Foto: Andreas Praefcke /Eigenes Werk/CC BY 3.0/

The Research Area deals with the planning, design and appropriation of spaces in modern and contemporary history. The proximity of historical research and the archival work of the Scientific Collection is a unique characteristic of the Research Area. The two sides are linked by research activity and methods of Digital History, among other things. Currently the Research Area is particularly interested in the history of housing, home ownership and urbanisation in the European context, the history of architecture and urban planning in the GDR, research into materiality in the historical transformation of the built environment in the "Global South" and cross-border cooperation in spatial development. The Research Area analyses the historical roots of current socio-spatial processes and opens the view for long-term continuities as well as for ruptures and crises in spatial development. It also deals with the challenges of dealing with the built heritage and the value of the past in the present.

Investigations into new forms of transmission and archiving of current knowledge for future generations in times of digitalisation form another focus. This includes questions of archiving digital architectural designs as well as collecting, cataloguing (restoring, if necessary) and researching the holdings on the architectural and building history of the GDR and increasingly also of the 1990s. In addition to researchers, the main target groups are an interested public, civil society initiatives as well as local authorities, ministries and museums.

Ongoing Lead Project

The lead project "Social-Spatial Transformations in Berlin-Brandenburg 1980 - 2000" deals with the world-historical disruption of 1989/90 in its political-social causes and consequences in Berlin-Brandenburg. more


15. January | 2024 | Selected publication
A Reflection on the Role of Architecture in Postcolonial Africa

What role did architecture play for the societies of countries in sub-Saharan Africa after they became independent? The Canadian Centre for Architecture coordinated a research project on this topic, to which IRS architecture historian Monika Monika Motylińska contributed. The volume "Fugitive Archives" shows the results. more info

01. November | 2023 | News
Project on the Utilisation of "Nomadic Architecture" in the Soviet Union in Preparation

On 1 October 2023 the historian of architecture Ksenia Litvinenko joined the IRS as a Fellow within the Leibniz Research Alliance “Values of the Past”. Under the mentorship of Monika Motylińska, she is in the process of developing a research project titled “Resourcification of Nomadic Indigenous Heritage in the Soviet Projects of Mobile Architecture”. The project will explore how the Soviet Union sought to utilise “Nomadic Architecture” to create mobile settlements for workers in the oil and gas industries in Siberia. more info


Research Groups

The research infrastructure group indexes analogue and digital archival holdings and makes them accessible online. The core is formed by the Scientific Collections for the History of Building and Planning in the GDR, which, as a special archive for the recent history of spatial development in East Germany, are available to international research as well as to the general public. more infos