Date of Award
Master of Environmental Studies (MES)
Eisenhüttenstadt, the first “socialist model city” designed and constructed in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), provides an opportunity to scrutinize the relationship between state conceptions of architectural design and national identity in the early 1950s. Known as Stalinstadt until 1961, the community was founded in eastern Brandenburg in 1950 as housing for workers at the nearby ironworks Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost “J. W. Stalin.” While its original masterplan by the architect Kurt Leucht indicates the stylistic preferences of the ruling Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany or SED), the city’s subsequent developments trace the changing economic and social conditions of the East German state, recording the slow decline of patriotic ideals and their replacement by an state of unfulfillment and indeterminacy, a condition that author and playwright Heiner Müller has referred to as a Wartezimmermentalität or “waiting room mentality” of the later GDR. In the contemporary moment Eisenhüttenstadt has suffered a sharp population decline following post-reunification economic restructuring, and is faced with failing infrastructure and rising unemployment. With increased support for the far-right political party Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD), coupled with the existence of a facility known as an Aufnahmeeinrichtung which houses individuals awaiting a decision on asylum applications, Eisenhüttenstadt today is a point of convergence for some of the most pressing challenges facing contemporary Europe. Over the course of its existence Eisenhüttenstadt has served as a setting for works of literature, drama, and other forms of creative production that record political and social transitions. This thesis traces parallels between Eisenhüttenstadt’s architecture, urbanism, and other types of media which, considered in concert, indicate a deeper societal shift from a socialist realist aesthetics of “Heimat” to an aesthetics of “Wartezimmer.” It argues that SED programs which mandated cultural production and East German identity had a profound effect on daily life in the GDR, and understands the legacy of those projects as rife for appropriation by groups such as the AfD in contemporary Eisenhüttenstadt.
Bushman, Holly, "Heimat im Wartezimmer: Architecture, Identity, and Migration in a Socialist Model City" (2020). Masters of Environmental Design Theses. 1.