Research departmentDEPARTMENT FOR HISTORICAL RESEARCH

The Department for Historical Research explores urbanisation paths and planning cultures of the 20th century with a particular focus on contemporary history after 1945. Besides urban and regional planning, it examines the actions of public administrations and the long-term plans underlying them, as well as interventions and appropriations of space by civil society actors.

Processes of urbanisation have produced spaces of increasing density that constitute new arenas for action and require novel governance strategies. In this context, the department studies questions of legitimacy that arise with regard to government policies and the conduct of spatial planners and urban residents. Special attention is paid to the role of architects and planners as “experts” and to the interaction between state, party and civil society actors. Biographical research is among the department’s main areas of focus. The department cooperates closely with the Scientific Collections for the History of Building and Planning in the GDR.

Ongoing lead project

For a long time, it has been commonly assumed that social disparities within and between towns and cities were less pronounced in the socialist system of the GDR compared to the market economy in the West-German Republic. However, newer findings show that there were analogies and parallel developments in both systems which, starting in the 1960s, led to growing socio-spatial disparities in West Germany as well as the GDR. In terms of planning policy responses, too, there are indications of analogous developments. This lead project seeks to develop an integrated analysis framework for the historical study of socio-spatial disparities across system boundaries for the first time, and to apply it empirically. more

News
28. February | 2021
Interview with the IRS Junior Research Group Leaders Jana Kleibert and Monika Motylinska

The IRS currently hosts two junior research groups funded by prestigious programmes. Urban and economic geographer Jana Kleibert has been researching how higher education is marketed in international "branch campuses" with her Leibniz Junior Research Group "Constructing Transnational Spaces of Higher Education" (TRANSEDU) since 2018. Architectural historian Monika Motylinska and her junior research group "Conquering (with) Concrete", funded by the Volkswagen Foundation's Freigeist Programme, have been investigating what German construction companies contributed to the globalisation of architecture in the 20th century since the beginning of 2020. In the interview, the two researchers reflect on the current state of their research groups' work and explain how they are dealing with the challenges of the Corona pandemic. more info

News
23. July | 2020

Directly next to the tower of the baroque Garrison Church in Potsdamer Dortustraße stands the building of the data processing center of the Volkseigener Betrieb "Machine Computing", completed in 1971. The Garrison Church, which was damaged in World War II and blown up in 1968, is currently being rebuilt with public and private funds. The "Rechenzentrum", on the other hand, currently still used for cultural purposes, is a candidate for demolition. Why? In June 2020, the international project network "UrbAuth", led by the Historical Research Centre of the IRS, began work. The project aims to clarify how cities today attempt to establish historical authenticity in their building policies, and why certain epochs are repeatedly used as points of identification, while the traces of other epochs disappear from the cityscape. more info