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

After 1945, European cities were developed in ways to accommodate road traffic and related mobility patterns. This led to conflicting trends: while the planning principle of the “car-friendly city” was increasingly losing popularity from the 1970s onwards, mobility and car traffic continued to increase in many cities. The lead project investigates central, hitherto unexamined contradictions within these developments by means of several historical case studies. The projects analysis in detail the role of municipal actors, planners and the public, the reshaping of the building stock through street expansion projects, and the link between road traffic and the shaping of open urban space. more