The Voice of the Phoenix
Postwar Architecture in Germany
Does the almost incredible amount of new construction in postwar Germany have any significance for the architect and city planner engaged in urban renewal in America? John Burchard believed that it does, even though the rebuilding of Germany was necessitated by war's destruction, whereas ours has sprung from the deterioration of existing structures coupled with the needs of an existing structures coupled with the needs of an exploding population. In this essay he analyzes the German achievement, particularly in the realm of social architecture – housing, theaters, baths, halls, churches – in hope of discovering generalizations that may help us solve our complex urban and architectural problems. In the more than one hundred and seventy halftones accompanying the text, he offers a clear and well-rounded view of German architecture today.
The author sees in the impressive German achievements in social architecture an indication of what the Germans believe to be important. He wonders if the new construction in America reveals what we think to be important. Reconstructi0on in Germany raises even more questions that might be asked in America: “To what extent should we restore or preserve old buildings? Should we try to rebuild old neighborhoods in the 'spirit' of the admired past? When new buildings must be juxtaposed to old, what attention should we pay to the old? What is the role of memorials in our time? What are the relations of architecture to the other visual arts in our day?”
Not only does the author evaluate German reconstruction in relation to American building but he also compares the German architect with his American counterpart in terms of training, method of working, attitude toward professional status, and the basis on which designs are accepted. In conclusion, he analyzed the successes and failures of Germany's necessarily hasty construction and hazards a few predictions about the future of architecture in both Germany and America.
John Burchard is in a unique position to make this analysis of postwar German architecture. He had known Germany well before Hitler. In the summer of 1945, only a few months after the Armistice was signed, he toured officially the American, French, and British zones of occupied Germany at a time when the rubble in all German cities would have provided enough material “for a wall four feet thick and eight feet high around the United States.” Eighteen years later at the invitation of the German Federal Republic he repeated the journey with a different purpose. The rubble was gone. In its place was an astonishing number of new buildings, many of which he shows and evaluates in this book. The Voice of the Phoenix is authoritative and unique, an impressive addition to the architect's library and stimulating for the general reader as well.