Course Information
Urban Studies
Art History
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 



This interdisciplinary course analyzes Berlin as a model case for the relations between urban planning, architecture, visual arts, politics and life style. Berlin's function as capital of six successive German states (Prussia, Second Empire, Weimar Republic, Third Reich, GDR, FRG) and cultural showcase of antagonist systems during the Cold War shaped the metropolis as well as the devastations of WW II and practical needs.

Under the conditions of globalization the tensions between a strong sense of public utility and personal profit are increasing. The city that attracts people and ideas from the East and from the West has many faces – most notably perceptible in art and architecture. The program will be focused on interdependencies between ideologies, aesthetical expression  and the city as a living space, integrating  historical  and contemporary aspects.

Excursions to Paris and St. Petersburg will provide a comparative perspective both on the question  how  these  three  cities  have  been  defined  by  their  cultural  and  built environments as a metropolis under specific conditions of a monarchy/dictatorship/democracy. Students will gain insight about the interaction between the levels of state controlled-/aided, commercial and subversive culture.

Beyond the main object of understanding – art and its role in the community – they also learn about the backgrounds of preservation and demolition of artistic relicts of the past.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Unexcused absences will negatively affect the grade for participation. Excessive absenteeism will negatively affect the final grade.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will have gained knowledge about the relations between politics, economics, planning theory and visual art under different historical conditions. They will know how to analyze typical elements of urban styles and be able to apply this skill worldwide. The course is aiming at developing students' competencies on the analytic side as well as encouraging them to express a creative approach to the subject.

Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures with slides
  • Video
  • Field Study
  • Guided tours to relevant locations in town with student statements,
  • Interviews with artist
Field study: 

Field study trips are part of class.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Midterm exam (written) - 25%
  • Travel Assignment - 15%
  • Final Exam Paper - 30%
  • Participation in class discussions - 30%

Travel Assignment
Paper on either Paris or St. Petersburg - 1500 words

Final Exam Paper
Essay of 2500-3000 words or visual project with a concise written introduction (drawings, photos,videos)

Participation in class discussion
Students must complete the assigned readings, participate in class discussion, and attend all site visits

Session Topics Readings
Session 1 In class:   Introduction: Visual Culture and its constituents. Invasions and walls – spacial and historical settings of Berlin
  • An Introduction to Visual Culture, pp. 1-31
  • The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Land­scape, Introduction, p. 1-6
Session 2 In class: The Bauhaus concept: The designation of the visual arts and their integration under the primacy of architecture. Acceptance of the Bauhaus ideas after the war in the East and the West, their impact on the cityscape of Berlin, their value for the future. Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism in relation ­– avant-garde architecture in St. Petersburg.
  • The Bauhaus, pp. 9-12/103-115/123-135
  • St. Petersburg: Russia's Window to the Future, pp. 466-473
Session 3 In class: Doctrines of early Modernism in the international context. Traditionalism and Modernism in Berlin: Understanding of different social models and their shifting representation in space, function, and design ­– a conflict with changing political trenches: Stone versus glass, Stalinism versus International Style, Kreuzberg versus Marzahn. The “Neo-Ottoman” flashback in Turkey
  • The Modern Urban Landscape, p. 98-118
  • Architecture in the Age of Stalin, pp.XIX-XXV
  • Turkey, pp. 7-10, 217-233
Session 4 In class: Art in public spaces. Sculpture, murals, memorials and their positioning between decoration, indoctrination and self adulation. Soviet Russian influence in East Germany. Murals as expression of. Interventional art as a critical commentary in Berlin and Istanbul.
  • Art, Space and the City, pp. 1-3, 5-18, 62-83
  • Hold it! pp. 224-226
Session 5.  In class: How to deal with monuments of an unbeloved past: Policy of demolition and replacement. Examples from Berlin and Istanbul. The simulated history.
  • St. Petersburg: Russia's Window to the Future, pp. 534-536/581-582
  • Visual Culture and Tourism, pp. 85-90
Session 6 Field trip: The vanishing future and the upcoming past. Walk through district Mitte: Unter den Linden, Stadtschloss and Palast der Republik sites, Bauakademie, new Townhouses, Alexanderplatz (corresponding to sessions 2/3/5).
  • Berlin: The Buildings of Europe, pp. 7-25
  • Ost-Berlin und seine Bauten, pp. 16/44/70/102/158/176
Session 7/8 Double field trip: Visit to sites and buildings connected to the Nazi-regime (Reichspropa­ganda­mini­steri­um, Reichsluftfahrtministerium, site of the former Reichs­kanzlei) and the Holocaust (Peter Eisenman’s Ho­lo­caust-Memorial, “Topographie des Terrors“ – site of the former Gestapo head­quarter, the Jewish Museum) (corresponding to sessions 3/5). The Ghosts of Berlin, pp. 126-173
Session 9. Midterm Exam  
Session 10 In class: Purposive constructions of images? The city in fine arts and photo­graphy. Dreams, jokes and weird secrets: the way of surrealism
  • City Gorged With Dreams, pp. 144-167
Session 11 Field trip (day trip) to Dessau: Bauhaus Building and projects, Metamorphosis of an East German provincial town from World War II to the present “shrinking city“, art in the city then and now (corresponding to sessions 2/3/4/5). The Bauhaus, pp. 151-165/179-191
Session 12 In class: High and Low: The role of Street Art/Graffiti, fashion, underground comics, advertising and their area of conflict with avant-garde and established art. How minority cultures become part of the mainstream. The role of underground culture in a dictatorship (former East Germany and Soviet Union)
  • High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, pp. 14-21/68-99
  • After Subculture, pp. 30-35
Session 13 Field trip: Visit to the Kunsthaus “Tacheles“ (corresponding to session 5/13/15); walk through Kreuzberg, a neighborhood of the early 1900s changed by youth culture. Visit to the graffiti-shop “Overkill“ in Kreuzberg and some examples, talk with graffiti artist (corresponding to session 12).
  • Berlin Street Art, pp. 7-9/11-13/16/45/90/94/99/104
Session 14.  In class: “Who pays the piper?“ Paris as an archetype: Between Bohème and Salon. Public and private funding of the arts. The Living and working conditions for artists in former East- and West-Berlin and now
  • Berlin Art Now, pp. 6-9/50-58
Session 15 In class: Discussion of the St. Petersburg and Istanbul experience. Comfort, sensation and indoctrination: How street furniture and advertising participate in the change of the urban style. Paint the city green: Guerrilla gardening. Briefing for the final projects.
  • Urban Landscape Architecture, p. 7
  • David Tracey: Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto, Gabriola Island (Canada) 2007, pp.  1-15, 185-186, 202-203
Session 16 Field trip: The Berlin Wall strip as urban waste, boom area and Land Art object. “Geschichtsmeile“: Berlin Wall memorials between Bernauer Straße and Chaussee­straße (corresponding with session 4/5). The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Land­scape, pp. 7-39
Session 17. Field trip: Walk through Prenzlauer Berg: A new culture in old tenements – from subculture to gentrification; Thälmannpark and different monument policies of the 1980s; the Grellstraße neighborhood by Bruno Taut – a typical modernist project of the 1920s. Similarities to modernist worker neighborhoods and gentrified areas in St. Petersburg (corres­ponding to sessions 2/3/4/5/14).  
Session 18/19 Field trip: City transportation as a screen: art, advertising and subversion in the subway. Subway styles in an international comparison (corresponding to sessions 4/15)
  • Art, Space and the City, pp. 132-149
Session 20. Final Exam  


Required readings: 

(in order of appearance in the reader)

  • Nicholas Mirzoeff: An Introduction to Visual Culture (London/New York: Routledge 2005)
  • Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Land­scape (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997)
  • Frank Withford: The Bauhaus (London: Thames and Hudson 1984)
  • Arthur George, Elena George: St. Petersburg: Russia's Window to the Future, The First Three Centuries (Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing 2003)
  • Edward C. Relph: The Modern Urban Landscape: 1880 to the present (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1987)
  • Vladimir Paperny: Architecture in the Age of Stalin: Culture Two (Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press 2002)
  • Sibel Bozdogan: Turkey. Modern Architectures in History (London: Reaktion Books 2012)
  • Malcolm Miles: Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures (Oxford: Routledge Chapman & Hall 1997)
  • Hold It! The Art & Architecture of Public Space: Bricolage Resistance Resources Aesthetics (Berlin: Jovis 2009)
  • David Crouch/Nina Lubbren (eds.): Visual Culture and Tourism (Oxford: Berg Publishers 2003)
  • Derek Fraser: Berlin: The Buildings of Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1997)
  • Eva-Maria Barkhofen (ed.)/Andreas Butter/Benedikt Goebel: Ost-Berlin und seine Bauten (Tübingen/Berlin: Wasmuth 2006), engl./germ.
  • Ian Walker, City Gorged With Dreams: Surrealism and Documentary Photography in Interwar Paris (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002)
  • Kirk Varnedoe: High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture (New York: Museum of Modern Art 1990)
  • David Tracey: Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Soc Pr 2007)
  • Lorenc Bonet (ed.): Urban Landscape Architecture (Gloucester: Rockport Publishers 2007), p. 7
  • Andy Bennett/Keith Kahn-Harris (ed.): After Subculture: Critical Studies in Contem­po­­­rary Youth Culture (Basinstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2004)
  • Kai Jakob: Street Art in Berlin (Berlin: Jaron Verlag GmbH 2008)
  • Ulf Meyer zu Künigdorf (Editor): Berlin Art Now (Germany: Abrams 2007 )