The Battle of Jena: Opposition to “Socialist” Urban Planning in the German Democratic Republic

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Jena, as a medium-sized city within the German Democratic Republic, confronted the socialist regime’s determination to build a massive skyscraper within the intimate urban core in 1968-1969. Functionally planned as a research facility for the VEB Zeiss, the central government in Berlin also intended the “tower” to symbolize architecturally the victory of socialism in Germany. Townsfolk, who identified collectively, professionally, and individually with the historic town, mobilized as best they could to save as much of their familiar inner city as possible. They could not prevent the construction of the skyscraper, but they did succeed in limiting some of the regime’s other urbanist plans. In the process, they experimented with a variety of oppositional forms that protestors later used in other cities. This article suggests that the existing urban environment symbolically presented an alternative to the socialist revolution and became a rallying point for opponents of the regime.


This article was originally published in Journal of Urban History. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Urban History


© 2006 Sage Publications