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Architecture and the Collective: Structures and Processes of Architectural Work in the GDR

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2022


In the 1950s, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) undertook a strict centralisation and collectivisation of the construction industry, including the entire field of architecture. As a result, architecture was practised almost exclusively within the framework of state-controlled enterprises, the units of which formed ‘collectives’ that structured professional cooperation. In line with the political and organisational significance of the collective, the aim was continuously to enhance the efficiency of the construction industry and to integrate into the socialist system a branch — namely, the architectural profession — that tended to be perceived as bourgeois and individualistic. Against this background, both the role of the architect within the collective and the best functioning of such units on a creative and economic level were subjects of constant discussion. Yet the system also allowed various possibilities for latitude. Facilitated by individual personalities and intersubjective processes, personal and creative possibilities existed within an otherwise highly regulated system. This article explores the three levels of the meaning and function of the collective — as a political, bureaucratic and social space — by addressing its historical origins and nature and by examining two case studies in which, notwithstanding official theory, individual architects were able to exercise a considerable degree of creative autonomy.

Research Article
© The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2022

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