The Influence of Critical Reconstruction on the Shape of
by Naraelle Barrows
Art History, Comparative History of Ideas
the heart of Prussian and
flood of building projects and real estate speculation in the early 1990s
quickly caused city planners to recognize that an overall guiding vision was
advocates a combination of new and restored buildings to create an urban environment that
draws on historic forms in order to embody, according to its proponents, the true essence of the
historic European metropolis. The
results of this planning approach can readily be seen in
Figure 1: Map of Mitte showing the Friedrichstadt and
Reconstruction’s influence on the shape of the city has been momentous, for
though it did not become an officially institutionalized part of Berlin’s
planning culture until after reunification, its application to urban renewal
projects reaches back into the 1970s and 80s, when young Berlin architects on
both sides of the Wall were working to establish new, historically-oriented
building trends. Thus the shape of
Reconstruction has drawn heated criticism from many sides, including
architects, philosophers, theorists, journalists, academics and the general
public. Its proponents have been accused of underhanded political maneuvering
and have even at times been called “fascists” for their often rigid adherence
to their own architectural and city-planning philosophies. Though some of these
critiques are integral to the development and history of both the planning
concept and the city, not all are relevant to this paper. The criticism of, and
debates between, architects and architectural critics will be briefly discussed
for their importance to the development of city planning policy. For the most
part the validity of accusations concerning political power struggles and a
“cartel” of architects wielding authority over planning decisions will not be
investigated, as a thorough look at the last two decades of
A Brief History of Building in
Constituting a key
part of Mitte, the area called the “Friedrichstadt” has been a focus for urban
renewal projects using the approach of Critical Reconstruction from the late
1970s onward. The Friedrichstadt was built in the late part of the 17th
century by ruler Friedrich Wilhelm, “The Great Elector,” who was at the time sponsoring
heavy military investment to conquer neighboring Slavic lands. 
The Friedrichstadt was developed mainly as a place to house his growing army,
but also as a place for the burgeoning civilian population that had already
spread beyond the bounds of
city’s population continued to grow throughout the
World War II wrought terrible destruction on the city, especially in Mitte, not only through air raids but also through heavy shelling during the last dramatic week of the war, when the Russian army had to fight its way street by street through the city. Post-war reconstruction commenced slowly, being secondary to political struggles over the division of the country and its capital. Finally, in the 1950s both East and West Berlin governments, separated politically but not yet divided by a wall, both sponsored prominent building projects: in the East along the newly-christened boulevard of Stalinallee, and in the West through the first Internationale Bauaustellung (International Building Exhibition or Interbau) in the Hansa Quarter.
saw the building of the Berlin Wall and the definitive division of the city,
rendering the still war-torn Friedrichstadt a border zone (see map, Figure 1). 
While most of the Friedrichstadt was too close to the wall and too void of
prominent historical buildings to warrant immediate restoration, the areas
directly to the north and northeast of the Friedrichstadt were partially
restored during the late 1960s and early 70s to house East German government
buildings. Though the commercial center of
on the other side of the wall, commercial amenities in
Building Traditions in
Berlin is best-known for its five-story apartment houses, the majority of which were built during the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; thus this type of building has become an essential element in the architectural repertoire of those Berlin architects looking to re-establish traditional building approaches. In the previous century their dimensions had tended to reflect contemporary building code limits, as developers took advantage of the population explosion to extract as much return as possible from their building investments. Usually between 50 and 100 feet wide on the street side, this building type was especially known for its series of courtyards, often two or three deep, reaching into the center of the block. Soon dubbed with the nickname “Mietskaserne” or “rental barracks,” they became notorious for the dark and crowded living conditions they encouraged: one-room apartments housing whole families, lack of plumbing, and dark stains everywhere from burning coal for heat.
The unpleasant living conditions in these building contributed to planners’ post-World War II distaste for traditional urbanism, motivated as well by the Modernist philosophies articulated in the Charter of Athens. However, especially in places where little refurbishment was undertaken during the mid-20th century, this building type still dominates today, notably in the districts of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauerberg. With the more recent return to traditional urbanism, the apartments in them have now become generally considered as spacious and pleasant, and the courtyard itself has even become a focus of tourism. The five-story apartment building with inner courtyards is also one of the principle building types used in new construction in Berlin according to the concept of Critical Reconstruction, as will be discussed later.
The Critique of Modernism and Shifts in City Planning Approaches
Housing programs and city planning in both the East and West during the 1950s and early 60s focused mainly on large satellite housing estates, parking lots, and wide, auto-friendly avenues. Such a radical diversion from earlier building and planning styles not only reflected the spirit of the time, as the Modernist approach articulated by CIAM (Congrès Internationaux de l’Architecture Moderne) became the standard, but, for West Germany in particular, symbolized a new beginning, untethered to Germany’s violent recent history. For the East, though Modernism with its cosmopolitan Bauhaus legacy was officially denounced by party leaders, practical concerns over housing held sway, and large apartment blocks presented an efficient solution to shortages.
in the late 1960s, as theorists throughout the Western world began to think of
new ways to approach building,
1968, the anti-Modernist stance was taken up formally in
It was not the
beginning of thought about the city and its critique, but it was the beginning
of a public discussion on the subject: for the first time, a number of
architects and urban planners as well as several teaching assistants from the
While groups such as Campaign 507 were undoubtedly influenced by Post-Modern architectural thought, the turn back to traditional urbanism and against the functionalist approach of Modernists in West Berlin also had much to do with broader intellectual and political currents in late 1960s West Germany, where the notion of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (“coming to terms with the past”) was becoming an important issue. Whereas Berlin’s first planners after the destruction of World War II sought to distance themselves both physically and ideologically from what they saw as the mistakes of the Wilhemenian, Weimar and Nazi periods by adopting a Modernist approach, the next generation of architects and planners blamed not the war but Modernism itself for the emptiness and dissatisfaction they felt in the urban environment. Victimhood, always an ambivalent topic for Germans in the aftermath of the Second World War, could now be claimed at the hands of misguided Modernists rather than the more politically problematic Allied bombs. “The European and especially the West German urban landscape,” wrote Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, one of the most active proponents of the movement back toward traditional urbanism, “has clearly been destroyed less by the war then by the planners who, because of their abstract, biased and global conception of a city which in their view is an addition of quantitative functions, have turned them mostly into cheerless and desolate places.”
political mood under West German Chancellor Willi Brandt, whose policy of Ostpolitik encouraged the official
Another important event
during the 1970s was the European Council’s recommendation to celebrate
“European Architectural Heritage Year” in 1975. The numerous events and
publications surrounding this theme contributed to the raised awareness among
both architects and the public regarding the worth of the old city center as a
living space. This
awareness also crossed the Wall, affecting planning and building projects in
Josef Paul Kleihues and the Genesis of Critical Reconstruction
of the signatories of Campaign 507 was Josef Paul Kleihues, who, after studying
under well-known architect Hans Scharoun, had founded his own architectural
[O]ne need not come
Siedler obviously shared the distaste for Modernist planning that had recently become popular among architects, as well as their penchant for claiming victimization at the hands of post-war city planners. With his prominence as a columnist and publisher, he thus made a powerful ally for Kleihues, who shared his views and was able to put the ideas expressed in Siedler’s book into a more focused architectural context.
In addition to his publishing and exhibition efforts, Kleihues spent the 1970s developing an approach to architecture that would incorporate traditional concepts of city planning and building with the useful technological and theoretical innovations of Modernism. In his writing, Kleihues clearly showed himself influenced by the anti-Modernist stance, especially in that the historical starting point for his concept of architecture was the destruction wrought on Berlin by the twin tragedies of the Second World War and Modernist town planning. “As the homeless Berliners were sifting the ruins of their dwellings and patching them up as best they could to keep out wind and rain, neither of the planning committees [of Berlin] felt it necessary to advance a program of reconstruction, basing their projects instead on further demolition to make way for a gigantic street system and extensive rezoning measures,” he wrote. “The little that was left fell victim during the first two post-war decades to a, from today’s perspective totally incomprehensible, demolition fervor.”
Kleihues was also greatly influenced by Aldo Rossi’s Architecture of the City. In particular, Kleihues admired Rossi’s ability to connect the social and political concerns of architecture with aesthetic ones. “The bridge that Rossi spans,” he wrote of the author’s critique of functionalism, “from the economic and political relationships to the, in a narrower sense, artistic forms, the emphasis on this double purpose of architecture, was historiographically and theoretically a meaningful new beginning.” But while Kleihues had an affinity for Rossi’s overarching concept of architecture, he also viewed his own approach as distinct from Rossi’s in that it was “more open, more ready to experiment.” His entailed not just a return to the traditional city form, but a critique of that same form using the strategies developed by Modernists:
We cannot concern ourselves with a fight in which one or the other side, tradition or Modernism, finally succumbs, [ … ] but rather with freeing the possibilities that have kept themselves hidden in the reductionism of the previous epoch of the Modern, to open to the Modern an additional decisiveness. To adapt Adorno’s concluding sentence of “Negative Dialectics,” “Our attempt is united with the Modern even in the moment of its downfall.” […] The “critical” strategies of the Modern thus couple themselves with the traditional ideas of reconstruction.
Thus Kleihues’s approach was twofold: on the most general level, he sought to connect the aesthetic concerns of architecture with the larger socio-political sphere by creating an architectural concept that would encompass both overall city planning and individual building design. On a more specific stratum, the design of both was to be based on traditional forms, modified and improved upon using a critical approach adopted from Modernism. These two ideas became the central features of Kleihues’s architectural and city-planning concept, which he named “Critical Reconstruction.”
In his writings on Critical Reconstruction, Kleihues also clearly delineated his theoretical position in relationship to other contemporary architects. He critiqued what he called “Post-Modernism” in architecture, calling it “consumer-oriented,” and claiming that the “anything goes” approach of Post-Modern theorists and architects had led to a “speculative rhetoric” and “regressive history”: in other words, to historicism without a foundation in tradition, and to a denial of Modernism as a valid critique of that tradition. These points suggest that Kleihues’ criticisms were aimed at American, rather than European, Post-Modernists: while he was influenced by European Post-Modernists like Rossi, he was opposed to methods such as Robert Venturi’s, which entailed a more playful, freely mixed and, in a sense, superficial combination of aesthetic and structural elements. For Kleihues, the American Post-Moderns’ disavowal of Modernist functionalism embodied an ironic and dangerous repetition of the Modernist denial of recent history, as well as a penchant for commercialism. These critiques would become of central importance in Berlin during the 1990s, when architects deemed too heedless of tradition were either passed up for ones more aligned with the approach of Critical Reconstruction, or forced to adhere to strict building guidelines which limited them to acceptable forms.
Critical Reconstruction and the International Bauaustellung (IBA)
concept of Critical Reconstruction became the foundational approach for the Internationale Bauaustellung, or IBA, of
which he was named director in 1979. It was in this series of urban renewal
projects that the first detailed descriptions, as well as physical
applications, of Critical Reconstruction were realized. The idea of holding
another building exhibition like the Interbau of 1957 had already been on the
opposed to the earlier Interbau, which had involved only a small, relatively
isolated section of the city and had rebuilt it from the ground up, this time
the IBA projects covered areas in many parts of West Berlin, with a large
number of them concentrated in the Southern Friedrichstadt, and aimed for the
integration of new projects with the existing city fabric. Competitions were
held for each individual building site, all coordinated, however, under a
regional plan drawn up by Kleihues and city officials. Cooperation from the
architects was partly ensured by the fact that, as head of the exhibition,
Kleihues also had considerable sway as to the choices of both the juries and
the winners, a tactic that continued to be used in
The IBA gave Kleihues the opportunity to develop a practical set of rules for the application of Critical Reconstruction, in relation to a real set of projects. Using the IBA as a concrete example, he identified three levels of the urban landscape on which his approach was to be exercised. At the most basic level, the ground plan, Kleihues promoted a return to traditional, pre-Modernist urbanism, which put an emphasis on the mixing and integration of urban functions. This in turn affected the second level, that of the street elevation or “structure” of the city, as buildings along a street would need to differ in function but also serve together to create a harmonious whole. The innovative use of traditional forms expressed themselves in the third level, that of building type of “physiognomy,” as well. Drawing on historical building types such as the Mietskaserne, Kleihues sought to aesthetically connect the face of the city to its past and to its overall form.
these concepts to the IBA, Kleihues’ first goal for the exhibition was to, as
far as possible, reinstate the old baroque-era ground plan of the
A slough of internationally-renowned architects competed on project designs, which ranged from restoration and addition to entirely new building projects. The eclectic approach used by Kleihues and the IBA officials is readily exhibited in the projects at Kochstrasse 16-19
Gerhard Spangenberg, to house the tageszeitung [sic] or “taz.” The facility also houses a café and restaurant which are open to the public. Next to it, the architectural firm of Schudnagies/Hameyer was responsible for the construction of a large residential building. The combination of living, commercial and recreational spaces, as well as the combination of old and new on this site, exemplify the approach of the IBA. The fact that these constitute a mere fraction of the total number of projects, all using this approach, commissioned through the IBA is a testament to its formidable and lasting influence on the shape of the Southern Friedrichstadt during the 1980s. Thus the IBA projects represent Critical Reconstruction’s first major mark on the city.
Town Planning and Reconstruction in the East
Just as the Stalinallee project in the 1950s had provided an Eastern counterpart to the first Internationale Bauaustellung in the West, so the GDR also paralleled the IBA in the 1980s with restorations and building projects on the east side of the Wall. Even well before the 1980s, architectural approaches in the East had mirrored those on the other side of the border. As early as the late 1960s, Eastern planners had noted the same problems with Modernist city planning as critics in the West. GDR officials recognized the failure of the city model that was zoned according to function, and began to promote the restoration of an urban mix: “What made the old city flexible was the healthy mixing of functions, especially those of living and working, but also those of relaxation and education,” proclaimed State Secretary of the Building Ministry Karl Schmiechen in 1968.
bureaucracy and lack of funds affected the speed at which ideological changes
became physical reality, the currents among GDR architects were ripe for change
by the mid-1970s. While Kleihues and his cohorts in the West were promoting a
return to the traditional city form, young
The emergence in the East of Western-influenced architectural approaches was also no doubt encouraged by the atmosphere of détente during the 1970s, which, given the new influx of visiting foreign diplomats to the GDR and increased visibility in the Western public sphere, put pressure on the government to renew its urban landmarks. After building lavish new Modernist government buildings during the early 1970s, later in the decade the GDR turned its resources toward restoring historical monuments, such as the Semper Opera House in Dresden, as a way of showing visitors that they still had, and respected, their cultural treasures. As GDR architect Manfred Prasser noted,
[…] with the wave of [political] recognition came suddenly hundreds of diplomats, who very soon asked themselves why cultural treasures of the past were being so neglected. […] [T]hirty years after the end of the war the domes, churches and a theater of the capital of the country which invoked Goethe and Schiller, Thomas Mann and Martin Luther, Bach and Beethoven, lay in ruins. This did not reflect well on the GDR in the diverse international bodies for art, culture and monument preservation.
During this period the GDR
undertook some of its most ambitious rebuilding projects in
rechristened as the Konzerthaus (Concert House) because of its new designation as home of the GDR’s Berlin Symphony Orchestra, became one of the first projects in which GDR architects attempted a full, historically-oriented restoration. In the mid-1980s work was also begun on the French Dome’s twin, the German Dome, on the other side of the restored Konzerthaus.
Headed by Manfred Prasser, who had been involved in the building of the GDR’s Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republik, seat of the East German parliament) just a few years before, the Konzerthaus project was given almost unlimited resources and funding: in the economically-failing GDR a sign that the project was considered politically important. The building had been brutally damaged in the war, and only its outer shell, with trees growing out of it and propped up by security scaffolding, remained. At first, GDR officials had envisioned an historically-accurate restoration only of the exterior, with a modern interior like that of other newly-built government buildings. Prasser, however, favored an interior that would match the outside of the building: “It was clear to us that for various reasons there could not be an historically-accurate reconstruction of the interior […] but I found that the outer architecture must fit with the inside.” He eventually succeeded in convincing his superiors to concede to his plan of constructing an interior “with the festive character of classical architecture.” Allegedly because of the technical constraints of the building’s planned use as a concert hall rather than a theater, but surely also because of time and financial constraints, the interior was constructed in a neo-classical style reminiscent of, but not entirely faithful to, Schinkel’s original design. As opposed to the exterior, which was reconstructed exactly according to the original building, the only parts of the interior that correspond directly to the 19th-century building are a few paintings by August von Kloeber that had survived inside the ruin.
The Konzerthaus’ interior can thus be seen as a first experiment by GDR architects in historically-oriented building. As opposed to Kleihues’s approach, where reconstruction in an historical style was always combined with a critical appraisal of its value for the overall design and environment, Prasser did his best to faithfully evoke Schinkel simply for the sake of making the interior look and feel “historical.” Such an attempt might have been criticized by the likes of Kleihues for giving the building a naïve, theme-park feel. Still, Prasser’s Konzerthaus stands as a courageous foray into a type of building previously shunned in the GDR, not only in the sense that it was at least partly an accurate reconstruction, but in that Prasser developed, however heedlessly, an historically-oriented architectural vocabulary of his own for the interior. Thus Prasser’s design can be viewed as part of a “proto”-Critical Reconstruction movement undertaken by architects on the eastern side of the Wall, whose awareness of the wider implications of their work within Western Post-Modern architecture was doubtlessly limited, but who were nevertheless experimenting with methods of historical rebuilding. The same neo-traditional approach was taken further in the reconstruction of the Nikolai Viertel in the mid-1980s, where entire buildings were fabricated in an historical style.
Reunification – New Challenges
The toppling of
the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought with it the opportunity to continue the legacy
of historically-oriented building pursued by both
reunification of the city government itself provided the first daunting
challenge to officials. As a result of the Wende
or “turn,” the German term for reunification, not only did the East and West
Berlin city governments have to negotiate roles and duties; in the Eastern part
of the city, ownership of all properties, appropriated by the communist
government decades before, had to be negotiated. In the process of unification
the governments of Eastern districts, including that of Mitte, were left intact
but forced to adopt the constitution as well as the overall institutions and
methods of former West Berlin, putting officials with little experience in
fast-paced planning or the market system in charge of what were now
high-profile real-estate decisions.
The complexities of the
reprivatization of property proved to be one of the most daunting tasks faced
by the post-unification government. Buildings formerly used for different arms
of the GDR government now fell under the jurisdiction of different agencies,
requiring the creation of a whole
years following November 1989 were marked by exponential development in Mitte,
as speculation and optimism drove real-estate prices up. Predictions were rosy:
held considerable sway over development at this time due to the demand for land
and building permits, but they were forced to make quick and sometimes
regrettable decisions as well. Given the short timeline for the government
The block on which the Galeries Lafayette store now stands is a good example of the political maneuvering typical of the early 1990s. The complex of which it builds the northernmost part, an ensemble of three mall-like buildings called the “Friedrichstadt Passagen,” constituted one of the most prominent building projects of the transition period following the Wende. Building had already commenced on plans for a similar shopping center with office and commercial spaces designed by GDR planners in the late 1980s. “At the time of the Wende,” write Martina Düttman and Felix Zwoch, “there was this massive ‘something’ that simply made the side streets of Tauben- and Mohrenstrasse disappear, sealed off the Platz der Akademie, whose street profile retreated back from the Friedrichstrasse […] partly finished, partly already in ruins again.” After reunification, the half-finished complex was torn down to make way for new developers to pursue the same project in a renewed form. Competition to develop this new complex was fierce; rumors circulated that the French President Francois Mitterrand had even contacted Chancellor Kohl on behalf of Galeries Lafayette, the French department store chain who wanted to buy the parcel. However, German developer Roland Ernst was able to buy up a property claim to a parcel included in the block, and shortly after was awarded the sale, with Galeries Lafayette as a tenant rather than an owner.
Block-size development: The Friedrichstadt Passagen
Friedrichstadt Passagen exemplify the inconsistent application of Critical
Reconstruction methods to early development projects in reunified
Friedrichstrasse. The scale of the projects went against Kleihues’ call for varied block façades,
Figure 5: Map of Mitte (courtesy Berlin.de)
but because of the political pressures discussed above, this was overlooked at the time. The original plan put forward for the Passagen was to have a street-level passage spanning the length of the complex, a plan which Oswald Matthias Ungers, architect of the southernmost building, condemned for its interference with the historical street plan: a mark of his solidarity with Kleihues’s approach to rebuilding the city, which favored preserving or even reinstating the old street plan wherever possible. Partly due to Ungers’s protests, the passage connecting the three buildings was put underground, linking the blocks but still allowing foot and auto traffic to move freely at street level. Parking was put underground as well, in accordance with new rules concerning traffic limits in the inner city, another planning realm where Kleihues’s ideas had won out.
Friedrichstadt Passagen follow the approach of Critical Reconstruction in their
general orientation towards traditional
Instead, Ungers’s choice of neutral color and his simple, relatively undifferentiated matrix design allow the building to stay unobtrusive to the viewer. As Paula Winter comments in Bauwelt Berlin Annual, the building “threatens to disappear as soon as one looks away. […] For the building does not show itself, despite the differentiated coloring, despite the deep openings. […] [The] unmistakable squares abstract the body of the building that they cover.”
recalls the plaster-adorned buildings of the previous century. The triangular tops of each prism, which from street-level appear to create a sharply delineated and uneven skyline, appear from a distance like dormers in a gracefully-sloping roof. The interior also recalls the splendor of the previous century with its black-and-white checker motif and atrium with a piano bar and a sweeping spiral staircase, given a starkly modern touch with the addition of an escalator through the center of the gallery.
many, that Nouvel circumvented the
rules of planners in order to build the façade out of glass is false: the laws
governing façade design had not yet been instated at the time his design was
approved, and indeed have never explicitly ruled out glass as a material.
The debate over glass as a building material did, however, become the focus of
a very public and vehement debate between a few prominent
different ways, the three buildings comprising the Friedrichstadt Passagen each
embody elements of the Critical Reconstruction approach. All conform to the
after the building and buying frenzy directly following the Wende, in the late 1990s property prices
dropped dramatically. The predicted influx of workers and jobs never came, and
Mitte was left with millions of square meters of empty offices and a plethora
of “for rent” signs. This situation proved favorable, in one way, for Galeries Lafayette,
which was soon able to demand lower rent from its property owner.
But lack of residents and jobs also meant lack of customers, and despite lower
rents it took years for the store to turn a profit.
By 2001 the overall prospects for the city’s economic and physical growth were
Hans Stimmann and the institutionalization of Critical Reconstruction through the Planwerk Innenstadt
the most influential politician on
in office, Stimmann immediately encouraged Kleihues’s ideas of a return to
traditional height limits and the “guiding image of the ‘
One of these was Stimmann’s staunch support of Kleihues’s vision to reinstate the baroque-era street plan. The main conduit for this effort was the Planwerk Innenstadt or “Inner-City Plan,” whose objective was to present Stimmann’s (and by proxy, Kleihues’s) overarching planning concept for development for the neighborhood of Mitte. Its main concerns were re-integrating “monostructurally developed” areas of housing or commercial activity, i.e. those zoned for single uses, the development of publicly-owned land in the East and a “reduction model” for traffic. Debate over the theoretical and aesthetic aspects of the plan were colored by political criticisms, as the plan gave Stimmann almost unlimited power over the reclaimed land. By narrowing streets, many of which had been widened considerably in the post-war period, Stimmann’s department effectively gained control over new plots of land in the inner city on which they could exert better and more specific influence, thus achieving Stimmann’s end goal of implementing Critical Reconstruction in the inner city and bypassing any political opposition. “Since 1991 the Senate has tried again and again to make the subject of the individual plot of land part of the debate concerning the reconstruction of the city. With the decision to adopt the ‘Planwerk Innenstadt’ in 1999 this strategy was given a formal and reliable basis,” he wrote in 2002.
Elizabeth Strom points out, however, “the approval of the Planwerk Innenstadt in and of itself means nothing.”
The government arm in charge of enforcing it, the Department of Urban
Development, has no power to actually build anything; all it can do is try to
regulate the sale of land and hope that it is used by private investors in the
ways put forth by the Planwerk. “For
this to truly happen,” says Strom, “
Nevertheless, the Planwerk Innenstadt remains an important vision, and marketing tool, for the Urban Development office. Visually embodied in what are called the Schwarzpläne (black plans), it shows the individual plots of land in the inner city, with built areas in black and unbuilt areas in white. A quick comparison of the Schwarzpläne from 1945, 1953 and 1989 shows how easily the plans let the viewer detect building densities (see Figure 12, next page). The Schwarzpläne provide the perfect visual “evidence” for the need to accomplish Critical Reconstruction’s goals of increasing urban density through the narrowing of traffic boulevards, by illustrating very simply and easily the “unwholeness” of the unbuilt city. Stimmann justifies
Figure 12: Schwarzpläne from 1940, 1953 and 1989, showing building densities in the
inner city (courtesy Senatsverwaltung für
the use of these plans on a more theoretical level as well, arguing that the groundplans make up “the memory of the city,” which, when articulated in black and white, “like individual letters, build words and sentences and tell stories.” For him, any empty space constitutes a silence that interrupts the continuous “story” of the city.
Understandably, this attempt to abstractly rationalize planning decisions has earned Stimmann much criticism from a philosophical standpoint. He has also come under fire from critics because of the Planwerk’s goal of tight control over urban development, a goal necessitated by Stimmann’s belief in the importance of pursuing a Critical Reconstruction approach. The belief in the need for an overarching city plan that includes overall design as well as building typologies is, as we have seen, an integral part of the approach of Kleihues’s theories: an ironic one, considering his criticism of the destruction waged by Modernists who had different overarching plans in mind. In the early 1990s, when investors were clambering for property along Friedrichstrasse and the applications for building were piling up, there was an especially great fear, not only among the likes of Stimmann and Kleihues, but among other architects and critics as well, that the building fever would run out of control and Berlin would end up looking like a theme park rather than a metropolis. As Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, likewise a supporter of Critical Reconstruction and one of Kleihues’s partners in organizing the IBA a decade earlier, wrote in 1991:
The “Architectural Debates” of 1993-94
overarching, all-encompassing approach necessitated by the will to plan the
city according to the tenets of Critical Reconstruction, as well as Stimmann’s
non-apologetic attitude toward this approach, has led to accusations of a
“bully pulpit” or “lord of the manor” tactics.
Certainly some of the accusations were well-founded: the juries of design
competitions for prominent building sites often consisted of the same few
architects, all part of Kleihues’s and Stimmann’s close circle, and of course
they tended to choose their colleagues as the winners.
But as Gert Kähler observes in her essay on the
and Hans Kollhoff, a
these vehement public debates seemed to dissipate in the mid-1990s without
achieving much more than raising an awareness of
Critical Reconstruction at its Best: Hofgarten am Gendarmenmarkt
The Hofgarten am Gendarmenmarkt complex, completed in 1996 on the block directly north of the Friedrichstadt Passagen, provides what is perhaps the best example of a successful Critical Reconstruction approach in this area of the city. With a total concept and infrastructural elements designed by Kleihues himself, the complex consists of both refurbished historical buildings and new ones on small lots designed by him and three other architects. In this manner the ideal of overall planning is combined with the wish for individual parcel development. Each building has a separate entrance and separate usage, but all back on the green courtyard in the center of the block. All of the buildings exemplify Kleihues’s ideal historical-modern dialectic, as well as the typology of the mixed-use office, commercial and inner-city residential form.
other on the northern corner of Behrenstrasse. The more southerly building along Friedrichstrasse was highly deteriorated and collapsed during construction of the buildings that were designed to flank it; its façade was reconstructed to preserve the continuity of the original design, which was almost finished.
In addition to creating the overall design for the Hofgarten block, Kleihues designed both the Four Seasons Hotel on the rear side of the block facing Charlottenstrasse, and the narrow studio-office building that neighbors the hotel on Behrenstrasse. The hotel, faced with light-colored Roman travertine stone and featuring both flat surfaces and curved window-bays, combines the traditional, stone-clad eight-story building with simplified and irregular forms,
hotel. Kleihues’s choice of material for this smaller building can also be read as a commentary on the architectural controversy over stone building that was taking place during its design (see Figure 15, next page). While utilizing modern materials such as metal and glass rather than stone for its façade, the studio-office building still achieves a solid, almost stone-like presence due to its neutral color and placement in harmony with the neighboring buildings. Thus it exemplifies Kleihues’s attempt to adapt and improve on traditional building types with contemporary building materials and simplified forms.
Kleihues’s narrow office building is neighbored by a residential building designed by
Swiss architect Max Dudler. Like the other two architects for the Hofgarten project, Hans Kollhoff and Jürgen Sawade, Dudler studied under Oswald Matthias Ungers and is considered
or penthouse floors of all the buildings. Concentrating the living spaces in one building allowed Dudler to better fit requirements such as elevators and staircases to the use of residences. Organized as maisonettes, the apartments’ “functional rooms” such as baths and kitchens are located in the center of the building, allowing the living rooms to face outward toward the street or courtyard, respectively. Clad in green granite, the outside of the building presents a neutral, rectangularly-oriented façade, which is almost unvariegated except for the two uppermost stories, which step back from the façade plane on one side of the building. Owing to its dark color and conventional design, the building completes the block while failing to draw attention to itself, and sets off its glass and white-plaster neighbors.
Kollhoff’s pair of matching buildings along Friedrichstrasse, originally designed to wrap around an existing, historically-protected building, now actually constitute a single structure with varying façades. As mentioned above, the historically-protected building around which Kollhoff designed two office and commercial complexes was in such bad condition that it collapsed
outlined by Kleihues as a possible
solution to large-scale building, in that it preserves the illusion of
small-scale building without necessitating that every parcel be separately sold
and designed. The
façades of Kollhoff’s two newly-designed portions are almost identical, both
using a grey-green granite in a “flat relief” design drawn from prewar
The same could be said of Jürgen Sawade’s building, which fills the gap between Kollhoff’s building and the historical Borchardt building on Französische Strasse. The building houses offices, with two commercial spaces on the ground floor, and is often cited as
technical perfection. However, especially on bright days the building itself is hard to detect due to its highly reflective surface. Rather, one sees clearly the curving glass lines of Jean Nouvel’s Galeries Lafayette, which stands across the street (see Figure 17). Thus Sawade’s building achieves, as do the rest of the buildings in the Hofgarten complex, the paradoxical goal of being both daring and conventional, unique but conformist, by letting its simple form reflect the streetscape around it.
In walking around this block, one would never suspect that the entire complex was planned by one architect, nor that each building’s designer had in mind a central idea. The buildings appear (or disappear, as the case may be) as an integral streetscape, only occasionally arousing the viewer to stop and appreciate their aesthetic appeal. Though not a lofty goal, this is in many ways the ultimate achievement of Critical Reconstruction: a cityscape that invites comfortable and prolonged use, not drawing attention to itself though any kind of experimentation, be it ugly or beautiful. The city is knit together through carefully differentiated but matching forms that draw on their historical counterparts and improve on those models with contemporary building techniques and materials. Critics may call it boring, authoritarian or even “fascist,” but they cannot refute the assertion that in this portion of the city, Critical Reconstruction has, at least according to its own measures, succeeded.
Concerns for the Future
important question concerns the future of GDR buildings, few of which have been
designated monuments. The application of Critical Reconstruction to sites in
the former East draws attention to its most glaring inner contradiction: the
only buildings not considered worthy of preservation or restoration are those
from the mid-twentieth century, particularly those associated with the GDR. 
Condemned by “experts” on both aesthetic and functional grounds, the public
debates associated with the demolition of prominent GDR buildings, most notably
the Palast der Republik, have shown
that there is much more at stake in their destruction than simple concerns over
land use or even aesthetics. The destruction of such buildings has the potential
to alienate half of
The most common tactic has, so far, been to simply tear down or completely remodel them. As Hanno Rauterberg attests, “[t]he idea was to cast off the uncomfortable history of the GDR by removing all evidence of its existence.”While theoretically Critical Reconstruction encourages the incorporation and careful re-integration of historical buildings into the cityscape, the legacy of the GDR is perhaps still too close at hand to be dealt with, and thus continues to
fall victim to the wrecking ball. One is compelled to ask what the next generation of young architects will have to say about the ones whose “demolition fervor” removed the last traces of a forty-year regime from the face of the city.
Summary and Conclusion
its beginnings in the IBA to its current application at sites such as
Alexanderplatz, Critical Reconstruction has, over the span of just a few
1949 to 1990,
 Stimmann, Von der Architektur, 9
are good resources available for those interested in the political struggles
within the city government and the bodies commissioned to rebuild the city. See
Strom, Building the
 Ladd, A Companion Guide to
 Pundt, Schinkel’s Berlin, 12.
 See Architecture in Progress, 34.
the West German government was relocated to
 Geisert, “Models for the Reform of Urban Housing,” 41
 Ladd, Ghosts of
 The Hackesche Höfe (Hackesche Courtyards), a
series of interconnected courtyards in the former handworker’s district in
Mitte, are one of
avenues in the East and West had very different uses: while in the West most
could afford to have a car, in the East individual auto ownership was rare.
Wide avenues in
Stimmann, “Gedächtnis der europäischen Stadt,” 15. Though the work of American
Post-Modernists such as Robert Venturi was known in
 Quoted in Schätzke, “A Matter for the Polis,” 57, original reference not available.
 Schätzke, 59.
 Kähler, “As the Steam Began to Rise …,” 382. As Schätzke points out, while groups such as Campaign 507 may have started out as relatively isolated and oppositional, the politics of reclaiming the inner city and rethinking city planning became more mainstream during the 1970s and triggered the well-known wave of squatting Mietskaserne in West Berlin. See Schätzke, 59.
 Lampugnani, “The Facts and the Dreams,” 19.
Machleidt, Süchtig, George, and Schlusche, “
 See Schätzke, 61-3.
 See Rauterberg, “History – That Was Yesterday,” 313.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, Baumeister des Neuen Berlins, 85. Scharoun had been the author of one of the first plans for the city after World War II. Called the “Collective Plan,” it was hotly debated and was never realized. See Kleihues, “From Destruction to the Critical Reconstruction of the City,” 395.
 Schätzke, 60.
 Ibid., 63-4.
 Siedler and Niggemeyer, Die Gemordete Stadt, 196.
 Kleihues, “Destruction,” 395.
 Kleihues, “Kritische Rekonstruktion,” 49.
 Ibid., 53
 Kleihues, “Poetischer Rationalismus,” 37 (my translation).
 He also termed this “poetic rationalism” or “dialectic architecture.” See Kleihues, “New building areas, buildings and projects,” 6.
 Kleihues, “Poetischer Rationalismus,” 35-6.
should also be noted that he later openly criticized the strict historicism of
the likes of Leon Krier, who worked in Kleihues’s
 Lampugnani, “From large housing estates,” 76.
 Schätzke, 65. See
also Lampugnani, “Facts and Dreams,” 17-19. The IBA’s work was delayed by
political and logistical difficulties, and the exhibition was eventually opened
in 1987, the year of the celebration of
 Ruby, “The Eternal Return of the Void,” 300.
 Kleihues,”New building areas,” 6.
Kleihues’ use of the term “physiognomy” is interesting, as it implies the
ability of the architect, or viewer, to discern the overall “character” of the
city through the face of the individual building. The importance placed on the
“look” of individual buildings thus becomes an essential part of overall city
planning and allows design decisions to be made on the basis of whether a
building expresses the “character” of the city. Here we begin to see the roots
of the city planning controversy in 1990s
 Kleihues, “New building areas,” 6.
“Planwerk Innenstadt” below; Süchtig and Weiss, “A New Plan for
 Machleidt, Süchtig, George and Schlusche, 95. This article gives a good overview of the IBA’s specific goals.
 Ibid., 93.
 This project had entailed the construction of colossal, “wedding-cake” style buildings in neo-classical Stalinist style along a broad avenue in the East.
 Hoszislawski, Bauen Zwischen Macht und Ohnmacht, 312; quoted in Hoszislawski, 312.
the level of government control over published material in
 Schädlich, quoted in Hoszislawski, 324; Kleihues, “Poetischer Rationalismus,” 35-6. The GDR planners also critiqued Krier for his antipathy to industrial building.
 Hoszislawski 325-6. The Bauhaus movement was vehemently disavowed in the GDR up until mid-century. See ibid., 314, 327.
 Prasser and Heinke, “Im Grunde genommen ein Wunder,” 210 (my translation).
Nikolai Viertel, completed for the celebration of
 See Paltuzki, Architektur in der DDR, 397.
word Dom in German often means
“cathedral,” as in the case of the Berliner
Dom. Here, however, the word refers to the actual dome atop the church
tower. The Schauspielhaus was built
in 1818-21 after a fire destroyed an earlier theater on the same site. Cobbers,
 Prasser and Heinke, 209: “If you were good at climbing, you could still get into the building at this time, see the iron curtain before the burnt-out seats and imagine the balconies – the sky fell through the open ceiling, only a couple of pigeons had made the ruin livable” (my translation).
 Ibid., 216.
 Ibid., 219.
 Cobbers, 10.
 Strom, 58-60.
 Ibid., 29-30.
 This was called the Koordinierungsauschuss innerstädtischer Investation (Coordinating Committee for Inner City Investment) or KOAI. Ibid., 107.
 See ibid., 62-67 and 204.
 Mönninger, “Die zusammenwachsende Stadt,” 13.
 Strom, 201-2.
 Ibid., 203.
 Ibid., 105.
 This included the removal of GDR monuments for the sake of development, something of which the Bezirk planners had disapproved. This type of political maneuvering drew fire from the public sector and prompted the creation of the Stadtforum (city forum), a body of fifty experts who met regularly in public sessions to discuss planning and architectural issues. See ibid., 60, 102.
 Ibid., 104.
and Zwoch, Bauwelt
 Ungers, Bauten und Projekte, 254.
 Strom, 204.
 On the two northern parcels, the buildings could only fill -thirds of the whole block, as development on the opposite sides of the blocks had already taken place or they included buildings protected by historical monument status. The only building to fill its entire block is Oswald Matthias Ungers’s Quartier 205 on the southern end.
 Ungers, 253.
 The Passagen form itself is an historical one. Siegfried Kracauer commemorated the Berlin Passagen his famous essay Abschied von der Lindenpassagen (Farewell to the Linden Passagen). Many of these arcades lined Friedrichstrasse at the turn of the century. The Friedrichstadt Passagen’s own marketing campaign used the ideas of fin de siècle flanerie frequently as well.
 Ungers, 253-4.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 179.
 Ungers, 255.
 Winter, quoted in Haberlik and Zohlen, 180.
 Burg, 103.
 Ibid., 99.
 Strom, 206.
and Reinhold, “
 Stimmann, “Gedächtnis,” 23.
 Tzortzis, “Berliin’s Master Builder Retires,” E4.
 Ruby, 296.
 Strom, 101.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 85.
 Ibid., 17-18. This embroiled him in what was termed the “Architectural Debates of 1993-4,” discussed below.
 Süchtig and Weiss, 61-65.
 Strom, 110.
 Stimmann, “From Masterplan to Architecture,” 13.
 Strom, 113.
 Stimmann, “Gedächtnis,” 11.
 Kleihues’s approach, however, to the idea of overarching plans is much more nebulous than Stimmann’s. Of the IBA he writes, “I was concerned to find an approach that, instead of striving for a higher unity based on the dissolution of different or conflicting interests, would aim at solving a merely apparent contradiction, by encouraging the free, and in a sense even autonomous, development of separate elements of the city (building, block, street, square) while ensuring their integration into a larger whole […] Although this did not presuppose any priority of urban planning with respect to the individual architectural object in the sense of a value system, it did presuppose the importance of the logic of planning decisions. […] The priority of the plan and configuration of the city of the city thus defined were and remain a methodological constituent of the theoretical concern with the critical reconstruction of the city […]” (Kleihues, “Destruction,” 407).
 Strom, 109; Hassemer, quoted in Hain, 73.
this aspect of the planning process has been hotly criticized, and rightly so,
it must also be noted that the planning culture in
 Kähler, 281.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 98.
Actually, Lampugnani never directly mentioned
 Kähler 386; Zohlen 98. On the other side of the debate stood deconstructivist Daniel Libeskind, architect of the new Jewish Museum. See Kähler, 386.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 91.
 Haberlike and Zohlen, 87.
 Stimmann, Bauwelt, 60.
 Burg, 43.
 Stimmann, Bauwelt, 60.
 Kieren, Neue Arch in Deutschland, 82.
 Burg, 38.
 Meeschke and Scheer, Josef Paul Kleihues, 210.
 Ibid., 211; Burg, 38.
 for plans see Burg, 60.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 36.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 34.
 Kollhoff, Hans Kollhoff, 248.
 There were no references to the older form of the historical building; this would require further research.
 Aldo Rossi’s project in the Schützenstrasse block to the southeast of the Hofgarten is a well-known example of this approach.
 Kollhoff, 248.
along with Kleihues one of the signatories of the “Campaign 507” manifesto, has
had his own architectural practice in
 Kieren, 83.
 Haberlik and Zohlen, 169.
 See, for instance, the refurbishment of Alexanderplatz. With an overall plan by Hans Kollhoff, this too looks to be a textbook example of Critical Reconstruction. See Alexanderplatz: Städtbaulicher Ideenwettbewerb.
 Rauterberg, 314.