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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: January 2013

14 - Architecture as Political Medium


The world war unleashed by Germany turned back on the country in the middle of Europe with devasting, destructive force. Merciless bombing raids, fierce fighting by retreating German troops, and the Allies' advance transformed towns and cities into a landscape of ruins. In summer 1945, approximately five million of the nearly twenty million dwellings in Germany had either been destroyed or severely damaged. Air raids had killed more than 400,000 people and left approximately thirteen million homeless.

In light of this daunting situation, many architects viewed rapid reconstruction as not only technically and economically unfeasible, but “morally impossible” as well. Many of them expected that plans to dismantle industrial facilities would result in long-term impoverishment of the country. Consequently, beginning in spring 1945, they called for the agricultural resources and equipment necessary for future survival and for “reconstruction from the ground up.” Evacuees and refugees were urged to settle in rural areas, while people who managed to maneuver around the restrictions on urban residency constructed makeshift dwellings in the cellars and ruins of German cities.