…with destruction evolves construction; with time evolves style!
Whether destruction out of wars or outbreak of epidemics, living organisms on earth have always witnessed drastic changes ever since life existed. These man-made or natural causes have impacted every living in terms of economic drop-down, inflation, political clashes, as well as affected the psychology of humans; resulting in the changing of architecture and urban fabric of the cities. Problem-solving, people-centered designs are always an effort, prioritized. In the end, what matters is the planning and reconstruction that responds to a remarkable architecture.
By the end of World War II, around 1945, many European cities were the victims of the damage witnessed during the course of fighting between ground forces. Germany was the most affected country where the Allied forces faced the Nazi regime with high explosives in the urban centers for more than three years. Large-scale destruction resulted in the loss of infrastructure around every corner of the cities. The image of ‘rebuilt’ cities for the survivors still remained in the corner of the eye, as they witnessed the horrid ruins of their urban centers, soaring across the broken horizon.
Certainly, the worry lied in, how would the ruins be cleared? And who would pay for the reconstruction, for the damage throughout the European cities? In 1947, the U.S. Secretary of State, at that time, George C. Marshall, announced that the United States was ready to establish a European Recovery Program, stating, “The confidence of Europeans in the economic future of their countries and all of Europe”, and with this, Reconstruction Loan Corporation (RLC) was laid out. These helped Germany and other European cities to rebuild their infrastructures. It was the greatest challenge for town planners, policymakers, local authorities, and politicians as well as for architects to work with such enormous complexity to rebuild the destroyed areas.
The challenging discussion about reconstruction efforts after the war varied considerably within individual cities of Europe, especially between East and West Germany. Significant landmarks and historic sites were thought to be restored or reconstructed. Although, many cities of Germany itself were rebuilt in a functional, modernist style, with an emphasis on needs rather than maintaining historic appearances. Since the people were used to the idea of free, safe places and princely parks, the German planners started considerably with the industrial and commercial legacies that they already had. Integrating German traditions of land-use through the preservation of countryside with the new cityscape was what the planners considered ideal.
Earlier before wars, almost every German city had a wide array of cultural activities with the substantial support of the city and the state federals. This beautiful and ‘happy’ city was rich with theatres, halls, and art galleries. People extensively used these spaces and they knew they wanted it to be built in the new cities as well. They were accustomed to group housing and use of public transportation, to walking in the streets and shop. After reconstruction, almost every reconstructed urban model had its own opera, its own city theatre, and its own gallery; summing up to dozens of rival opera houses, etc. Most interestingly, no one would likely leave their own unit and go watch Opera in the nearby unit. All the cities had plans; Berlin in particular had an elaborate one.
Berlin had intense local city pride and rivalry, rooted between the states whose boundaries had shifted so often. This acted as an asset when it came to building separate cities and a liability to build interurban facilities. West Berlin reflected the most promising feature of German city planning. It had a physical wall (which still stands as a monument in some parts of the city even after its fall), enforcing completely defined boundaries. The boundary separated the Berliners of their outlying parks and lakes, limiting various facilities for the public. New green spaces and public amenities had to be designed for both sides. The wall also limited the need for automobiles making it difficult to travel to other parts of Germany as well. It had also attracted some unusual amount of private foreign funds for which the rest of Germany was proud of. This led to the building of major government and institutional buildings. The imperial plan equipped Berlin with broad avenues that are now used to serve major traffic flow with its fine underground system as well. Berlin, being the capital, is a great cultural avenue anchored by both East and West zones.
Hard to achieve, yet urban planning principles ought to govern the rebuilding, redevelopment, and expansion of cities everywhere; various cities with varied master plans. One important concept of planning by Professor Hillebrecht, mentioned in the book ‘The Voice of the Phoenix’ written by John Burchard, was:
“It is not the business house that counts, but the business street, not the modern industrial building, but the situation and set-up of the whole industrial quarter; not the apartment house, but the residential quarter; not the administrative building, but the governmental quarter; not the Lower Saxony Stadium, but the sporting area; not the school itself, but the school center; not the restored historical building, but the whole ‘Isle of tradition’.”