Theses Doctoral

The German Garden City Movement: Architecture, Politics and Urban Transformation, 1902-1931

Harris, Teresa Marie

This dissertation examines the German garden city movement from aesthetic, economic, and political vantage points in an attempt to determine how the leaders of the Deutsche Gartenstad-Gesellschaft (German Garden City Association) adapted the English movement to indigenous ideas and conditions. In particular, it gives an account of the central role of the Kampffmeyer cousins in shaping the intellectual framework of the movement. The Kampffmeyers synthesized the work of a variety of German architects and political economists into a coherent platform for the transformation of urban form and urban life. They and their cohorts embraced a model of society based upon collective ownership of land and emphasized communal benefits over individual profit. Despite their leftist leanings, the leaders of the organization divorced their activities from party politics and adopted pragmatic statutes that were vague enough to allow for the participation of more conservative members.

The garden city movement overlapped with numerous turn-of-the-century reform efforts, most notably land reform, housing reform, women's rights and temperance, and proponents of the idea aimed to offer a physical space where those reforms could be enacted. Architects involved in the movement, such as Richard Riemerschmid, Heinrich Tessenow, and Bruno Taut, searched for new forms in urban planning and architecture to adequately express the realities of modern life and to facilitate the desired social reforms. Garden city communities were meant to combine the best of city and country and to incorporate both agricultural and industry; their architecture reflected this mixture, drawing on local vernacular styles and standardized, industrial elements. No prescription for the creation of garden city architecture existed other than the demands for simplicity and functionality common in much of the artistic discourse of the time, combined with a desire to give physical expression to the communal nature of the undertakings. This study investigates the full range of garden cities built in Germany, examining lesser-known examples such as Gartenstadt Marienbrunn outside Leipzig and Gartenstadt Stockfeld near Strasbourg, alongside more famous examples like Hellerau. In doing so, it illuminates the diversity of architectural experimentation that took place before World War I and the ways in which the garden cities laid the groundwork for the modernist housing settlements of the Weimar era.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Bergdoll, Barry George
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 31, 2012