German Garden Cities before 1914
German Garden Cities before 1914
A number of Garden Cities were started in Germany between 1906 and 1914. None of them were as true to the idea of Garden Cities as, for example, Letchworth in Britain, but in the period before the First World War the idea of this form of planned intentional community had a measure of popularity.
The Deutschen Gartenstadtgesellschaft – DGG
The German Garden City Association (Deutschen Gartenstadtgesellschaft e.V. – DGG) was started in 1902. It was partly inspired by Theodor Fritsch’s 1896 book, „Die Stadt der Zukunft“ (The City of the Future), by Ebenezer Howard’s book, “Garden Cities of Tomorrow” (1898) and by the English Garden City movement. Founding members included Gustav Landauer, members of the Neue Gemeinschaft, Magnus Hirschfeld and Franz Oppenheimer. (Fritsch, a leading anti-semite of the period, is not mentioned in the sources as a member of the DGG.)
The DGG had the aims of studying and proposing the idea of Garden Cities, and of winning over the population towards founding such communities. Garden Cities were to be planned communities where people both lived and worked (in contrast to the growth of dormitory suburbs around industrial cities) and to have a mixture of all social classes. In addition to housing and workplaces, Garden Cities were to have cultural institutions and were to mix and integrate green areas within the settlement. Garden Cities were to be as autonomous and autarchic as possible. The eventual aim was to create a new society based on the ideas of Lebensreform, and the communities were to be organised cooperatively. Land and buildings were to be the property of the cooperative. Production, distribution and consumer cooperatives were to be part of the daily life of the community. The Garden City was to be a contrast to the existing cities and an alternative to the existing society.
As the idea of Garden cities spread through society, these utopian ideas became diluted, and the idea of garden cities was interpreted and put into practice in various different ways.
One of the first Garden City cooperatives to be founded was in Karlsruhe-Rüppur in 1906/7. Building began on a 12 hectare site in 1911. The first 42 houses were ready in 1912. This was actually a “Garden Suburb” and not a Garden City in the sense advocated by Howard or the utopian members of the DGG. The project was criticised by some members of the DGG as being a dilution of the original idea.
Hellerau, also planned in 1906 and started in 1909, was more of a housing cooperative for workers and their families. However, great emphasis was placed on the planning of the settlement and also on architectural and artistic quality of the construction.
Heimland was started in 1908, with Theodor Fritsch as its leader.
Stockfeld, near Staßburg, started in 1909, also remained more a housing cooperative than a real Garden City. It had the character of a “petit-bourgeois” garden suburb, like Rüppur.
Siedlung Falkenburg (1910) placed even more importance than Hellerau on the architectural aspects of the settlement. In addition, it also placed emphasis on bringing town and country into a harmonious unity, and aesthetically integrating housing into the natural environs. Falkenburg was started at the intiative of a number of leading DGG members, and had a heterogenous population of blue- and white-collar workers and artisans. However, there was no industry integrated into the settlement, and so there was no economic autonomy for the community.
The first stage of settlement at Gartenstadt Zehlendorf took place between 1912 and 1914. This remained a settlement of family houses with gardens rather than a Garden City in the sense envisioned by Fritsch or Howard.
As the German Garden City Association was a propaganda association to support the idea of Garden Cities it did not directly start settlements. It was boroughs, cooperatives and private individuals which played the leading role in starting settlements, so that pragmatism played a more important role than the ideas of social reform. Thus, during the period when the DGG was influential, various forms of new settlements calling themselves Garden Cities were started, many of which diverged from the utopian, social reform ideas put forward by Howard and the founders of the DGG. The one cooperatively organised community which came closest to the idea was Eden, actually started before the DGG was founded. It was often cited in reports published by the DGG as being a successful example of a Garden City. However, Eden also fell short of being a completely autonomous Garden City. The members concentrated on organic agriculture and the transformation of their products to the exclusion of other industry. Many inhabitants of Eden travelled to Berlin or to Oranienburg to work and maintained their plots and orchards in their free time at weekends.
“Die Deutsche Gartenstadtbewegung – eine gescheiterte Utopie” by Sigrid Hofer, in “Auf freien Grund mit freien Volke”, A. Nothnagle + C. Holmberg, Editors. Verlag Dr. Köster, Berlin 1999. ISBN 3-89574-361-5.
- A full list of German Garden Cities in all their forms can be found at Gartenstadt Deutschland in German Wikipedia
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