city | building | plan: 850 Years of Urban Development in Munich

The exhibition from 2008 presents the important stages of Munich’s spatial and architectural development. According to the actual situation it is closed right now.


Logo Ausstellung Stadt, Bau, Plan

In 2008, the Department of City Planning and Building Regulation has celebrated Munich’s 850th anniversary by organizing the exhibition “city | building | plan“ [stadt | bau | plan], which presents the important stages of Munich’s spatial and architectural development.

The founding of the city of Munich 850 years ago was a part of a Europe-wide surge of city foundings that also saw the establishment of 85% of today’s European cities in the span of just one hundred years. Henry the Lion came from a great distance to this little village “of Monks” with the intention of profiting from the salt trade. Napoleon revolutionized Europe through war and modernization, and Munich, as the capitol of the newly established Kingdom of Bavaria, enjoyed unique terms for developing regal boulevards and plazas, which to this day form the face of the city. At the close of history’s worst global war, Munich lay in ruins due to her close ties to the growth of Hitler’s National Socialist Party. Following the division of Germany Munich, more than most cities, profited from the ‘economic miracle’ to become a ‘high-tech’ metropolis with global trade relations.

As a ‘global city’, Munich has retained her historic cityscape and her comfortable lifestyle due in large part to the special commitment of her citizens and city fathers and because of her own tradition of successful development and city planning.

With historic and current maps, planning documents and elevations of the cityscape the exhibition tries to make the city 'readable'. Media stations allow to learn more about planning processes and city development. Highlights are a 'printed' city model of Munich's inner city and an audio-visual introduction to the urban development history - 850 years in 15 minutes.

An exhibition of the Department of City Planning and Building Regulation in cooperation with the Department of Culture and the City Archives.

1158 bis 1800: From Market Site to Royal Residence City

Munich´s coat of arms: The "Münchner Kindl" at the town hall
LHM / Michael Nagy
Munich´s coat of arms: The "Münchner Kindl" at the town hall

During its first 600 years, Munich’s evolution as a city proceeded in three phases. The earliest phase stretched from the settlement’s founding to the construction of its first city wall.

This was followed by an era of generous expansions, leading to the erection of the outer wall ring and finally to the city's restructuring and enlargement to become a royal residence city.

The Great Era of City Foundings

Munich’s beginnings coincide with an unparalleled wave of city foundings. Over a span of 200 years, the number of cities in Central Europe increased from ca. 200 to 3,000. Never again would so many cities be founded anew or would existing towns be elevated to city status within a comparably brief span of time. Several factors were decisive for this development:

  • Ongoing technical innovations since the 8th century had made agriculture increasingly more productive. The consequences were significant increases in the population and wider distribution of skilled trades.
  • Commerce and finance flourished and with them new roads and modes of transportation facilitated connections between localities.
  • Secular and religious rulers encouraged the development of cities in order to strengthen their financial and territorial power.

Strife Over the Relocation of a Market

Munich was created as the result of a conflict between Duke Heinrich the Lion and Bishop Otto I of Freising. The Duke contested the Bishop’s market in Föhring, where the salt road crossed the Isar River. The duke established a new market at a favourably located site further upstream and rerouted salt transport through this venue.

Emperor Friedrich I. Barbarossa ended the conflict in 1158 with the so-called “Augsburger Schied” [Decision of Augsburg]. Though it gave Heinrich the Lion the right to use toll bridges and to establish a market and a mint at new locations “bei den Mönchen” [by the monks] , it also obliged him to surrender one-third of his revenues to the bishop of Freising.

Later authors report that Heinrich the Lion destroyed the Bishop’s bridge and market in Föhring, but it’s not known exactly when this occurred. Some facts suggest that the destruction did not occur prior to the “Augsburger Schied”, but that it in fact took place at a later date

Under Religious and Secular Rulers

Heinrich the Lion was placed under imperial ban and lost his duchies (Saxony and Bavaria) in 1180. At the Hoftag [Court Council] in Regensburg, the emperor revoked the “Augsburger Schied” [Decision of Augsburg] and restored market and bridge rights to the Bishop of Freising. Count Palatine Otto I of Wittelsbach, a faithful follower of the emperor, became the new duke of Bavaria. According to an entry in the annals of Schäftlarn Monastery, Munich was destroyed later in 1180. The market probably survived or was rebuilt at the same site because of its favourable location.

The Bishops of Freising exercised their rights to ruler over Munich for several decades. Only gradually were the Wittelsbachs able to strengthen their influence. Rule over the city was finally transferred into their hands in 1240. In exchange, and to the benefit of Freising, they agreed to relinquish their rights at other locations. They also began encouraging monasteries to settle in Munich at an early date.

City Evolution in Three Stages

The city’s rapid growth soon made additional fortifications necessary. As early as the second half of the 13th century, Duke Ludwig II and his son Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian erected a second ring wall, within which Munich’s area increased sixfold. Three evolutionary phases for the city can be seen in Jakob Sandtner’s model, which was built in 1570:

The outlines of the town from the era of Heinrich the Lion are evident in the centre. Rows of houses follow the arcing course of the first walls.

In its entirety, the model confirms the planned and generously proportioned expansions in the 13th and 14th centuries. Vacant lots for additional houses can be seen in many places.

A few large edifices signal the expansion that would ultimately transform Munich into an impressive royal residence city. These buildings were inserted at a later date into the detailed model of the city.

The enclosed DVD offers information about details of the model, and presents evidence of deliberate planning within the first and second ring walls, and Munich’s surroundings at that time.

“Highly Famed City”

As early as the 15th century, Munich had acquired a reputation as an especially beautiful city. In his Weltchronik [world chronicle], Hartmann Schedel wrote in 1493, “Munich, the city of the upper German lands and located beside the Isar River, is highly famed among the princely cities in German lands and is the most renowned city in Bavaria.”

Another description, which appeared three decades later, records: “This city ranks first in beauty among German princely cities.”

Large-Scale Royal and Religious Projects

From the 16th century onwards, Munich’s evolution was increasingly influenced by the Landesherren Bavarian rulers, who made the city into the administrative centre of the entire country. The important role in the Counterreformation played by the Bavarian Wittelsbachs led to a second wave of monastery foundings. Within three generations of rulers, extensive royal and religious construction projects were built on sites formerly occupied by many smaller houses: Duke Wilhelm V built the Jesuitenkolleg [Jesuit College] with St.-Michaelskirche [St. Michael’s Church] and the Wilhelminische Feste [Wilhelmine Fort], later known as “Maxburg” [Max’s Castle]. His son Prince-Elector Maximilian I, enlarged the Residenz [Residence] to impressive dimensions. One generation later, Prince-Elector Ferdinand Maria and his spouse brought the Theatine Order to Munich. They encouraged the construction of the monastery and the Theatine church of St. Cajetan.

To update Sandtner’s model, Maximilian I had the Jesuitenkolleg [Jesuit College] with St.-Michaelskirche [St. Michael’s Church] and the Residenz [Residence] inserted into it.

Baroque Belt of Fortifications

Maximilian I’s biggest construction project, which at times employed up to 40,000 labourers, was the expansion of the city’s fortifications. The work began in 1619, shortly after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War, and continued until the war’s end.

The new walls followed the course of the medieval walls. Only Hofgarten [Court Garden] and the prince-electoral armouries extended beyond the old walls and were included within the new belt of defences. This new fortified ring delineated the limits of the city’s growth late in the 18th century.

Not until 1795 did Prince-Elector Karl Theodor raze much of the fortifications and declare Munich an “open city.” A new chapter began in the story of Munich’s urban development.

The City’s Rule in a Field of Competing Forces

Hegemonic relationships in Munich were determined by a continual interaction among the duke, the church, and the citizenry. After the town was founded, Heinrich the Lion received the right to use the market and mint.

The market and toll rights were transferred to the bishop after Heinrich was placed under imperial ban in 1180. The Wittelsbach dukes were only gradually able to strengthen their position in Munich until 1240, when the bishop of Freising’s supremacy ended.

In the meantime, the citizens had also gained greater importance. The dukes, and especially Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian, granted important rights and privileges to the city. Life in Munich was shaped by its bourgeoisie until the end of the 15th century.

The dawn of the age of absolutism fundamentally changed this situation. Above all Prince-Elector Maximilian I systematically expanded his power. The city council lost its autonomy. Prominent bourgeois families attained noble rank and were integrated into princely circles. The era of Munich as a city of the bourgeoisie was over

Market and Commerce

The marketplace had been the focal point of the city’s life for many centuries. Not only was it the centre of local and regional commerce, it was also the venue for tournaments and other festivities.

Special markets soon arose at other sites. In the 19th century the food market was relocated from the city’s centre to “Viktualienmarkt” [Victuals Market] at Heilig-Geist-Spital [Hospital of the Holy Ghost]. Along with lively trade in salt, wine, and textiles, the “Getreideschranne” [grain auction] was particularly significant. Bavaria’s largest grain market, it was held twice weekly until 1853 on the site of present-day Marienplatz [St. Mary’s Place].

Market fairs for regional merchants and for the entertainment of the populace occurred annually at St. Jakob am Anger [St. Jacob’s on the Green]. Of these annual fairs, Auer Dult and Magdalenendult have survived into our own era. Munich’s trade-fair campus is currently of paramount importance as an international commercial forum.

A City by the Water

Munich’s riverside location played an important role in the city’s evolution. Long into the 19th century, the Isar River continued to serve as a transportation route from the south to Munich, thence to Vienna and the countries along the Danube.

Before it could continue its journey, all merchandise passing through Munich was required to be offered for sale in the city for a period of three days. Freight rafting on the Isar peaked during the second half of the 19th century, when up to 10,000 landings occurring annually. Rafting declined afterwards due to its replacement by other modes of transport and because of the construction of hydroelectric facilities.
The city’s brooks were no less important than its river. They provided water for the moat around the city’s wall, served as transportation routes, were a source of water for farm animals and for washing clothes and extinguishing fires. They were also used as a source of energy. As late as the mid 19th century, nearly 150 businesses were still operating beside Munich’s urban brooks. Nowadays buildings have been raised over most of these brooks, which continue to flow in underground pipes. Only at a few places are they still open and visible at ground level.

Axes into the Surroundings

Space within the belt of fortifications was becoming increasingly crowded, so the court and other nobles built their palaces and country residences in the outlying vicinity. A number of patrician families, which had since been elevated to the rank of nobility, owned Hofmarken [court tracts] nearby.

Prince-Elector Max II Emanuel established a precedence for elegance with construction of the Lustheim and Fürstenried hunting palaces and Neues Schloss Schleißheim [New Schleissheim Palace], as well as the expansion of his palaces in Dachau and Nymphenburg.

His unfinished project of connecting all of these palaces via a next of canals and tree-lined boulevards is an early example of large-scale regional planning. Its influence is still evident today in the routes followed by certain roads in Munich and its vicinity.

“Karlstadt” [Karl’s City] in the Countryside"Karlstadt" im Grünen

Max Emanuel’s son Prince-Elector Karl Albrecht planned to construct a new city centred around the extensive Nymphenburg Palace complex. Similar to the design in Karlsruhe, Nymphenburg Palace was intended to occupy the central location in this new “Karlstadt” [Karl’s City], but the ambitious project never developed beyond its initial stages. With the exception of the palace roundabout that had already been planned by Max Emanuel and the cul-de-sac canal as a central axis for the new city, only a few houses were built. Erected on either side of the canal, they were uniformly designed according to plans drawn by Effner, the court architect.

Text: Freimut Scholz, 2008

1800 bis 1860: A New Munich

Königsplatz mit Glyptothek
Michael Nagy / LHM
The Glyptothek on Königsplatz

The early years of the 19th century were tantamount to a new founding for Munich. Breaching and partly razing the fortified ring around the city opened a path toward urban development, which continues today. New, modern suburbs arose to provide living space for the growing population.

The small royal residence city was transformed into the capital city of a modern territorial state.

Breaking through Fortified Walls

On 2 June 1795, Prince-Elector Carl Theodor announced that Munich “is not, cannot be, and should not be a fortress.” A new era began in the city’s evolution. Ever since its founding, Munich had been a fortified settlement. For centuries, medieval walls and baroque fortifications had restricted the city’s growth and predetermined its ground plan. By the end of the 18th century, these defensive structures had been allowed to decay. Though they were incapable of withstanding the more powerful weapons of modern warfare, they nonetheless posed an obstacle to orderly urban growth.

Only after the removal of these obsolete defences could the city began to assume its modern shape: open to all sides, spreading outward into the surrounding landscape, and with fluent transitions to the outlying countryside. Stasis and inertia gradually yielded to dynamic growth and a continually changing shape.

Benjamin Thompson, who was later named Count Rumford, initiated these measures. As an influential advisor to the prince-elector from 1785 to 1798, he took the first steps toward breaking through the corset of fortifications – a labour that would require many years before it was completed.

Plazas at the Gates of an Open City

In 1791, before Munich’s status as a fortified city had been formally rescinded, Count Rumford already planned to level fortifications at the site of today’s Karlsplatz [Karl’s Plaza]. The narrow and winding path through the gate and the walls was no longer able to cope with modern traffic. Levelling the bastion at the gate would create a spacious plaza and provide open access to the city. At the same time, the walls on either side were to be torn down, thus freeing space on which to build a first major expansion of the city. Rumford entrusted the planning to Franz Thurn, an architect at Munich’s Hofbauamt [royal building office]. Thurn drew the plans for a new plaza with a surrounding roundabout and straight wings from today’s Lenbachplatz [Lenbach Plaza] to Herzogspitalstrasse. Work on this project continued until 1794.

When Rumford left Munich in 1798, Thurn took over the task of continuing the work that had begun at Karlsplatz. He designed a similar plaza in front of Sendlinger Tor [Sendling Gate]. A row of houses between it and the buildings at Karlsplatz was planned, but the project was never carried out. A similar fate befell several other projects that Thurn intended for plots of land on which the city’s obsolete fortifications stood.

Englischer Garten [English Garden]

The creation of the Englischer Garten [English Garden] in 1789 inaugurated a new era in Munich’s urban development. This marked the beginning of access to the castle precincts by Munich’s citizenry. The city at this time still had its medieval ground plan and was narrowly contained within its defensive fortifications, which had lost their military use, but continued to stand in the way of urban expansion. Even before the work of levelling them had begun, the prince-elector’s planners drew designs for the English Garden which burst the erstwhile boundaries of the closed city.

The first large, green space in Munich was open to all citizens as a “people’s park.” It continues to serve as a model for the city’s other recreational areas today. The park at Ruhmeshalle [hall of fame], the Maximiliansanlagen [greenbelt] along the Isar River, Luitpoldpark [park], and the extensive greenbelts of recent decades all rely on the English Garden as their model. These include Olympiagelände [Olympic campus], Westpark and Ostpark [parks], as well as the land currently under construction at the trade-fair campus in Riem.

A Garden Suburb for Munich

In 1789, at the same time that the English Garden was taking shape, Prince-Elector Carl Theodor arranged to have military gardens established along Schwabinger Landstrasse [Schwabing country road]. After these were relocated to the English Garden in 1795, the plot became available for building construction. This would be the first settlement to be built on public land outside the city walls. It was officially named “Schönfeldvorstadt” [Schönfeld Suburb] in 1797. The houses here were designed in an open architectural style and surrounding gardens were obligatory. Unified rules were also drafted for the houses’ dimensions and the form of their roofs.

A Royal Capital City

Bavaria emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as the largest German state in central Europe, having acquired new provinces and having been granted the status of a kingdom (1806). Centralisation of the state administration in Munich brought new inhabitants and new functions to the growing city. The design of its urban architecture embodied and enhanced the prestige of the entire kingdom. For more than half a century, the first kings of Bavaria orientated the city’s planning according to several major objectives:

  • To free the old city from its restrictive corset by redesigning the sites of obsolete fortifications,
  • To add new settlement zones to the enlarging city, and
  • To enhance the architectural presence of the Residenz [royal residence].

The creation of spacious open areas around the Residence was intended to free the structure from its cramped situation in the old city. Large boulevards would lead from expanded outlying settlement areas to new plazas in the city’s centre. As a counterpart to bourgeois Marienplatz, the Residence became a centre point of the royal capital.

A Plaza for the Royal Residence

At the beginning of the 19th century, Munich’s Residenz [royal residence] was closely bordered by a large monastery to the south. The residence itself was scarcely visible from the old city. Not until 1803 did secularisation create the opportunity to free the building from this confining situation. The adjacent monastery was levelled to create a large open space, which initially remained free from surrounding structures.

With Bavaria’s elevation to the status of a kingdom (1806), plans began to mature for the design of a Residenzplatz [residence plaza] which would express the newly acquired honour. New construction projects initiated by three kings gave this plaza its ultimate shape: the National Theatre, the Königsbau [kingly building], and the colonnade to the south. A memorial sculpture for the first Bavarian king, Max I Joseph, formed the centre and focal point of the site. The urban-architectural revaluation of the Residence concluded with the completion of Maximilianstrasse in 1874. The boulevard linked the heart of regal Munich with the high bank on the far side of the Isar River, where the Maximilianeum rises like a crown and forms the endpoint of the view.

Plans for Odeonsplatz [Odeon’s Plaza]

Like Max-Joseph-Platz to the south, another impressive plaza was planned for the northern environs of the royal residence. Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell drew an initial sketch in 1811. He wanted to develop northwardly stretching grounds on the site of present-day Odeonsplatz, but the project failed because of the cost of acquiring the necessary land. Sckell was obliged to revise his plans, and the results were altered beyond recognition. Meanwhile, Klenze likewise began drafting plans for the same area. Crown Prince Ludwig (I) purchased plots of land with his private funds, thus giving Klenze a free hand to proceed with his work. Klenze included essential ideas from von Sckell, but Klenze’s project forms a self-contained site which is mostly enclosed by gates toward the side streets. This design too underwent drastic modifications. Subdividing it into building blocks enabled the final project to match the open system used in nearby Maxvorstadt. One boulevard leads northward in a straight line: the beginnings of the future Ludwigstrasse.

Ludwigstrasse [Ludwig Street]

Through the creation of a boulevard axis towards the north as the backbone of a new suburb, Munich’s urban-architectural focus shifted from the city’s historical centre to the royal residence. While still a crown prince, the future king Ludwig I had already commissioned Leo von Klenze to plan the project, the concept of which is modelled after similar ventures in Rome, Florence, and Paris. Klenze envisioned rows of adjoining houses lining the boulevard and surrounding the plazas.

For the southern end of Ludwigstrasse, Klenze planned to build individually designed residential houses similar to those already standing in the old city. With the continued expansion of the boulevard axis, large structures for public or semi-public institutions were designed by Friedrich Gärtner, Klenze’s rival and successor. Gärtner raised prominent edifices at each end of the boulevard: Feldherrnhalle [Field Marshall Hall] at one end and Siegestor [Victory Gate] at the other.

Ludwigstrasse was a regal road toward the royal residence. Thanks to its grand dimensions and architectonic surroundings, it provided plazas comparable to the great street markets in other old Bavarian cities.

Financing a Royal Boulevard

The defensive fortifications, as well as a large number of privately owned plots, had to be acquired in order to build Odeonsplatz [Odeon’s Plaza] and Ludwigstrasse. The recently built garden architecture in Schönfeldvorstadt [Schönfeld Suburb] along the old Schwabinger Landstraße [Schwabing Country Road] all fell victim to the new boulevard. While still a crown prince, Ludwig I (with Klenze as his middleman) began buying plots. Afterwards he sold them to owners who wanted to build homes and settle in the neighbourhood of the royal residence. This construction model, an early form of capitalist urban development, gradually neared its limits as the dimensions of the plan continued to grow. The king pressured public and semi-public institutions to fill the vacancies alongside the boulevard by erecting large structures on either side.

Despite empty coffers, the municipality itself was obliged to provide the funds to purchase the plots needed for the street. Ludwig likewise compelled the city to incur large debts to finance the construction of Ludwigskirche [Ludwig’s Church].

A Leap across the Isar: Maximilianstrasse [Maximilian’s Street]

Maximilianstrasse [Maximilian’s Street] was conceived between 1851 and 1874. The project had great urban-architectural importance and served several purposes. The opulent and generously proportioned boulevard with the Maximilianeum as its crowning conclusion bridged the Isar River and simultaneously provided access to Lehel, a riverside neighbourhood which had previously been more or less ignored. Urban development reaped further benefits from the creation of park-like facilities along the river’s steeply sloping right bank.

With this project, King Maximilian II also aimed to “invent” a new style which would combine the best features of historical models and modern building technology. He commissioned Munich architect Friedrich Bürklein to plan and construct the boulevard, as well as to design exemplary façades for the buildings alongside it. The large public buildings along the forum-like middle portion and the Maximilianeum are Bürklein’s brainchildren.

In addition to the price of acquiring the land, constructing the boulevard to the Isar also obliged the city to bear the cost of considerable technical advances and financial investments. The height of an existing embankment needed to be raised; some watercourses still flow beneath it today.

A Footpath around the City

Beginning around 1830 (while he was still crown prince), the future King Maximilian II began writing down his thoughts about urban planning. A large and long-pursued project was the notion of developing a greenbelt around the entire city.

The first design, drafted by royal Prussian garden director Peter Joseph Lenné from Berlin, was presented in 1839. This document has since been lost, but two variants exist which Maximilian commissioned years later from architects Zenetti and Bürklein.
The plans envisioned a greenbelt arcing through the city, some parts of which were still vacant land. Large segments of the belt were to be only tree-lined promenades with branches stretching into suburban districts; other segments were to be expanded to create small parks. The Isar was to be the starting point in the south near Thalkirchen with the endpoint near Bogenhausen in the north; here the greenbelt would leap the river and follow its bank south to the starting point in Thalkirchen.

Only a fragment of the plan was actually built. Redesigning the banks of Isar River began in 1857 and continued after the king’s death (1864), and into the last quarter of the 19th century.

Utilitarian Buildings from Maximilian’s Epoch

Starting around 1850, utilitarian buildings made of glass and iron began to acquire an imposing presence that had formerly been reserved solely for impressive buildings of the traditional sort. Architects, engineers, and the king himself (who commissioned the new construction) were equally fascinated by new manufacturing methods, by the innovative modes of construction, and by the use of iron and glass as raw materials.

Components for the new buildings were prefabricated in accord with industrial norms and then delivered to the construction sites, where they could be speedily assembled. Supports and struts were made of cast iron and typically modelled after classical column forms. Roofs were supported by wrought-iron elements. In most cases, the necessary components were manufactured at Cramer & Klett machinery factory in Nuremberg. Some components were also made at Maffei railroad works in Munich. The principles of manufacture and construction were developed by Ludwig Weber, technical director at the firm of Cramer & Klett.

Three structures of this sort are presented here in chronological order as examples of this new form of construction.

Munich, City of Kings

As the capital city of the state of Bavaria and as an administrative centre, the new Munich had important functions to fulfill. City planning under the kings involved more than merely designing new neighbourhoods and meeting functional needs. It also involved designing an image of a city that would be a worthy seat for the ruler and a capital city of the arts.

Three kings commissioned construction and contributed to shaping the face of the city between 1806 and 1864. The acme occurred during the reign of Ludwig I.

He and his architects created the lasting image of a regal Munich, with impressive architecture that followed the rules of a stylistic ideal evoking historical grandeur. More so than other architects, Klenze most shaped the face of the city. After Klenze, the rival architects Gärtner and Ziebland took over some of Klenze’s projects and grudgingly followed the fundamental guidelines specified in his plans.
The Propylaea [“The grand many entrances”] are excellent examples of Klenze’s contributions to the realization of Ludwig I’s regal urban concept.

Texte: Hans Lehmbruch, 2008

1860 bis 1918: Becoming a Metropolis

Gärtnerplatz nach Plänen von Max Kolb (1860)
Michael Nagy / LHM
Gärtnerplatz designed by Max Kolb (1860)

Munich “came of age” and became a genuine metropolis during the second half of the 19th century. The number of inhabitants increased fivefold and the incorporation of outlying villages further enlarged the city’s area. Industrialisation, though somewhat late in getting started, now began to make itself felt.

New neighbourhoods arose due to the initiative of private investors. After a major competition, a master developmental plan for the entire city was approved at the beginning of the 20th century.

Trailblazers of Industrialisation

King Ludwig I and (to an even greater degree) his son Maximilian II encouraged the sciences and consciously invited researchers and inventors to the Bavarian capital. Ludwig I’s relocation of the university from Landshut to Munich in 1826 and Ludwig II’s founding of the Technische Universität [technical university] in 1868 were landmark events in this policy. They gave the city an important advantage for the development of its industries and helped it to compensate for its remoteness from raw materials and transportation routes. Munich’s tradition as a centre of research and the applied sciences began at this time. Research and development departments of large businesses continue to play important roles in the city’s commercial structure today. Internationally significant applied-research organizations (e.g. Fraunhofer Gesellschaft [Fraunhofer Society] have located their headquarters in Munich.

Commercial and Residential Buildings in Close Proximity

Many small industrial businesses arose unplanned in the inner city, in Westend, or in Haidhausen, where they were situated directly adjacent to residential housing in so-called “Gemengelage” [mixed-use zones]. These businesses burned coal as their source of energy, so the first complaints about a “smoke plague” were soon heard in these neighbourhoods. Around 1900, city planners tried to de-escalate the conflict by establishing specially designated industrial areas. The Staffelbauordnung [graduated building order] of 1904 designated three large industrial areas: in Schwabing; near Ostbahnhof [Eastern Railroad Station] (today’s Kunstpark Ost) [Art Park East]; and in Sendling (now partly occupied by Siemens).

The Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt [Mayer’s Court Art Facility] at Stiglmaierplatz has survived at its inner-city location to the present day. Founded in 1847, it employed more than 300 people by 1900. A “big business” by Munich’s standards, it engaged in worldwide business dealings. As a glass-painting and mosaic manufacturer, it was perfectly in accord with the ideal of the city’s fathers, who wanted to see only “art industry” rather than smouldering smokestacks in the “art city” of Munich.

From Water to Railroad

Many commercial operations had traditionally been located along the brooks and the canals that had been diverted from the Isar River. Mills and smithies relied on water power; tanneries and textile operations required large amounts of water for their production processes. As late as the mid 19th century, nearly 150 different commercial operations were working along Munich’s city brooks.
After the urban region had been connected to the railroad network, industrial operations relocated to sites with railroad access: near Ostbahnhof and in Sendling at first, then later in Moosach, Milbertshofen, and Schwabing. Coal to power steam engines, raw materials, and semi-finished goods could be delivered more cheaply to these sites. Shipment of finished products via the new transportation system made it possible to access new markets. Urban planners were scarcely able to control this development at first. Not until the Staffelbauplan [graduated building order] was drawn up in 1904 were industrial areas specifically assigned to sites along the railroad tracks.

Housing Shortage, Shared Apartments, and “Sleeping Lodgers”

Munich’s population doubled between 1885 and 1905. New neighbourhoods were built in a ring around the inner city during the period of rapid growth and industrialisation that was known in Germany as the Gründerjahre [founding years] (1871-73). Many of these new buildings contained spacious flats that are still very popular today. But these capacious quarters were too costly to assuage the housing shortage: smaller and less expensive apartments were urgently needed. To fill vacancies in the larger apartments, each flat was typically rented to several families, which were obliged to share its kitchen and WC.

One-fourth of Munich’s households dwelt in shared apartments in 1904. Rents were high, and sleeping places were often sublet to so-called “Schlafgänger” [“sleeping lodgers”]. Families with many children were particularly hard-pressed. Many children shared beds with their siblings, their parents, or with unrelated lodgers.

With support from the mayor, the Verein für Verbesserung der Wohnungsverhältnisse e.V. [Association for the Improvement of Living Conditions] was founded in 1899. Planned settlements were built, e.g. in Sendling. Municipal support for the construction of buildings containing smaller apartments initially relied exclusively on unions and building associations.

A Competition with Perspectives for the Future

An urban-expansion competition was sponsored by the city in 1892 in the hope that it would attract viable ideas for the city’s future evolution as a large metropolis. The competition was suggested by the builder Heilmann, who publicly expressed his belief that foresighted and comprehensive urban-development plans had become urgently necessary.

Of the five designs selected, the artistic and construction-system ideas of C. Henrici and G. Hauberrisser exerted the most obvious effects on the city planning, which began under Theodor Fischer’s administration.

These designs manifested themselves in Theodor Fischer’s Staffelbauplan [graduated building plan] of 1904, which remained in effect until 1980 and which continues to indirectly affect built-up areas today. The plan is based on the urban-architectural idea of a city that gradually becomes lower in height and less densely developed toward the periphery of the urbanised area. The plan’s grades of construction, five of which are connected to the road network for closed styles of architecture and another five for open architectural styles, follow functional and aesthetic viewpoints. The plan’s picturesquely curved streets and plazas still characterise large parts of Munich today.

Urban Development via Private Entrepreneurs

The increasingly severe housing shortage during the second half of the 19th century, coupled with ongoing railroad construction, prompted Carl von Eichthal, who owned extensive tracts of land, to take action.

On his properties along the Isar and north of Rosenheimer Strasse, he arranged for the construction of two new urban neighbourhoods: the Gärtnerplatzviertel [“Gärtner Plaza Quarter”]; and the Franzosenviertel [“French Quarter”] in Haidhausen. Four or five story dwellings, built side by side in city blocks, promised to yield high returns on investment. The city imposed fees for the construction of streets, but these expenses were comparatively minimal. The choice of a linear arrangement for the street grid, deliberately mollified through the insertion of regularly shaped circular or rectangular plazas, corresponded to the 19th century’s predominant notions of a geometrical urban ground plan. Because of its inflexibility, this system was no longer implemented in Munich after the end of the 19th century.

A Villa Quarter to Beautify Theresienwiese [“Theresa’s Meadow”]

Landowners first announced their desire to build on Theresienwiese [“Theresa’s Meadow”] in the 1870s, when this plot still extended from Allgemeines Krankenhaus [General Hospital] near Sendlinger Tor [Sendling Gate] to Theresienhöhe [Theresa’s Heights]. For reasons related to urban hygiene, Munich’s city council wanted to build a municipal park on this site, so the city purchased private plots of land on the meadow for this purpose.

Civil engineer and builder Jakob Heilmann publicly presented a plan in 1877 which envisioned a park linked to a villa neighbourhood. This plan, it was hoped, would lure well-heeled entrepreneurs to Munich. The city agreed to the idea after a court verdict granted construction rights to the landowners. In response to Heilmann’s urging, the city council passed zoning ordinances designed to ensure the high quality of the new neighbourhood.

A foresighted land-supply policy enabled the city to successfully preserve open space on Theresienwiese [“Theresa’s Meadow”] and arrange for the site to be bordered by a semicircle of villas. This marked the first time that the city had been able to achieve a satisfactory balance between public and private interests.

Urban Development in Times of Civil Emancipation

The city grew only in parts between 1860 and 1890. New boroughs in the east and south were incorporated into the existing body of the city. The impulse for this came from private entrepreneurs who viewed the city’s evolution and the growth of its population as favourable business opportunities.

Uncoordinated growth and demands from the business world impelled the city to begin drafting foresighted and comprehensive plans. Munich’s planners were encouraged in this endeavour by theories about urban planning which had been conceived during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Planned interventions on the outskirts of the city were put into practice through the large-scale incorporation of outlying areas. Munich’s municipal area tripled in size between 1860 and 1918. The city council began using competitive means to concretise its urban-development policy in the hope that this would make it possible to put modern insights to good use in the urbanised areas.

The Path toward Municipal Self-administration

Munich was subject to the guardianship of the state until the middle of the 19th century. The king drafted the plans, and the community was obliged to bear their expenses, as was the case when Ludwigstrasse was designed and built. Not until the reign of Maximilian II did municipal autonomy gradually increase.

It took nearly a quarter of century before Munich was granted more rights to self-administration: this occurred in 1869, when the Gemeindeedikt [community edict] of 1818 was revised. No longer treating the community as though it had no will of its own, the state now exercised only a supervisory right (which still exists in a certain form today).

Greater autonomy for the city also meant more responsibility for municipal tasks, e.g. the construction of schools and other public-service facilities, which now had to be taken over by the city. Coping with their growth became an increasingly important task for the city’s planning and zoning authorities.

Faster, Further, Bigger - Railroads and Streetcars

New transportation technologies (the railroad and the streetcar) revolutionised and accelerated urban development. The construction of a railroad line from Munich to Augsburg in 1840 marked the beginning of a development, which changed the face of Munich forever. 

The railroad linked Munich, which had previously been remote from major transportation routes, with sources of raw materials and markets throughout Central Europe. The railroad was the precondition and the moving force for industrialisation of the plains of Bavaria, which until then had been almost exclusively agricultural. Munich, Bavaria’s capital, became a European centre for the transhipment of merchandise and a transportation junction for southern Germany. Marshalling yards, administrative and repair facilities (together with residential settlements for their employees) temporarily transformed Munich into a “railwayman’s town.”

The streetcar, a quick and inexpensive means of transportation, instantly widened the radius of activity for city dwellers. The boundaries of the compact city dissolved as the city expanded into the surrounding area.

Munich’s Beer throughout the World

Brewing beer has been a tradition in Munich since the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that Munich’s beer first attained its due fame. Here again, the railroad was a decisive catalyst, in that it gave brewers access to German, European, and overseas markets. The breweries also benefited from the invention of artificial cooling machines by Carl von Linde, a researcher and businessman from Munich. His refrigeration machines revolutionised brewing and encouraged the industrialisation of the brewing business.
Meanwhile, the breweries had begun their great exodus out of the cramped confines of the old city. They moved their operations to storage cellars which they had first begun developing to the west of Munich and on the steep bank of the Isar east of the city as early as 1724.

The plots that had been acquired for storage cellars now also provided sufficient space for the construction of modern production facilities. Until the end of the 20th century, the breweries were able to expand their sites in the Au, in Haidhausen, in Westend, and Maxvorstadt, where they adapted their operations to conform to new requirements.

Quality and Diversity

Situated far from raw materials and transportation routes, industry in Munich was a “slow starter.” Favourably influenced by the Bavarian kings’ patronage of the arts and sciences, quality industries arose to capitalise on the new technologies and inventions. Small and mid-sized businesses predominated, integrating themselves more or less unobtrusively into the cityscape. The first railroad (1839) and electrification (1888) created the conditions for the development of heavy industry. The diversity of businesses and branches prevented individual industries from dominating the city.

Munich experienced a wave of industrialisation during World War I and a second wave after 1945. These were eras of rapid growth for BMW and Siemens, two firms which still strongly influence the city today. 

Although the 19th-century tradition of science-oriented industry continued to thrive in the high-tech metropolis of the late 20th century, large and small industrial facilities are scarcely noticeable in today’s cityscape. Only the initiated few know that Munich is actually Germany’s largest industrial city.

Urban Hygiene and the Installation of a Sewerage System

Prior to the beginning of the 19th century, the people of Munich disposed of wastewater by pouring it directly into drainage ditches or into the many brooks that flowed through the city. Bacteria and pathogens infiltrated the soil and groundwater. Potable water drawn from shallow wells became contaminated. Epidemics and a high mortality rate due to typhus ensued.

The first sewerage-system projects began in 1820, but these efforts were unsystematic and beset with major shortcomings. Serious cholera epidemics struck Munich in 1836 and 1854.

The university teacher Max von Pettenkofer recognised the relationship between cholera epidemics and contaminated groundwater. He dedicated himself to the project of creating a sewerage system and the laying of well-water pipelines. The English engineer J. Gordon was commissioned to create a “general project for the sewerage system of the city of Munich” in 1874. He intelligently exploited the slope of the landscape so that wastewater naturally drained northwards out of the city.

Text: Gerhard Gross und Heinz Selig, 2008

1918 bis 1945: From War to War

Kriegszerstörung am Mariahilfplatz (Aufnahme von 1946)
Wartime destruction on Mariahilfplatz (picture from 1946)

The modernisation programs in housing construction during the 1920s ended with the onset of the global economic crisis. The National Socialists took over the crisis model of the small settlements and used it to force the settlers into line. The Nazis’ chief interest, however, was to transform Munich into the monumental “Capital City of the Movement.”

The implementation of these plans failed because of the war.

World War One and its Consequences

The historian George F. Kennan described World War One as the “primal catastrophe” of the 20th century. The war triggered a sense of social, economic, and political insecurity in Germany, which made possible the rise of radicalism. Solidarity between the workers’ movement and the bourgeoisie wasn’t strong enough to uphold the republic that had been won in the revolution. Instead, many of the republic’s opponents held the new system responsible for the unhealed wounds of wartime defeat and the “humiliating” peace treaty of Versailles.

Attacks against the Weimar system fell on particularly fertile soil in Munich, where revolution and the Räter Republic had instilled profound anxieties in the bourgeoisie.

Gustav von Kahr emerged as a strongman. He became Bavaria’s minister-president in 1920 and general state commissar in 1923. He proclaimed the “Ordnungszelle Bayern” [“Bavarian Order Cell”], which became a magnet for organisations in the nationalist-rightist camp. One such group was the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei [German Workers’ Party] or DAP, which was renamed NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers’ Party] in 1920. Hitler found a platform within this party, which he used as an instrument for the violent seizure of power.

A Revolution in Housing

After the end of the monarchies, a new political order began for the Reich and the states, as well as for the communities within them. Universal municipal suffrage and a new municipal constitution meant that for the first time the city council represented a cross-section of the city’s entire population.

Munich was ruled by a mayor from the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] until 1924. Compared to other cities, Munich’s administration made large-scale use of the instrument of the Wohnungszwangswirtschaft [compulsory housing economy], which had been created during the war and expanded afterwards.
Between 1918 and 1921, the authorities in Munich ordered 12,000 compulsory billetings in private dwellings. These draconian measures were intended to compensate for failures to build adequate housing during the war and the subsequent inflation years. A wave of marriages that had been delayed by the war further increased the need for housing.

Reichskleinsiedlungen [Reich’s Small Settlements]

Reich Chancellor Brüning’s government instituted the “small settlement” program “to encourage a settled way of life among the rural population, to minimise unemployment, and to make it easier for jobless people to earn a living.”

The future settlers were to be employed in the task of building their own homes. The cultivation of subsistence gardens and the keeping of small livestock were intended to improve their lot during the economic crisis.

The National Socialists had originally adopted this model because it fit well into their anti-modern and anti-urban ideology, but a subsequent upswing on the job market in the wake of armaments contracts transformed the settlement program for unemployed people into a housing concept motivated by populist policy and intended to breed loyal “national comrades.”

“Small settlements” were built in Munich at Freimann, Am Perlacher Forst, and on Zamdorfer Strasse in 1932. Additional settlements were built at Am Hart, Neuherberg, and Kaltherberg between 1933 and 1937. Beginning in the mid 1930s, the housing policy again emphasised multi-storey housing because such structures were more efficient and cheaper to build.

The Exemplary Settlement at Ramersdorf

A settlement was built in Ramersdorf in 1934 which didn’t fit into the typical pattern of Nazi small settlements. Intended to demonstrate suitable forms of dwelling for the middle class, this “exemplary settlement” was to be presented within the framework of the “Deutsche Siedlungsausstellung” [“German Settlement Exhibition”].
The initiative was sponsored by Guido Harbers, who was the city’s housing advisor, a National Socialist, and an enthusiastic architect. The Weissenhof settlement, a paradigmatic example of the “new objectivity” built in Stuttgart in 1927, inspired Harbers with the idea of staging a settlement exhibition.

The plans submitted by the architects who were commissioned to create the settlement in Ramersdorf were obviously more in keeping with traditional styles. Gabled roofs, for example, were mandatory. Nonetheless, individually designed houses were built along curving roads to create a settlement that differed noticeably from the uniform simplicity of other Reichskleinsiedlungen [Reich’s small settlements]. For precisely this reason, many Nazi politicians rejected the “exemplary settlement.” They argued that it was unsuitable to serve as a model for future housing in the “national community.”

The National Socialists’ Settlement Ideology

After the Nazis’ “seizure of power,” settlement policy, too, was oriented according to National Socialist ideology and used as a eugenic instrument to control the populace. The only people who were permitted to apply for residence in the settlements were “comrades from the folk” who “belonged to the German Reich, had German or related blood in their veins, were politically reliable, racially impeccable, healthy, and free from inheritable illnesses.” The settlement sites weren’t intended merely as residential colonies, but were also designed to strengthen the connection between the families and the Nazi state and thus to enrich the state with abundant offspring.

The new guidelines led to a complicated selection process for applicants. In addition to the municipal settlement advisory board, the NSDAP and the Deutsche Arbeitsfront [German Labour Front] also participated in the selection process. Furthermore, people who dwelt in older small settlements were obliged to submit to political control and cleansing actions. Some settlers were deprived of their places in the settlement because they were deemed politically unreliable or “genetically ill.”

Housing Policy and the “Final Solution”

The battle to allocate scanty living space also targeted the Jewish population. According to Nazi ideology, Jews had no right to dwell in housing that was fit for human beings. After they had already been forcibly deprived of their place in the economy and the society, and ever since “Crystal Night” in November 1938, Jews were also required to vacate their dwellings to provide housing for “national comrades.”

After a phase of “uncontrolled Aryanisation,” the legal basis for evicting Jewish tenants was created in April 1939. The evicted people were forced to live in extremely cramped conditions in nursing homes, old-age homes, and “Judenhäusern” [“Jews' houses”]. Munich’s Jews were forced to establish their own ghetto, the “Judensiedlung Milbertshofen” [“Jews’ Settlement in Milbertshofen”] in 1941.

Nazi henchmen used the colony as an assembly point for transport to the death camps. Deportation trains rolled eastwards from Milbertshofen. The approximately 1,800 dwellings which Munich’s Jews had been forced to vacate were given to “demolition tenants,” welfare cases, and especially to “national comrades of outstanding merit.”

The End of the “Capital City of the Movement”

The air war added a new and terrifying dimension to World War Two. Strategic bombardments began with German attacks on the cities of Warsaw, Rotterdam, and London. Munich suffered its first major attack when Royal Air Force planes flew over in September 1942. During 30 major aerial attacks between then and April 1945, 6,500 people were killed, 300,000 were left homeless, and approximately 60 percent of the old city was bombed into rubble. Numerous evacuations depopulated Munich. The residents who survived the bombardments lived through the deaths of their relatives, the destruction of their workplaces and dwellings, the annihilation of cultural possessions, and the dreaded howling of air-raid sirens.
When they emerged from underground air-raid shelters in cellars after the severe attacks of 1944, Munich’s citizens were confronted by a gruesome sight: dead and wounded people, countless heaps of rubble, smouldering fires, and thick clouds of smoke.

Public-Sector House Building in the 1920s

The city had been almost entirely uninvolved in the housing situation prior to World War One. The city’s willingness to become involved in the socio-political sector increased in the wake of the housing shortage caused by the war and the political coup. But galloping inflation soon destroyed the value of the Reich’s loans and of the subsidies for non-profit housing construction.

Cooperative housing associations and housing companies flourished after 1924 with the help of a tax on rental income earned by house owners. The city became politically and financially involved in building programs. Non-profit companies built houses row by row in large settlements which became the trademark of public-sector housing in the republic. The city was rather cautious as far as the “new construction” was concerned. Its few examples include Vorhoelzer’s postal buildings and the Ledigenheim [housing for single persons] on Bergmannstrasse. Munich never become a field of experimentation comparable to Berlin or Frankfurt.

Rearmament and Labourer’s Camps

World War One gave a strong impetus for the expansion of Munich as an industrial site. It favoured the upswing of armaments’ factories which, however, quickly vanished soon after the war. But above all in the northern part of the city, the effects of the industrialisation boom were longer lasting. Among other projects, this marked the beginning of aircraft-motor construction in Moosach by a firm which later became Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW).

Another wave of industrialisation ensued under the National Socialist state-run economy. Long before the outbreak of World War Two, many factories had already retooled and begun manufacturing armaments. BMW built aircraft motors and motorcycles for military purposes. Süddeutsche Bremsenwerke [South German Brake Works] manufactured cannons and gun barrels. Krauss-Maffei made armoured tanks.

Production levels could only be maintained during the war by employing foreign forced labourers, who were imported from territories occupied by German troops. At times, as many as 80,000 “foreign workers” lived and worked under inhumane conditions in Munich. A network of labourers’ camps dotted the city.

City Planning and Urban Development from 1938 to 1945

In 1937, gauleiter and Bavarian Minister of the Interior Adolf Wagner drafted extensive plans to establish Munich as a “Reichsgau” [“Reich’s administrative district”]. Through the incorporation of outlying communities and the founding of an association for this purpose, Munich’s sphere of influence was slated to extend as far as Ammersee [Lake Ammer].

Although reality lagged far behind the plans, numerous communities were incorporated into Munich between 1938 and 1942. Their inclusion increased the size of the metropolitan area by roughly 50%.

The responsibility for urban planning was vested in an office run by general construction councilman Hermann Giesler in 1938. The most important element of traffic planning was an autobahn ring with a diameter of 20 to 25 kilometres. This ring was intended to surround the city and link the new autobahns to one another. At the same time, its circumference also delineated the potentials and limits of Munich’s future expansion. An inner ring road was intended to guide traffic around the core city. The land between the two concentric roadways was to be filled by conglomerated industrial settlements and residential satellite cities.

The National Socialists Seize Power

The National Socialist Party seized power in Bavaria on 9 March 1933. Mayor Karl Scharnagl of the Bavarian Peoples Party defied the brown-clad junta for a few days, but “yielded to force majeure” on 20 March. His place as mayor was taken by National Socialist Karl Fiehler, who had been an NSDAP city councilman in Munich since 1924.

Fiehler led the city’s government from 1933 to 1945 and ensured that Hitler’s plans were carried out in Munich to the fullest extent possible. This was the case for Hitler’s plans for the city as well as for its Jews, who were gradually deprived of their rights and systematically persecuted.

Hitler declared Munich the “capital city of German art” (1933) and the “capital city of the movement” (1935). The National Socialists used Munich as a forum for their cultural policy and a stage-set for events and demonstrations of their power. The architecture and the city planning were intended to represent the party and its fuehrer to the outside world and to visibly manifest the Nazis’ claim to rulership.

Haus der Deutschen Kunst [House of German Art]

The National Socialists wanted Munich to be the Reich’s leading art city. After they seized power, one of their first construction projects was the erection of the “Haus der Deutschen Kunst” [“House of German Art”], which was built according to plans drawn by architect Paul Ludwig Troost. The glass palace that had burned down on Sophienstrasse in 1931 was to be replaced by a National Socialist “art temple.” The totalitarian claim of having the “correct art” was to become tangible reality here. The first “Great German Art Exhibition” was staged to coincide with the grand opening of the museum in 1937. A simultaneous showing of “Entartete Kunst” [“Degenerate Art”] in the arcades at Hofgarten was intended to be a deterrent and a counterexample to the exhibition of National Socialist aesthetic tastes. The exhibition of “degenerate” artworks displayed works of modern art that had been confiscated during the state-sanctioned plundering of the museums. Whether the propaganda and defamation were received as planned by the visitors to the two exhibitions remains an unanswered question.

The Nazi Party’s Headquarters at Königsplatz [King’s Plaza]

The National Socialists had already acquired Barlow-Palais [palace] on Brienner Strasse in 1930. Paul Troost redesigned it to become the “Braunes Haus” [Brown House], i.e. the headquarters of the NSDAP’s Reichsleitung [Reich administration]. This was the beginning of a Nazi Party quarter which soon dominated Maxvorstadt.

The centre of this neighbourhood was at Königsplatz [King’s Plaza] with Nazi Party buildings (completed in 1937) on Arcis Strasse and on the street that’s now known as Meiserstrasse. So-called “temples of honour” were erected in 1935 to serve as tombs for the people who had died in Hitler’s putsch in 1923 and as cultic centres of the Nazi ideology. The NSDAP dominated the surroundings of Königsplatz [King’s Plaza] in a less spectacular manner, but Gestapo headquarters in Wittelsbacher Palais [Wittlesbach Palace] on Brienner Strasse were notorious. Many opponents of the regime were detained and tortured here.

According to plans which were never put into practice, Maxvorstadt was slated to undergo further changes on its way toward becoming the Nazi Party’s quarter. A gigantic office building was planned opposite the Alte Pinakothek [Old Picture Gallery] to complement the “Brown House.” The planners also envisioned a forum and a “Hall of the Party” beside the office building.

The Great Axis

A grand east-west axis was the central feature of Hitler’s rebuilding plans for Munich. Similarly dominant “great boulevards” were also planned for other cities and are characteristic of totalitarian city planning. To develop these plans, Hitler appointed Hermann Giesler to the post of general construction councilman for Munich in December 1938. The National Socialists revived the old idea of shifting the location of the central railroad station farther westward to Laim, but the details of this new plan were nothing less than megalomaniacal. A gigantic “Monument of the Movement” was planned to rise on the site of the former central station. The monument was to be an enormous plinth bearing a pillar twice the height of Frauenkirche [Church of Our Lady] and crowned by an eagle and swastika. From here, the axis would extend westwards beyond the new central railroad station to a “Forum der Sturmabteilung” [“forum of the armed and uniformed branch of the NSDAP”] in Pasing, where a gargantuan “Burgundertor” [“Burgundy Gate”] would welcome travellers arriving from the autobahn. Monumental blocks of buildings along the east-west axis were to be built as stony expressions of the system’s might and its claim to power.

Text: Ulrike Haerendel, 2008

1945 bis 1960: Rising from Rubble

Altstadt von München (Aufnahme von 1980)
Munich´s old town (picture from 1980)

After the end of World War Two, Munich faced the decision between a radical new beginning and the reconstruction of the old cityscape.
The city decided in favour of moderately conservative rebuilding. The so-called “Munich way” combined the rebuilding and preservation traditional structures on the one hand with future-oriented planning on the other.

The result decisively contributed toward the restoration and preservation of the familiar cityscape.

Reconstruction or New Beginning?

While its citizens were hard at work clearing away rubble and providing shelter for people who had been evacuated and/or whose homes had been destroyed by bombs, specialists debated a fundamental question: In what form should Munich be rebuilt?

The concepts ranged from the idea of abandoning the ruined city entirely and erecting a new Munich at Lake Starnberg, to the call for the reconstruction of pre-war Munich.

A New Beginning amidst Fields of Rubble

Many cities used the war’s destruction as an opportunity to free themselves from the unpopular 19th-century urban style with is tenement blocks, insalubrious back courtyards, and narrow, crowded streets. Reconstruction offered them a chance to create the conditions for a modern future. Atop recently cleared rubble fields, some planners wanted to build a “subdivided and varied city” that would also be “appropriate for automobiles.” Rather than envisioning a compact city, their plans called for the creation of a modern “urban landscape.” Some planners referred to concepts and sketches for reconstruction that they had devised during the last few years of the war in accord with instructions from Speer, Hitler’s armaments minister.

The reconstruction of Hanover under the direction of Rudolf Hillebrecht was seen as a shining example of a modern new beginning.

Maintaining Continuity

Discussions continued, but Munich’s city council decided in favour of tradition-oriented reconstruction in August 1945. In accord with suggestions from city councilman Karl Meitinger (who later published his ideas under the title “Das Neue München” [“The New Munich”]), the city’s core was slated to be resurrected in a form that would be very similar to its pre-war appearance: “Whatever happens, we must endeavour to save the appearance and the image of the old city… so that, in a few decades, we shall again have our beloved Munich as it was in the past.”

Unlike other cities, pre-war Munich had been only slightly burdened by the consequences of industrial development. It had preserved the “cosy” character of an erstwhile royal residence city. This was partly due to its reputation as an art city and its attractiveness for tourists.

Concessions to Progress

Meitinger’s suggestions for reconstruction of the old cityscape primarily applied to the historical centre. Future-oriented developments were taken into account and modern concepts were implemented outside the periphery of the old city. Meitinger described the creation of a 50-to-70-meter-wide “park and traffic ring” around the old city as “perhaps the most important urban-architectural issue.” Although this ring road was mostly built atop the same land that had once been covered by the city’s historical belt of fortifications, it was nonetheless necessary in some places to cut broad swaths through intact residential areas. Meitinger suggested that a commercial neighbourhood with office buildings and department stores should be erected along Sonnenstrasse, i.e. immediately outside the old-city ring. Tall buildings would be permissible in this zone.

A Plan for a New Schwabing

Although the decision had been made to rebuild the former cityscape, debates about modern alternatives nonetheless continued for several years. The plan for the reconstruction of Schwabing submitted by R. Vorhoelzer in 1946 was an outstanding urban-architectural concept in the sense of the “Neues Bauen” [“New Construction”] movement. Vorhoelzer’s plan envisioned neighbourhoods with plenty of greenery and open space. Though it preserved the existing street grid, this plan called for the demolition of some intact or salvageable houses. It also ignored existing ownership conditions at some sites. For these reasons, the plan was rejected as utopian and unaffordable.

The “Munich Way” of Reconstruction

Several convincing reasons impelled Munich’s city council to decide in favour of resurrecting the inner city’s familiar appearance:

  • Complicated land laws stood in the way of a radical new order. Unlike the situation in other federal states, Bavaria had no reconstruction law that would have made it easier to transfer land ownership or expropriate plots of land. In most cases, alterations in the existing street and lot layout could be achieved only after lengthy negotiations and through the costly purchase of land.
  • The underground network of cables and pipelines to supply utilities and drain wastewater had largely survived the bombardment. To reduce costs, reconstruction plans couldn’t ignore this valuable underground potential.
  • Meitinger also argued that his concept would do justice to Munich’s traditional significance as a city of art and tourism. His plans would restore this stature after reconstruction.

Last but not least, the decision was also in accord with the opinions of the vast majority of the citizens. The decision served as the basis for the so-called “Munich consensus,” which still influences its urban-development policy today.

Protagonists of Reconstruction

Immediately after the war’s end, the American military government appointed Karl Scharnagl to the post of mayor, the same office that he had held as the city’s last democratically elected pre-war mayor from 1925 to 1933. Scharnagl was instrumental in the decision to rebuild the city largely in accord with its pre-war appearance. The actual work of reconstruction, however, was closely linked with Thomas Wimmer, who took office as mayor in 1948, the same year that a currency reform was initiated which created the preconditions for longer-term planning.

Reconstruction plans were mostly in the hands of architects and building engineers employed by the municipal administration. Most of them, including Karl Meitinger (Munich’s first chief municipal architect after the war), had already been active in these same professions before 1945. Like human bridges over the wartime collapse, they contributed towards maintaining continuity in Munich’s urban planning.

No End to Housing Construction

Although the reasons for Munich’s housing shortage have changed over the course of time, housing still remains scarce today. At first, flats were scarce because the city had been destroyed. Later, the shortage was due to the fact that increasingly large numbers of people wanted to settle in Munich. The population levelled off in 1972, but people tended to occupy more space per capita in ensuing decades. The average residential area per person increased from 15 m2 to 38 m2 between 1950 and the present day.

This was due to higher living standards and to an increase in the number of small households, for which there weren’t (and aren’t) enough small flats. More than half of all Munichers (54%) currently live alone; 30% live together with only one other person. These statistics have extensive consequences on urban planning. New dwellings and new settlements will still need to be built, even if the population remains constant or decreases. The infrastructure will likewise require continual expansion, even if the number of people to be supplied remains unchanged. The consequences of this development are a wide-ranging change in the character of urban life, increased paving of the land, and rising costs for heating, lighting, and transportation.

Text: Lutz Hoffmann, 2008

1960 bis 1972: In the Fast Lane towards Modernity

Altstadtring (Aufnahme von 1968)
Old Town Ring (picture from 1968)

Munich’s population topped the one-million mark in the late 1950s. The steady growth of population and commerce led to new problems. In the 1960s, a comprehensive urban-development plan created the preconditions for further growth and transformation into a modern metropolis.

The Victory March of the Automobile

A wave of motorisation in early 1950s began a development that decisively altered the appearance of cities and communities. Efficient manufacturing, mass production, and steadily increasing real wages made cars affordable for progressively greater portions of the population. The car became the symbol of Germany’s “economic miracle.” Road construction and state subsidies for homeowners led people to settle in surrounding areas outside the cities.

Simultaneously, fleets of motorised commuters invaded the inner city, which was threatened with asphyxiation from exhaust fumes. The urban road network had scarcely been expanded, so a change in traffic policy became unavoidable by the early 1970s. Though expansion of pubic transit now took precedence over road construction, the individual’s need for mobility could no longer be ignored. Developing and implementing well-balanced transit and traffic concepts became one of the most important – and least glamorous – tasks for city planners.

A New Model for the City’s Development

A new phase in the city’s planning began in 1960. When the Bundesbaugesetz [federal building law] took effect as a unified planning law for the entire republic. Munich’s Staffelbauordnung [graduated building plan] remained valid for a transitional period which ended in 1979. Prior to 1960, the rebuilding of Munich had been undertaken without any discernible general plan. Hans-Jochen Vogel, who was elected mayor in 1960, realised that the city’s future development needed comprehensive plans that would provide an orientation for all of the municipality’s activities. Ever since, urban-development planning has augmented traditional city planning as a planning task in its own right.
For the first time since the Staffelbauordnung [graduated building plan] of 1904, the city-development plan of 1963 again provided an urban-architectural model. Its guidelines, which were based on scientific studies and forecasts, contributed importantly toward charting the course of Munich’s future evolution. Based on this plan, which was also known as the “Jensen Plan” after its author, the model put Munich in the fast lane toward modernisation.

Citizens Get Involved

The speedy pace of the city’s modernisation didn’t only brought some some obvious advantages, but the disadvantages became increasingly apparent toward the end of the 1960s: land prices were rising and the residential population was being pressured out of the inner city, which was losing its characteristic features.

For the first time, the citizenry began to fight back and exert pressure on urban-planning decisions. Resistance flared in 1966 when a plan was announced that called for rerouting the ring road around the old city through a tunnel to be dug beneath Prinz-Carl-Palais [Prince Carl Palace]. The “Münchner Bauforum” [“Munich Construction Forum”] was the central point of the resistance. The construction of the tunnel couldn’t be prevented, but mayor Vogel was inspired by the Construction Forum to establish the “Münchner Diskussionsforum für Stadtentwicklungsfragen” [“Munich Discussion Forum for Urban-Development Questions”] in 1968. Largely financed by the city, this unique institution has served ever since as a valuable platform for public debate about important problems and projects related to the city’s development.

The “Pink Zone Plan”

Resistance against municipal plans gained political clout toward the end of the 1960s. In neighbourhoods surrounding the old city, citizens’ initiatives formed to oppose expansion of the city’s commercial centre into adjacent peripheral areas. Citizens resisted what they perceived as threats to their residential neighbourhoods. In response to their concerted action, the urban-development plan of 1963 was changed. The city council implemented the “Pink Zone Plan” in 1974, which provided greater protection for existing residential areas.
But this new plan alone wasn’t able to turn the tide of urban expansion. The steering provisions of the urban plan weren’t sufficient to counteract economic dynamics and the obligations of land law.

Integrated Urban-Development Planning

Abortive developments and criticism from citizens prompted mayor Vogel to reorganise developmental planning in the late 1960s. The former planning staff was reorganised as the Stadtentwicklungsreferat [municipal development office] in 1970. An independent department within the civic administration, this office was charged with three principal areas of responsibility:

  • to intensify municipal research,
  • to coordinate all municipal planning activities, and
  • to democratise the planning and encourage participation by citizens in the planning process.

Shaped by the spirit of the times, this concept was borne by the climate of reform policy from the federal capital in Bonn and by the belief that scientifically validated methods could steer economic and social development. In practice, however, these goals were unattainably high. Although the economic crisis that began in 1972 made it impossible to uphold these standards, the urban-development plan of 1975 is still strongly influenced by the spirit of this phase. The Stadtentwicklungsreferat [municipal development office] was disbanded as an independent department. Its tasks are now the responsibility of the planning office.

Mayor Hans-Jochen Vogel

With his decision to draw up for the first time a plan for the overall development of the city, mayor Vogel inaugurated a new era for city planning in 1960. Not only did this pave the way for Munich’s evolution into a modern metropolis, it also served as a nationwide model for urban-development planning. In response to increasing criticism of the negative consequences of modernisation, Vogel proposed the concept of “integrated urban-development planning,” which included broad-based public participation.

Vogel left Munich in 1972 to become federal Minister of Construction in Bonn. The widespread economic crisis that began that year provided an opportunity to roll back the urban-development planning, which had been strongly influenced by the social sciences, and return it to a more pragmatic level.

Text: Lutz Hoffmann, 2008

1973 bis 2000: Crises and Consolidation

Stadtansicht von München
City view of Munich with its famous Frauenkirche © LHM

Munich’s post-war development reached its peak with the 1972 Olympic Games. Afterwards, the oil crisis of 1973 put an abrupt end to the “golden years.” Not until the 1990s, after a phase of small steps, did the city council again decide in favour of a comprehensive concept to expand and ensure Munich’s importance as a metropolis.

“A City in Equilibrium”

A new urban-development plan, obviously influenced by the developmental caesura of 1973, was drafted by the city council in 1975. This new plan sought to rectify the consequences of the overheated growth that had occurred in the recent past, while simultaneously aiming to encourage economic growth and safeguard jobs.

Unlike the urban-development plan of 1963, these new guidelines weren’t so much a statement of urban-architectural policy as they were an articulation of socio-political models: "... a city in equilibrium, where functions and interests are harmonised with one another to yield the greatest possible equality of opportunities and the highest quality of life for all citizens."

The so-called “polycentric concept” was the central idea for settlement development. The rapid growth of clerical and service-related businesses further heightened demand for office space in the inner city. To counteract a one-sided usage structure and the threat of desolation, the burden on the inner city was to be alleviated through the creation of numerous, attractive, decentralised venues.

Inner Development Instead of Urban Expansion

The previous policy of constructing large and costly settlements on the periphery of the city was abandoned. In its place, building activity was to concentrate on readily accessible and heretofore undeveloped sites within existing settlement areas. Valuable undeveloped areas on the city’s periphery were to be preserved for recreational usage. The renewal and modernisation of previously neglected urban areas was recognised as an important priority. The Städtebauförderungsgesetz [municipal construction encouragement law] of 1971 created new legal and financial foundations for this endeavour. Instead of large-scale urban renewal through the demolition of old buildings and the erection of new ones, from the start Munich pursued a concept of urban renewal that sought to conserve existing structures. The increasing attractiveness of the inner city led to a corresponding increase in luxurious modernisation and real-estate speculation. In seriously jeopardised areas, the city drafted preservation rules designed to counteract the trend toward the displacement of residents and commercial operations.

A Change in Traffic Policy

It had long since become obvious that the road network couldn’t be sufficiently expanded to keep pace with the demand. The solution would have to be found in the increased expansion of public transportation. Road construction was to be limited to “the unavoidably necessary volume.” Numerous road projects were abandoned. Routes which were formerly intended for roads could now be used as valuable recreational areas and greenbelts.
Meanwhile, quieting traffic in inner-city residential neighbourhoods became a new task for traffic planners. Better access to the inner city via public transportation made it possible to reduce environmental pollution there. Residential and living quality increased; public space along streets and on piazzas was wrested from cars and regained for people.

Core City and “Bacon Belt”

Long into the era after World War Two, Munich remained the clearly delimited core city with a surrounding rural environment. Communities in the region remained mostly untouched by Munich’s growth and its transformation into a modern metropolis. The rural character of the city’s surroundings survived longer here than it did in the environs of most other big German cities. This contributed importantly to the high recreational value that continues to distinguish Munich and its surroundings.

In the course of the 1950s, settlement activities began to spread into the surrounding countryside. The pace of growth soon became faster in the environs than it was in the city. This brought serious difficulties; traffic problems were most obvious, but other problems resulted from the unbalanced apportionment of financial and social burdens on the core city and the region’s communities. Last but by no means least, uncontrolled growth jeopardised the beauty of the region’s landscapes and threatened its unique recreational value.

Local Policy and Regional Responsibility

The region’s developmental problems could be addressed only through cooperative efforts by the core city and its surrounding communities.

As early as 1950, the majority of nearby communities and districts had voluntarily joined together to form the “Planungsverband Äußerer Wirtschaftsraum München” [“Planning Association of Munich’s Outer Economic Region”]. This association’s task, i.e. to coordinate communities’ plans and integrate them into a regional plan, was largely overtaken by the “Munich Regional Planning Association” in 1973.

Compared to the cities and communities, regional planning had only limited options for asserting its policies. Experience shows that local interests often oppose agreement on common goals. Regions surrounding such cities as Hanover, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart strengthened the role of regional planning by transferring part of the planning authority (e.g. land-use planning) from the communities to the planning association. Models of this sort haven’t met with much success in Munich’s region, which continues to rely on voluntary consensus.

New Impetus

A new phase of economic growth began in the 1980s. Lower energy costs thanks to drastic reductions in the price of crude oil and the increased use of new technologies enlivened the economy. Munich evolved into a high-tech metropolis within the framework of the Bavaria’s ambitious modernisation and investment policy.

At the same time, the chronic shortage of sites for new construction began to change into a surplus. Modernisation in many industries had left much commercial space vacant. The Deutsche Bundesbahn [German federal railroad] shifted comprehensive central rail facilities away from the city’s core and toward its outskirts. Additional space was also freed when military bases became unnecessary and could be closed in the wake of the collapse of the socialist power bloc.

A wave of large projects began with the goal of putting the vacated sites to good use. The strength of this movement prompted some commentators to describe it as a “new Gründerzeit [founding era],” comparable to the first Gründerzeit in the 19th century, when many new businesses and industrial operations were founded in Germany.

Munich’s New Airport

External protagonists now became the prime sources of initiatives to develop the city and its region. After many years of planning, the construction of Munich’s new airport provided new impetus for economic development and paved the way for Munich to become a truly “global city.”

Many years went by before a final decision could be made about the location of the new airport because resistance was offered by citizens, communities, and associations at each proposed site. Not until 1986 were the hurdles overcome so that construction could soon begin in Erdinger Moos [Erding Marsh].

Today, the new airport joins the airport in Frankfurt am Main as the second international aviation hub on German territory. Munich thus became one of the most attractive sites for globally active enterprises.

The Great Exodus

The new airport inaugurated a change in Munich’s settlement development. Some 550 hectares became available at the site of the old airport. These plots also offered new opportunities for the tight inner-city real-estate market. Munich’s trade fair was able to move out of the crowded confines of the inner city and into more spacious surroundings formerly occupied by the old airport in Riem. This was the city’s second-largest investment project, rivalled in size only by the Olympic campus. A new neighbourhood with housing for 16,000 residents and jobs for 13,000 people was built south of the trade-fair campus. A generously proportioned green zone that stretches far into the city was also built. The federal garden show is scheduled to be held here in 2005.

The city developed a new neighbourhood around Bavaria Park near the old trade-fair campus. Conceived under the motto “compact-urban-green,” it became an exemplary project for high-quality inner-city development.

The “Munich Perspective”

New challenges such as European unification, the opening of the East Bloc, and the globalisation of production and markets demand increased efforts to maintain and expand Munich’s competitive capabilities. The changed situation also requires different strategies in urban-development planning. Instead of a new version of the urban-development plan, in 1998 the city council drafted Munich Perspective, a flexible framework of orientation guidelines for the future development of the city.

The “compact-urban-green” leitmotif was implemented for settlement development:

  • “compact” means using space sparingly by building compactly and densely,
  • “urban” means a lively mix of residences, worksites, shopping and recreational venues, and
  • “green” means an attractive array of open spaces and green areas to improve the natural environment and the recreational potential.

Selected pilot projects are expected to indicate exemplary opportunities for implementing these concepts.

Green Planning in Munich

Munich owes a debt of gratitude to its erstwhile Bavarian rulers for having created the city’s most famous parks: Nymphenburger Park [Nymphenburg Park] and Englischer Garten [English Garden]. The transition from courtly, French-style gardens to English-style landscape parks reflects changes both in aesthetics and in society. Munich’s grand parks were open to people of all classes and walks of life. During the course of the 19th century, interest in the creation of larger green zones declined and fell into a century-long slumber. Landscape planning was restricted to adding greenery to impressive urban piazzas. A specific improvement came in 1898 when a ministerial decision stipulated that five percent of the overall area in new building plans would have to be surrendered free of charge to the city for green areas and children’s playgrounds.

Only after 1945 did a new generation of large inner-city park areas begin to compensate for increased urban-architectural density and crowding. Today, landscape planning has evolved into a discipline which seeks to satisfy and balance the requirements of ecological, social, design-related and aesthetic aspects in the planning of open spaces.

Tall Buildings in Munich - An Old Story

On its way toward becoming a “global city,” Munich has not been untouched by the worldwide boom in skyscraper construction. This rekindled a discussion whose roots can be traced to the early years of the 20th century.

Munich has always taken a critical view of skyscrapers. To preserve the appearance of the cityscape, planners decided to keep the old city entirely free of tall buildings. Despite protests, tall buildings were repeatedly permitted as long as they were located sufficiently far from Frauenkirche [the Church of Our Lady] and their heights did not exceed the height of the church’s towers.

On the basis of studies conducted in 1977 and 1995, the city council repeatedly expressed its desire for restraint in skyscraper policy. However, certain areas outside the old city were designated in which greater urban-architectural density in the form of tall buildings would be permissible.

The current trend is to give tall buildings greater significance for the modern appearance of the city. The guidelines of the skyscraper policy are to be complied with, but they may be interpreted with greater latitude and in a more contemporary manner in individual cases.

Munich in the 21st Century, Global - Local

At the beginning of a new millennium, the primary questions for Munich are: How will the city fare in the global context? Can Munich preserve its special qualities and further develop them under more difficult conditions in the future? What is the local viewpoint, i.e. how do Munich’s citizens regard their home city?

Text: Lutz Hoffmann, 2008

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