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
15. June | 2021

Under the title "Nationale Solidarität und ihre Grenzen. Die deutsche 'Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt' und der französische 'Secours national' im Zweiten Weltkrieg" (National Socialist People's Welfare in Germany and the French 'Secours national' in the Second World War), the Stuttgart-based Franz Steiner Verlag published the dissertation by Daniel Hadwiger, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department for Historical Research. In his dissertation, Hadwiger examined the political instrumentalisation of welfare in the Nazi state and in the Vichy regime in a transnational comparison. more info

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

Conference
Grafik: Scarlet Wilks
17. September | 2021 - 18. September | 2021
Collaborative Working in Architecture from the 20th Century to the Present

The creation of architecture – from the first sketch to the built space – is always a result of an expert group working together. This idea indeed corresponds to a basic socialist understanding: Especially, the GDR attributed a “great strength” to collaborative working in architecture to achieve highest qualities, as the “political architect” Benny Heumann stated in 1961. However, even independently of the prevailing political ideologies, architects do not work in isolation from one another. Every planning stage and area of work of planners is interconnected and dependent on each other. more infos