Context 162 - November 2019

14 C O N T E X T 1 6 2 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 9 by Kurt Walter Leucht, which implemented the 16 Grundsätze des Städtebaus (‘Sixteen Principles of Urban Design’, issued by the government of the GDR). A more rigid grid with consistent multi-storey housing and slightly higher den- sity than its western counterparts consciously expresses urbanity as well as equality. External and internal murals by Walter Womacka adorn some of the buildings. Like Espelkamp and Wolfsburg, Eisenhütten- stadt is its own ‘lower’ conservation authority, with its town hall and many of its industrial, public and residential buildings enjoying listed status. Covering 230 acres, the original part of the new town has become the largest monu- ment in Germany and attracts funding for its upkeep. The new town extensions, on the other hand, have seen the demolition of over 6,000 homes between 1990 and 2014. The German weekly Der Freitag once published an article by Wolfgang Kil about the struggling new town under the heading ‘the difficult monument’ ( Das schwierige Denkmal , 4 January 2008). Kil referred to a local planner’s concern about the limits of listing: ‘We can’t turn every day-nursery into a museum of the GDR’. While Eisenhüttenstadt has been managing shrinkage for many years, the former capital of the GDR and eastern half of Berlin during the Cold War continues to be attractive. It was here that the government implanted a new socialist core into the bombed-out heart of Berlin; not a new town as such, but a new centre the size of a city nevertheless. The new quarter not only exemplifies the 16 principles as applied to the capital, but it illustrates the changes in town planning throughout the 45 years under communist rule. Construction of the boulevard Stalinallee (re-named Karl-Marx-Allee in 1961) began with habitations in Bauhaus tradition (first phase, 1949–1951), continued with monumen- tal architecture inspired by Stalinist designs and Prussian classicism (second phase, 1951–1958, including the two gate towers of the Frankfurter Tor) and was completed in the socialist equiva- lent of International Modernism (third phase, 1959–1964, including Kino International and Café Moskau with 1:1 Sputnik satellite model). The housing estates on either side are laid out as superblocks with landscrapers in charac- teristic Plattenbauweise (prefabricated concrete slabs). The wide central square, Alexanderplatz, at the west end of the boulevard is overshadowed by Germany’s tallest building, the 368-metre- high Fernsehturm (TV tower, opened 1969) with a rotating restaurant. A symbol of socialism triumphant, it was listed as early as 1979. The last-minute GDR-era listing of Karl-Marx-Allee in 1989 survived the reunification of Germany in 1990, but not without challenge. In the 1990s, when I wrote heritage statements for properties in the district of Berlin-Mitte, this authority and the neighbouring district Friedrichshain were the authorities in charge of monument protec- tion in the Alexanderplatz and Karl-Marx-Allee area. However, it was at the higher city state level that the listing was questioned. In 1991 an attempt by several senators to lift listing restrictions in order to enable wide- reaching interventions across the ensemble (regarding parking, signage, changes to shop interiors and repair of almost 50 per cent of the ceramic-tiled facades) was rejected. As a sign of increased acceptance of the socialist heritage, in 2014 the Senate of the city state of Berlin put the complete ensemble of the Karl-Marx-Allee and the 1957 showcase estate Hansaviertel in former West Berlin forward for Unesco inscription, but the attempt was thwarted by the federal confer- ence of ministers for culture. In 2015, the Berlin Senate declared the second phase development of the boulevard an urban conservation funding area to safeguard its future and in July 2019 re- communalised 670 flats to combat speculation. Germany has seen examples of large-scale town planning in later years, such as the 1972 Munich Olympic Village, but these have not reached the level of communal autonomy of the early new towns. In Espelkamp, Wolfsburg and Eisenhüttenstadt the local authorities keep the list of protected monuments, and exercise control over their own heritage, supporting a more holistic approach to protect the character of the new towns. Frankfurter Tor (Gate), Berlin, by Hermann Henselmann (1956), showing the northern tower and a street light (Photo: Lotse, Wikimedia) Michael Asselmeyer, an architect, has been principal conservation and design manager at the London Borough of Islington and senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Central Lancashire. See Vox pop, page 54