Workers’ palaces
in the young GDR:

Hermann Henselmann (1905 – 1995)

Drawing by Hermann Henselmann, pencil on tracing paper, 86 x 120 cm
© Andreas Henselman (Legal Successor)

The architect’s sketch shows two elevations of a tower block: on the left, from the side; on the right, from the front. Rectangular sections and windows are combined with decorative elements, such as finely wrought parapets and pediments and ground-floor arcades. On the higher levels, the storeys are recessed in stages.

What better way for a state to project its aspirations than through its architecture? The first project designed to symbolise the young GDR was the new development along Stalinallee (now Karl-Marx-Allee). As part of a major traffic artery beginning at the Brandenburg Gate, Stalinallee would link Alexanderplatz to housing for workers further east. Strausberger Platz marked the western gateway and those responsible attached great weight to its appearance. The benchmark to be set here was inspired by Soviet predecessors.

Hermann Henselmann (1905–1995) was tasked to lead the planning group. His plans illustrate the new specifications: this monumental newbuild is neo-classical in style and reflects “national building traditions”. Arcades connect the towers and other buildings around the circus, built with high-quality materials. These “workers’ palaces” with columns, turrets and ornamental façades were a radical departure from modernist trends such as the Neues Bauen of the 1920s.

Stalinallee Berlin. View of Strausberger Platz
Pencil on transparent paper
86 x 120 cm
Endowment from the architect, 1993

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