"Not a few historic monuments lead an inconspicuous life," according to Hans H. Hanke.1 That is especially the case for most of buildings associated with the reconstruction of West Germany after 1945. What was built immediately and in deprived conditions for the surviving inhabitants of its war-torn urban centers—plus nearly ten million refugees—is still on view in the housing estates of the country's large cities, and it exhibits the strange charm of casual insignificance. Only with the founding of the Federal Republic in May 1949, and then with the incipient "economic miracle" in the 1950s and 1960s, did opulent architectural forms and bold architectural gestures return to the West German cityscape.

The questions that were often debated at that time regarded economic, social, and stylistic criteria. There was no consensus in Germany's new federal states about whether cities should be...

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