The tumultuous German 20th-century ended with a Germany that had never been so stable. Such stability was based, of course, on decades of post-war rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation, secured in the wider context of extraordinary European cooperation.
The so-called Economic Wonder (Wirtschaftswunder) enabled Germany to rebuild after enormous material destruction, and a key element of it was enormous house-building projects. A fascinating exhibition entitled Die Neue Heimat (1950-1982), A Public Housing Corporation and Its Building gives visitors an insight into what ‘was the largest and most prominent non-state housing corporation in post-war Europe.’
Over 30-odd years, the Neue Heimat building corporation planned and built a staggering 460,000-plus apartments, and other municipal and commercial buildings across Germany – including Munich’s Neuperlach, Frankfurt’s Nordweststadt and Bremen’s Neue Vahr. Idealistic and ideological, architects and planners had genuine visions, even if some settlements have stood the time better than others.
Neue Heimat ended mired in scandal, but it still has something to say about what can be done on a huge scale – given the will and right economic and political environment. With cities a diverse as Munich to London desperately crying out for a joined-up thinking housing policy, we could do worse than look at the best of Neue Heimat to discover a way out of our contemporary housing crisis.