Research department DEPARTMENT 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