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

The Research Area addresses problems of design, planning and appropriation of spaces in recent history. The focus is laid on the history of urbanisation, architecture and urban planning in the GDR, the significance of materiality in the historical transformation of the built environment, and cross-border cooperation in spatial development. Research projects are focussing on the historical roots of current socio-spatial processes and opens the view for long-term continuities as well as for breaks and crises in spatial development. It also deals with current problems of preserving the architectural heritage and the value of the past in the present. Another focus is on questions concerning new forms of archiving and documentation of current processes in the fields of planning and building for future generations in times of digitalisation, such as digital architectural designs. Special interest is given to methods and approaches of digital history. Priority addressees are the broader public, civil society initiatives, and municipalities, ministries and museums. In addition, consulting services are developed for other archives, especially small ones.

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


Postwertkennzeichen der Deutschen Post, 85 Pfennige mit Motiv Schloss Rheinsberg, 1986. Quelle: Museum digital. URL:
23. March | 2023 | News
Website Goes Live

The baroque city church, a Wilhelminian villa, a park - such buildings are considered "authentic" and representative of cities. But what about buildings from more recent history, especially the history of the GDR? The research project "Urban Authenticity" has investigated processes of authentication and now presents the results on an interactive website. It documents the history of building and discourse on the basis of over 50 examples, mainly in Berlin-Brandenburg. Not only buildings in Berlin and Potsdam are presented, but also numerous examples in rural Brandenburg. These tell stories of eradication, but also of the preservation of built local identity. more info

13. November | 2022 | Publication

arge parts of the old building stock in the GDR were in catastrophic condition in the late 1980s. The state leadership did not succeed in preserving these inner-city neighbourhoods of old buildings on a large scale. In the last years of the GDR, citizens' groups, mostly under the umbrella of the church or the Kulturbund, fought against this decay. The work of these citizens' groups as well as other reform actors, their successes as well as how they and the old towns were dealt with in the transformation period after 1989 are analysed in an anthology co-edited by Harald Engler and with the participation of other IRS staff members of the "Stadtwende" project. more info


Photo above: The Map of historical Rostock City shows the damage from the allied bombardement in 1942. public domain.; Photo left: Bułhak, Gdansk, ratusz, ca. 1949, Biblioteka Narodowa, Sig. F.63008/II, public domain; Photo right: Cottbus Town Hall: perspective view, Architecture Museum of the TU Berlin, Inv. No. 10092. Work and digital copy are in the public domain.
24. July | 2023 - 27. July | 2023

Research Groups

Foto: Martin Püschel/Eigenes Werk/CC BY-SA 3.0/

The Research Group is interested in the interactions between creative processes, work and processes of economic and social change. In this context, local manifestations of dynamics such as digitalisation, social transformation processes and increasing multilocality of gainful employment are investigated. more infos

The Junior Research Group is emerging/stems from from the Volkswagen Foundation-funded Freigeist project "Conquering (with) Concrete. German Construction Companies as Global Players in Local Contexts" (2020 to 2024). It examines histories of the built environment in the 19th and 20th century in a global perspective. more infos

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