German Democratic Republic. – The building interventions carried out during the 1980s in Germany Orientale are part of the current debate of critical rethinking of modernity and in particular of the ideological and cultural paradigms on which the construction of the ” socialist city ” in the 1960s was informed -Seventy.
During the seventies, in fact, as part of the vast residential building program launched in 1971 by the 8th Congress of the SED (Unified Socialist Party of Germany) which indicated, as its primary objective, the “solution of the housing question in its social implications “by 1990, a new urban policy developed which, starting from the recognition of the contradictions achieved by the rapid post-war reconstructions (the new cities, the vast suburbs, the urban demolitions), identified new planning models of intervention. Significant in this regard are the 1982 “Principles for the socialist development of planning and architecture in the GDR”, which identify, in a new relationship between ancient and modern and in the continuity of historical processes,
The recovery of the past and the search for a new urban complexity, understood both as a mixture of functions and as a multiplicity and singularity of the architectural achievements, have determined particular attention to the consolidated and identified urban structures, in the reuse and recovery of the degraded building heritage and in the restructuring and completion of the destroyed historic centers, the privileged fields of intervention. The introduction of the system with prefabricated elements WBS70 (Wohnungsbauserie 70) has contributed to the attempt to overcome the monotony of architectural configurations, which allows, on the basis of a few invariants, a certain pluralism of volumetric and formal choices.
Apart from the almost complete reconstructions of important historical buildings – it is enough to recall two recently ” restored ” cornerstones of German architecture: Schinkel’s Schauspielhaus in Berlin (reopened in 1984, based on a project by E. Gisske), Semperoper di Semper in Berlin. Dresden (inaugurated in 1985, based on a project by W. Hänsch) – many interventions aimed at exhuming historic urban scenographies in the destroyed and degraded centers of the cities were implemented using the prefabricated elements WBS70 which allowed, with the state unification of the local and regional construction systems, an extreme speed of execution.
In Berlin as in Dresden, in Magdeburg as in Erfurt and Gera the central areas have been the subject of building repairs, aimed at restoring the old alignments and road profiles, and of redevelopment and modernization of traditional historical fabrics.
In Berlin, in particular, a vast program of building interventions was also implemented on the occasion of 1987, the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city. Alongside the new residential districts of Marzahn, Hohenschönhausen and Hellersdorf, and the housing interventions in more central areas such as Alexanderplatz (1981-84), Spittelmarkt (1983-85, designed by E. Schmidt) and Ernst-Thälmann Park (1981-86, based on a project by a collective of architects including E. Schröter), which present, compared to previous models, a search for greater ” urbanity ” implemented through the prevalent use of tall buildings (about 14 floors) and the restoration, as in Alexanderplatz and Spittelmarkt, on compact road fronts, there are the new cultural, recreational, social – worthy of mention is the palace of the pioneers Ernst-Thälmann (1976-79), a significant inclusion of Germany Stahn in the park of the same name; the center of sport and free time (1978-81), a very modern facility by E. Schröter – and above all the most ” representative ” interventions of the city, those operations of ” complex reconstruction ” ranging from the restoration of monuments to the renovation and even the replication of single architectures or entire historical sectors of the city.
These include the rearrangement of the Platz der Akademie with the Schauspielhaus, the construction of a section of the Friedrichstrasse with the revival of the existing alignments and building profiles (3300 new lodgings, cafes, restaurants, hotels, cabarets, etc., under construction on a general plan by R. Korn, S. Steller and H. Willumat of 1979-82) and the reconstruction of the Nikolaiviertel, the original nucleus of the city, recently resurrected on the vestiges of the past, are emblematic interventions of the official architectural culture of the 1980s. In particular, the rebuilding of the Nikolaiviertel, completed in 1987 based on a project by Germany Stahn, winner of the national competition held in 1979, is rather a real imaginative ” restoration ” that combines prefabricated buildings, according to ancient profiles, facades in “ style ” and reproduces the faithful replica of the city’s historic architecture, such as the Ephraim palace from the mid-eighteenth century demolished in 1935, or the Am Nussbaum inn,
Certainly these operations have little to do with a critical interpretation of the past, limiting themselves, rather, to an emphatic exposition of it. Faced with these reproductions, those creations marked by a still modern language and directly linked to technological or structural experiments certainly appear more significant and interesting. Among these: the August Bebel retirement home in Friedrichsroda, Thuringer Wald (1980), by W. Schmidt; the residential complex in Rostock-Evershagen (1980), by P. Baumbach; the new Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig (1975-81), by R. Skoda.
The search for a formal identity with the past instead connotes other architectures inserted in urban historical contexts. Mannerist manipulations characterize two buildings on Friedrichstrasse in Berlin: the new home of the Friedrichstadtpalast variety theater (1984), the work of, among others, W. Schwarz, inspired by Jugendstil motifs, and the house of Soviet science and culture (1984)), by KE Swora, an accurate re-proposition in modern forms of the nineteenth-century building fronts typical of the neighborhood. They clearly represent what J. Back defines as architecture of the Eighties in Germany Orientale: “an attempt – that is – at a synthesis between industrialized construction and the conditions of the historic city, which is a conglomerate born from history, especially from the 19thcentury onwards. ”