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The Persistance of Imagination

Paper by Katja Bernhardt


With the partitions of Poland, territories that had previously belonged to the Polish Crown were acquired not only by Russia, but also by Austria and Prussia. Against this background, the paper discusses the planning strategies with which Prussia and later National Socialist Germany appropriated these territories. The paper starts from the thesis that the physical appropriation through urban planning and architecture had to be preceded by a mental, intellectual and planning appropriation. Architects were directly involved in this. One thinks, for example, of David Gilly, who was active both as a cartographer and as a town planner in the new Prussian provinces in the East in the 18th century. Thus, the paper aims to discuss the strategic and epistemological link between the spatial recording (e.g. through surveying and cartography) of the incorporated or occupied territories, their visualisation and the concrete planning interventions. It is thus about the indissoluble connection between perception, knowledge generation and appropriation of territories. So, the question necessarily does not only extend to architecture, but also includes the imagination of land and people as well as the perception of landscape and nature. An essential problem will be that of the modernising dimension of these processes, which leads to the fundamental question to what extent postcolonial informed approaches can be fruitfully applied to Central/East European architecture history.

The paper by Katja Bernhardt is part of the European Architecture History Network (EAHN) thematic conference "States in Between. Architecture and Empire in East European and Nordeast Eurasia", which takes place at Helsinki University, from 7-9 June 2023.

Conference programm

The conference is organised by the University of Helsinki and the European Architecture History Network (EAHN).