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Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin

by Emily Pugh

Publication Year: 2014

On August 13, 1961, under the cover of darkness, East German authorities sealed the border between East and West Berlin using a hastily constructed barbed wire fence. Over the next twenty-eight years, the Berlin Wall served as an ever-present and seemingly permanent physical and psychological divider in this capital city, and between East and West during the Cold War. Similarly, stark polarities arose in nearly every aspect of public and private life, perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the built environment. In Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin, Emily Pugh provides an original comparative analysis of selected works of architecture and urban planning in East and West Berlin during the “Wall era,” to reveal the importance of these structures to the formation of political, cultural, and social identities. Pugh uncovers the roles played by organizations such as the Foundation for Prussian Cultural Heritage in West Germany and the East German Building Academy in conveying the preferred political narrative of their respective states through constructed spaces. She also provides an overview of architectural works prior to the Wall era, to show the precursors for design aesthetics in Berlin at large, and also considers projects in the post-Wall period, to demonstrate the ongoing effects of the Cold War. Pugh examines representations of architectural works in exhibits, film, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other media, and discusses the effectiveness of planners’ attempts to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the public. Ideas of home, belonging, community, and nationalism were common underlying themes on both sides of the wall, and instrumental to the construction of cultural and physical landscapes. Overall, Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin offers a compelling case study of a divided city poised at the precipice between the world’s most dominant political and ideological forces, and the effort expended by each side to sway the tide of public opinion through the built environment.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Culture, Politics, and the Built Environment


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v

Map of Berlin

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p. vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

Map of Central Berlin

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Divided Capital, Dividing Capital

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pp. 1-18

On August 13, 1961, in the middle of the night, the East German government closed the border between East and West Berlin, halting people, cars, and trams in their tracks and sealing off the western sectors of the city with barbed wire. The acrimony between the eastern and western Cold War powers had been growing since the end of World War II, yet the intracity...

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1. Modern Capital, Divided Capital: Berlin before the Wall

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pp. 12-61

The myriad divisions established in Germany throughout the postwar years, from political to cultural to economic, followed to a large extent the fault lines of existing fissures within the country. Many of these divisions centered on Berlin, which, by the twentieth century, had gained a reputation...

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2. A Capital Without a Country: Shaping West Berlin’s Image in the Early Cold War

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pp. 62-105

In the late 1950s, the debate over the Berlin Question became increasingly contentious, further heightening the political and symbolic import of the divided city and of the efforts to rebuild it. The United States relied increasingly on divided Berlin and its image to define the terms of the...

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3. The Unbridled Buildup of Socialism: Defining and Critiquing Heimat-GDR

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pp. 106-154

Newspapers published by the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED, or Socialist Unity Party) hailed August 13, 1961, as a victory for East Germany. The German Democratic Republic (GDR), it was claimed, had neutralized the western threat, shutting out the “imperialist aggressors...

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4. The Dreamed-Of GDR: Public Space, Private Space, and National Identity in the Honecker Era

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pp. 155-199

In May 1971, Walter Ulbricht declared that he would be giving up his duties as first secretary of the Central Committee, an announcement that came as a surprise to the East German public. For his replacement, he endorsed Erich Honecker, a high-ranking member of the Central Committee generally...

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5. Capital of the Counterculture: West Berlin and the Changing Divides of the Cold War West

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pp. 200-240

In the 1950s and 1960s, US and West German foreign policies and US- authored propaganda had framed West Berlin as both an autonomous and an international city. In such depictions, West Berlin was established as the capital of the Cold War west and was at the same time “America’s Berlin...

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6. Back to the Center: Restoring West Berlin’s Image and Identity

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pp. 241-282

By the late 1970s, West Berlin’s reputation as a center of protest and dissent was firmly established in much of the western public’s imagination. Although issues such as lack of housing, rising numbers of immigrants, drug abuse, and high unemployment presented challenges in cities throughout...

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7. Collapsing Borders: Housing, Berlin’s 750th Anniversary, and the End of the GDR

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pp. 283-328

If, speaking broadly, the 1960s for East Germans had been characterized by a cautious hope and push for reform within the socialist system and the 1970s, by resignation and strategies of accommodation, the 1980s were marked by widespread frustration and despair followed by resistance...

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Conclusion: Constructing the Capital of the Berlin Republic

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pp. 329-340

During the Cold War, rhetoric in the east and west had attempted to draw clear lines of political, cultural, and economic division. In 1989–90, the collapse of the SED regime and the Volkskammer’s subsequent decision to dissolve the GDR and become part of the Federal Republic seemed to...

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Appendix. Governing Entities and Nomenclature, 1949–1989

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pp. 341-346

The German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) was formally established in October 1949, when the country’s first constitution was signed. Nominally, the GDR was a multiparty “socialist democracy,” although in practice it functioned as a one-party dictatorship. The leading...


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pp. 347-410


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pp. 411-434


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pp. 435-440

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822979579
E-ISBN-10: 0822979578
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822963028
Print-ISBN-10: 0822963027

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 87 b&w
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Built Environment
Series Editor Byline: Dianne Harris See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 879081969
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Architecture and society -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century.
  • Architecture -- Political aspects -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century.
  • City planning -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century.
  • Group identity -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century.
  • Germany (West) -- Relations -- Germany (East).
  • Germany (East) -- Relations -- Germany (West).
  • Berlin (Germany) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Berlin (Germany) -- Politics and government -- 1945-1990.
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