Curtain Wall and Beyond: Erasing History Increases the Risk of Repeating It.
Curtain Wall and Beyond; Erasing History Increases the Risk of Repeating It showcases the importance of Bauhaus building, as a symbol of modernism, which influenced the development of East-German architecture, but also to point out the actual state of conservation of the built environment created in period of East-German modernism
In the late 1950s, new economic and political pressures forced major changes in building policies. In a December 1954 speech, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev called for the modernization and industrialization of the built environment. In the early 1960s, with new plans for the direction of the national economy, and with advances in science and technology, the rehabilitation of Functionalist and Bauhaus architecture began. As construction work was not considered very productive, the principles of the Bauhaus movement of the 1920s attracted renewed attention. In 1963 a German translation of the Soviet writer Leonid Pazitnov’s Creative Legacy of the Bauhaus (1913-33) was published. From this point Bauhaus building was considered a cultural monument worthy of preservation and was added to the list of monuments for the district of Halle in 1964. A decade later, in 1974, Bauhaus buildings were added to the GDR’s list of significant monuments. Since then, Karl Heinz Huter’s research on the history of the Bauhaus hasbecome part of the institutional program at the Hochschule fur Architectur in Weimar. In 1976 a restored Bauhaus building was reopened as a Center for Culture and Scholarship. Since 1986 it has been known as Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.
Description of installation:
The installation consists of seven elements, 68 cm x 223cm, depicting an imaginary glass curtain wall.
- Part A is dedicated to Bauhaus architecture and its restoration (76 ‘). It contains a Chronology of the Bauhaus influence in the GDR.
- Part B of the installation consists of four curtain wall buildings: the Palast der Republik, Berlin Hotel, the Leipzig Post Office and the Dresden Palace of Culture. The two sides are connected by a door which represents the path of the Bauhaus influence on GDR architecture.
The Bauhaus influenced modern art around the world. Since 1956-1957, East German architects combined the methods and techniques of industrial building with consistent standards and typologies of the Bauhaus (e.g. the Törten in Dessau). The famous Dessauer School building (1926) is a milestone in modern architecture, reflecting “the most creative principles of functionalism” (General History of Art, Vol.7, Moscow 1964). The fact that it was proposed for listing as a monument for the District of Halle in 1964, and was listed as a historically significant monument in 1975 by the GDR government, coincided with the erection of the Post Office Building in 1964 and with the construction of the Palast der Republik in 1973 (which opened in 1976) show that this icon of Modernism was an important basis for glass facades in East Germany.
Chronology of the Bauhaus influence in the GDR:
1957: Hoyerswerda, the first massive block housing project. Architect: Gerhard Kosel, a former student of Bruno Taut.
1961-73: Construction of new socialist city Halle-Neustadt. Chief architect: Richard Paulick, former Bauhaus architect
1964: Bauhaus Building proposed for listing as a monument by the District of Halle
1966-76: Karl Heinz Huter’s research on the history of the Bauhaus became part of the institutional program at the Hochschule fur Architectur in Weimar
1967: The Staatliche Galerie Dessau in Georgium Castle staged the exhibition Moderne Formgestaltung: Das fortschrittliche Erbe des Bauhauses (The Progressive Legacy of the Bauhaus)
1974: The Bauhaus building is added to the GDR’s list of historically significant monuments
1976: The restored Bauhaus building is reopened as a Center for Culture and Scholarship
1986: The Bauhaus building reopens as the Centre for Design
Presentation of study cases:
In East Germany we observe the context of the built environment from the period of socialist modernism (the 1955s through the 1985s). In the 1990s, eastern Germany was marked by intensive construction. Buildings constructed between the 1955s and the 1985s were either torn down and replaced, or completely renovated. Parts of city centers underwent massive renovations. Sections of neighborhoods were upgraded; balconies were attached to facades; and new infrastructure of high-tech style shops/banks was created. Another interesting fact is that facade elements were covered in the interest of thermal rehabilitation but the real purpose is to eradicate traces of the socialist society and ideology. Very often the facades of residential complexes are repainted in a lighter and more “positive” color. This is happening in all neighborhoods in the eastern part of Germany without regard for their architectural style.
- Palace of the Republic (Berlin)
The Palace of the Republic was the parliamentary seat of the German Democratic Republic, the Volkskammer (People’s Chamber). The building also served a variety of cultural purposes.
Located between Schlossplatz and the Lustgarten (formerly Marx-Engels-Platz) on an island in the River Spree, it also housed two large auditoria, art galleries, a theatre, 13 restaurants, a bowling alley, a post office and a discothèque. The building was designed in 1973 by architect Heinz Graffunder and completed in 1976 on the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss (City Palace). In September 1990, a month prior to German reunification, the building was found to be contaminated with asbestos, and was closed to the public on by decree of the Volkskammer. By 2003, all the asbestos had been removed along with internal and external fittings allowing either safe reconstruction or safe deconstruction. The Palace of the Republic was demolished in 2008 to make room for the construction of a new Stadtschloss; work began in 2013.
- Interhotel Stadt Berlin, now Park Inn by Radisson
The Interhotel Stadt Berlin was built from 1967 to 1970, following the redevelopment of Alexanderplatz. It was designed by the team of Roland Korn, Heinz Scharlipp and Hans Erich Bogatzky. In 1993, after German reunification, it was renamed the Forum Hotel Berlin, and after its acquisition by the Rezidor Hotel Group in 2003, it was again renamed the Park Inn by Radisson Berlin Alexanderplatz. Nevertheless, the design of the curtain wall facade is different in shape and colors from the tower that was built in 1970. Between May and November 2005 the entire 15,000 sq m of curtain wall façade was replaced with the 6,800 new mirror glass panes (giving it a more “slick” western appearance), disregarding the architectural style of the original curtain wall.
- Main Post Office Building, Leipzig.
After the 1943 bombing of the classical Central Post, designed 177 years ago by Albert Geutebrück, the building was replaced in 1964 by the Main Post Office. Construction began in 1959. The Main Post Office Building has reinforced concrete construction, 110 meters in length, designed by Kurt Nowotny (chief architect of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications) and it was located on Augustusplatz (on the corner of Grimmaischer Steinweg), on the inner ring road in Leipzig. The earlier historical names for the building were Hauptpostamt C 1, Post Office No. 1 and Oberpostdirektion Leipzig. The design and function of the main post office was made according to the international standards of the time. The seven-story steel-framed rectangular construction with a front elevation of a six-story facade was built of exposed concrete, glass and aluminum (curtain wall). On the upper right side of the facade a prominent clock was mounted, dismantled in the 1990s. The flooring in the interior halls was from slabs of natural stone, the desk and furniture were built of the cherry-colored wood and the ceiling was made of sound-absorbing elements. After 1945, the new post office building was the second-largest building in Leipzig, and with the new opera house, formed the architectural shape of the former Karl-Marx-Platz. The new post office building was listed as a monument for the conservation of modernity in 2011. It is not being partially renovated and partially reconstructed for use as a hotel. The work is scheduled for completion in 2015.The Leipzig’s Old Main Post Office was sold to the real estate company Youniq by Deutsche Telecom. The owner was planning to build a hotel in 2007, then, in 2009 decided to build student accommodations instead. The Old Central Post Office has not been used as a post office since the end of July 2011. In January 2015 a new developer (KSW) submitted his planning application. According to the plans, much of the old post building will be demolished and rebuilt completely with the new function as a hotel, student residence, a private cafeteria and a shop space. With this plan the actual shape of the Post Office will be greatly changed, even though the building is a listed monument. In 2014, some prominent citizens of Leipzig protested the changes to the façade of the Post Building and the addition of another floor made of glass to the top. According to the protesters, the aluminum curtain wall should be preserved in its original blue color. The height of the attic should also be reduced. At the same time very strong criticisms from conservation organizations and from the International Council on Monuments and Sites were addressed to the federal German government agency for the built environment to no avail. The planners, developers and owner have been accused of trying to deface the building by disregarding its role in the history of post-war architecture and Eastern Modernism. In their opinion only the public spaces that have value should be preserved; the parcel and postal banking hall, the telephone booths and the spacious staircase are slated for demolition. An open letter to the Saxon State Minister argued that “The architects had managed to build the most significant public building in the GDR. It represents an indispensable witness to history and not only for Leipzig.”
- . Kulturpalast Dresden.
The Kulturpalast Dresden designed by Wolfgang Hänsch, was built by the East German government in the East-German Modernist style and opened in 1969. The building contains the city’s biggest multi-purpose hall. It is used for entertainment events, conferences and congresses. The rectangular building with a base area of approximately 100 by 70 meters was erected in a style similar to the façade style of the Bauhaus Building. The Kulturpalast has a rectangular shape and mirrored bronze windows which are reminiscent of the larger Palast der Republik. The Dresdner Kulturpalast was placed under the law of monument protection in 2008.
In the past 20 years many buildings with different functions were demolished, changed, rebuilt and replaced with more Western-looking constructions that have the same functionality. Among them there are hotels, administrative buildings, shopping centres and housing blocks (Berlin; Galeria Kaufhof Berlin-Alexanderplatz; Centrum Warenhaus, Prager Strasse, Dresden). Several abandoned housing complexes and buildings are awaiting demolition (Hochhaus-Scheiben, Halle-Neustadt; Fernmelde-Technikhaus -former Telecom state company, Dresden). For 20 years, East Germany’s socialist modernist built environment has either been neglected or subjected to ideological cleansing, perhaps to wipe away any traces of the GDR system. As all know, however, erasing history makes us likely to repeat it.