Residential Complexes I–III
The city of Eisenhüttenstadt – originally EKO Steelworks City, and from 1953 to 1961 Stalinstadt – is Germany’s most extensive architectural monument. Founded in 1950 in the still-young GDR as a model socialist city, it was intended to provide the employees of East Germany’s largest steel mill with improved living and working conditions under the motto “Steel, Bread, Peace.” The urban plans were drawn up by Kurt W. Leucht, who had already worked on Stalinallee in Berlin.
The first residential areas were built between 1951 and 1958. They followed the Sixteen Principles of Urban Design (1950), the most important urban-planning guidelines in the GDR, of which Leucht was one of the co-authors. The central Residential Complexes I–III by Josef Kaiser, Peter Schweizer, Willi Stamm, among others, were constructed in the “confectionary style” of socialist classicism and are listed historical monuments. The streets were lined with statues and parks, the apartment buildings had arcades and balconies and were decorated with ornaments and paintings. The worker’s apartments were intended to impress Westerners as a prestigious urban project.
The Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost (EKO) steelworks provided continuous economic growth and an ever-growing populace, and additional residential complexes had to be built well into the 1980s. However, shortages meant that the standards of the early complexes could not be maintained. Block houses and ribbon developments were built, and later prefabricated buildings.
After reunification, the city underwent a steep decline in population. The accompanying vacant apartments led to the demolition of some of the residential complexes. Thanks to meticulous and detailed preservation work on the Residential Complex I–III, Eisenhüttenstadt remains tangible today as a unique monument of East German social and aesthetic architecture in the 1950s.
The restored former Day Care Center II (1953–54) on Erich-Weinert-Allee 3 houses the Documentation Center for Everyday Culture in the GDR. The former restaurant Aktivist on Karl-Marx-Strasse 45 with a beer hall and dance café based on designs by Heinz Scharlipp and Hermann Enders, among others (1953–54), also deserves attention. Closed for almost twenty years, it was professionally restored by Sirko Hellwig andreopened as a restaurant in 2010. [KM/HY]