German cities removing post-war construction to restore pre-war architecture
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Les Fearns - 8/19/2007
World War II destroyed most German cities. The economic miracle in the west saw swift reconstruction and development but - and here is the catch - in the style of 50's architecture. Concrete & glass boxes that many consider monotonous and which have not aged gracefully.
More cynically, it might be argued that current disquiet is a result of reunification. The east did very little post war reconstruction or development. Outside Berlin little of the old city centres were demolished. Rather they were often just patched up and left in a sorry state. Sometimes half demolished structures were just left (eg the Dresden Frauenkirche). With reunification money was poured in to restore these cities more sympathtically than was possible, or felt desirable, in the 1950's.
Result? Cities like Weimar with beautifully restored, not redeveloped, town centres. Perhaps this is best seen with the case of the Hanseatic ports which I know well from both before and after the Wende. Lubeck in the west was rebuilt in the 1950's. Modern, prosperous with some focus on the old hanseatic centre, but mostly concrete 50's buildings. The eastern Hansa ports of Wismar, Rostock and most of all Stralsund were architectural basket cases by 1990. 15 years on their centres have been lovingly & painstakingly restored by craftsmen and academics at huge cost. They are now the pearls of the Baltic. Lubeck? It looks decidedly dowdy, almost naff in comparison and is now desperately trying to spruce itself up.
This is perhaps the wider German problem with its city centre architecture. Forced to rebuild totally the west was able to do this quickly and comprehensively. The east unable to do so has had to wait. Now it has centres that are attractive, distinctive, and show the historic past that the blander west German cities cannot.