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Architectours Special | The colourful Magdeburg

In the 1920s Magdeburg caused a stir with its start into the modern age as “Stadt des Neuen Bauwillens“ (“city of the New Building”). Here, modern estates were constructed that were comparable to estates that were build in Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt a. M. at the same time and which are highly appreciated for their dimension and variety. The social democratic mayor Hermann Beims and the architect Bruno Taut were the masterminds of that movement. In 1921 Taut became councillor of the urban development committee. After being appointed as councillor, Taut based his activity on three pillars: the reorganisation of the municipal building department, the set-up of a master plan in terms of estates and the transformation of Magdeburg into a colourful town. Soon after his appointment Taut criticised the omnipresent grey colour of Magdeburg’s buildings“… the colour should give some character back to the buildings”. As a result of his criticism the title “The colourful Magdeburg” was awarded to the town; partly derisive, partly appreciative. Furthermore, Taut appealed to the private house owners to send in their proposals for useful colour concepts to the urban development committee. So, when the first results occurred, a phenomenon, the “Magdeburger Farbenstreit” (“the Magdeburg argument over colour”), began. Not only several daily newspapers of Magdeburg were discussing this issue but the city council did so as well. One of the most exciting, colourful façades was the façade of Barasch’s department store (Architect: Oskar Fischer, Berlin). Additionally, Magdeburg’s city hall also showed an intensive colourfulness during that time. Carl Krayl, who was Taut’s companion as well as an excellent artist himself, started the house painting programme. Under Taut’s supervision in 1922, the municipal building department of Magdeburg published a brochure announcing the inspection of the house painting activities. In the same year, a “competition for house advertisement and house painting work” was started. The competition was addressed to all German artists. Walter Gropius was a member of the jury. Not only buildings were designed in a colourful way – also kiosks, clocks and advertisement were included into that expressionist design. During his time in Magdeburg, Taut started a passionate discussion about socially-orientated architecture, publishing the journal “Das Frühlicht” as a platform for new visions in terms of architecture. After he left town in 1924, his plans were continued by his successor Johannes Göderitz. Also, the town experienced a noticeable boom and began to organize exhibitions. Furthermore, the construction of estates made good progress. Even before the First World War, the first building societies had been founded in Magdeburg. Due to the industrialisation the total population doubled within 30 years. In order to escape bad housing conditions of tenement housing and to work against housing shortage, construction of estates began with the help of these building societies which were mainly based on self-help. The estates stood out because of their special qualities with respect to urban development. Moreover, constructing them was inexpensive. After the end of the First World War the town bought parcels of lanced plot and handed them over to the building societies for little money. This has been regarded as a foresighted way of acting. The architects, who were members of these benefit building societies, often lived in these buildings themselves, like Carl Krayl in Bunter Weg, Otto Richter in Westerhüser Street and Konrad Rühl on the Hermann Beims estate. Ernst Reuter, who later would become mayor, lived on the Anger estate. Taut was the first one who used colour for setting off single buildings in the estates, complete with intensely colourful designed windows and entrance doors. Even the buildings themselves were partly painted in different colours to underline their vertical and horizontal organisation. As a result, every estate and every street had its very own characteristic outer appearance. Moreover, more than 20 years of architecture history can be read in them. In the early 1920s, Magdeburg gave impulses for a new, socially-oriented town planning, emphasizing the interactions between architecture, art, design and social responsibility. These impulses have made their impact to the present day. Not only in earlier decades, but also today, architects return to the idea of “The colourful Magdeburg”, enriching the city with surprisingly colourful designed buildings. back...



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