Can we call it a trend now: German cities removing post-war construction to restore pre-war architecture? First, there was the recreation ofDresden’sFrauenkirche. Next, the demolition of the East GermanPalaceoftheRepublic with the hope of restoring the Hohenzollernpalace. Then, the Berlin SPD proposed returning to rows of single familytownhouses to replace the large, blocky, Bauhaus-inspired apartment buildings. Even Cologners’ racist resistance to the construction of a “super-mosque” belonged to a larger debate about the lost character of the city.
The newest proposal comes from Frankfurt, which is considering demolishing its city hall and surrounding buildings in order to recreate the Altstadt, the old city center, at the cost of 70 million euros. The city wants to replace the modern buildings with housing similar to the burger housing that previously existed. Author Martin Mosebach argues that not only will the restoration renew public spaces in an area made alien by modern architecture, it will frame the patrimony in the area, the cathedral and the Römer (the historic city hall).
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The mania for the old and medieval is at least a little disturbing. The republic had made good use of glass to bridge whatever stone remained behind, allowing the evidence of the destruction that Germany unleashed upon the world to remain. It was scar tissue that bridged the old and the new. But it seems as if the paradigm of the “second destruction” has taken hold too well: the notion that after the war, German architecture took little account of the psychic and historic needs of the people.
I must wonder, however, whether this distaste for the new and pining for the old is healthy. The incongruity between historic and modern styles served as a better memorial for the Second World Wart than many real monuments. People encounter them in their daily lives rather than as distinct and unique locations. Ironically, this would a fitting end to a rather disposable style–emblematic of how capitalism treats public space (perhaps there are lessons for Angelenos).
David J Merkowitz - 8/14/2007
As I recall from a my visits there this mostly started with the Churches. Marienkirche and St. Michael's Kirche in Munich both had a story of destruction and rebirth like it was originally. I think this whole development is absolutely fascinating.
Nathanael D. Robinson - 8/14/2007
Yes, there are a wide variety of motivations. In a previous post, I tried to explore them.
Serge Lelouche - 8/14/2007
"Even Cologners’ racist resistance to the construction of a “super-mosque” belonged to a larger debate about the lost character of the city."
As your article suggest, it seems there were a variety of motivations for the concern shown by Cologne residents to this mosque. I would be more cautious with the blanket term "racist"
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