana Schneider (editors), Moderne Architektur in Destschland 1900 bis 1950; Reform und Tradition, Stuttgart: Hatje, 1992

Magnano Lampugnani, Vittorio and Romana Schneider (editors), Moderne Architektur in Desschland 1990 bis 1950: Expression und Neue Sachlichkeit, Stungar: Hare, 1994

Marschall, Werner and Ulrich Conrads. Neve deutsche Archisektur 2, Stuttgart: Hatje, 1962: as Modern Architectre in Germany, translated by James Palmes, London: Architectural Press, and as Contemporary Architecture in Germany, New York: Praeger, 1962

Nerdinger, Winfried and Cornelias. Tafél, Conida all'erchitenura del Novecento, Germania, Milans: Electa, 1996; as Archiectural Guide: Germany: 20th Centwy, translated by Ingrid Taylor and Ralph Stem, Basel, Switzerland, and Boson: Birkhauser, 1996

Pommer, Richard and Christian F. Ono, Weisenhef 1927 and the Modern Movement in Architecture, Chicagos University of Chicago Press, 1991

Posener, Julias, Berlin asf dem Wege zu ciney neven Archikaur: Das Tritalter Wilhelmus If, Munich: Prestel, 1979

Schneider, Romana and Wilfried Wang (editors), Moderne Architektur in Deusehland 1900 bis 2000: Mach und Monument, Ostfildern-Ruit: Harje, 1998

Schreiber, Mathias (editor), Deutsche Architkeur wach 1945: Vierzig Jahre Moderne in der Bunderepublik, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1986

Steckewch, Carl and Sabine Galicher (editors), Ideen, Orte, Entwürfe: Architektar and Städeban in der Bundesrepublik Deuschland/Ideas, Places, Projects. Architecture and Urin Planning in the Federal Republic of Germany (bilingual English and German text), translated by Larry Fisher, David Magee, and Renate Vogel Berlin: Ernst, 1990

Weiss, Klaus-Dieter, Young German Archisects/Junge deutsche Architekten and Archisektinen (bilingual English and German text), Basel, Switzerland, and Boston: Birkhauser, 1998

Zukowsky, John (editor), The Maxy Faces of Modern Architecture: Building in Germany between the Wars, Munich and New York: Presel, 1994

   

 

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