Reed award honors Dresden

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Dresden’s Neumarkt, reconstructed, with rebuilt Frauenkirche at left. (trvl-media.com)

Henry Hope Reed, one of my heroes, the original classical revivalist, lives on in the Henry Hope Reed Award handed out in association with the Richard H. Driehaus Prize. The Driehaus, rewarding achievement over a lifetime by classical architects, comes with an honorarium of $200,000. The Henry Hope Reed Award, which honors work promoting the classical revival aside from design of classical work itself, hauls in $50,000.

This year’s Reed goes to Torsten Kulke, who has led the reconstruction of Dresden’s Neumarkt, destroyed by Allied bombers in World War II and left vacant by the East Germans for half a century. Like the Breitmans – the 2018 Driehaus winners, who rebuilt a town outside of Paris (see yesterday’s post) – Kulke heads a project years in the making. His work in Dresden since 1999 has shepherded the revival of an area that surrounds one of history’s most remarkable civic reconstructions, the Frauenkirche – a separate, earlier Dresden project begun shortly after German reunification in 1989.

Here is a passage from the jury’s citation for the Henry Hope Reed award:

The reconstruction of the Historical Neumarkt at Dresden over the past two decades is an extraordinary achievement that has been met with astonishment and delight around the world. It is unique in Germany and indeed in the world in its ambition to resuscitate the lost historic heart of a city destroyed decades ago by war.

Richard Driehaus, commenting on Kulke, stated:

Torsten Kulke had the vision to see that Dresden could become a vibrant city once again, respectful of its own rich history, and he overcame significant political opposition to his plan.

Like the effort to reconstruct the church to its original design, rebuilding the church’s historic setting involved grappling with the German architectural establishment, which is as devoutly modernist as it is throughout Europe and America. The modernists claimed that rebuilding the Neumarkt would be inauthentic: only modern architecture can be appropriate in modern times. It is hogwash, of course, that any third grader can see through, yet it is powerful because modern architecture today is a global cult.

It is the work of people like Kulke in Dresden who, helming the Society for the Rebuilding of the Historical New Market Dresden for almost two decades, places before the public the idea that the loss of great and beautiful architecture need not be accepted as the final word. Nothing better makes the case for treating architecture as a phenomenon of place rather than time than the reconstruction of old places anew, and their subsequent integration as workable, lovable places into a broader community. The classical revival is based on the idea that a building’s essence is more in where it is than when it was built. The modernists want the public to believe, on the contrary, that beauty is a part of the past and should not be expected to be found in the present, let alone the future. This is wrong. It condemns millions to a lesser environment. I won’t say it is evil, but it certainly inhabits the dubious space between the immoral and the amoral.

To rebuild a lost and beloved building or place is, on the other hand, a commendable and entirely feasible effort to recoup the losses of our past. Likewise, to build anew in a style that reflects the traditions that arise out of our past to guide us into the future is a perfect example of the ways that citizens and entire industries can learn from history. Is this so difficult for our architecture establishment to understand? Of course not, which is why understanding is not the question. The answer is for Reed laureates to investigate.

In his remarks, Richard Driehaus added a key point:

Through private investment and careful project management, Torsten accomplished an extraordinary feat, and Dresden has become a model of redevelopment for cities and towns around the world.

Not the least such development is the possibility that the original Pennsylvania Station might be rebuilt, more than half a century after its demolition in 1963, to reflect the 1910 design by Charles Follen McKim of McKim Mead & White. If the Germans can do it in Dresden, Americans can do it in New York City. Learn more at Rebuild Penn Station.

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Frauenkirche, completed earlier as a separate project in 2005. (trvl-media.com)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to Reed award honors Dresden

  1. Ethan, I recall being startled upon visiting Berlin and finding the west so ugly and discovering that the east had so much of the great old architecture, and thankful, in spite of myself, that the commies did not knock it down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Richard Cameron says:

    Dear David-Always a pleasure reading your posts. Dresden
    is one of the greatests examples of a growing Rebuild movement.
    The church of Chriat the Saviour in Moscow is
    another remarkable example. We all hope a rbuilt
    Penn station in New York will join that growing list
    and that when it does Henry will be smiling benevolently
    down on us from heaven and giving us his blessing…Richard

    Like

    • Thank you, Richard. And yes, it is slow going but I think classicism will prevail well before the endlessness of time. We are making a good start against great odds, and I do think Henry would be pleased.

      Like

  3. barry says:

    The beauty that you show in rebuilt Dresden and in the previous past on Plessis-Robinson (near Paris) is certainly largely due to the traditionalist architecture, but the pictures show its also due to taming the automobiles. They don’t appear in central Dresden and in Plessis-Robinson they are appear but aren’t given the space to dominate. I wonder if the town is well connected to Paris with RER or RATP public transport that is so widespread in the Isle de France. But here it is a challenge as our auto culture generally demands parking near the door, or in adjacent ugly garages, and fast car travel including thru the city. So we are about to spend a total of about $650 million to rebuild the 6-10 expressway interchange and to widen I-95 north (adding several new lanes) so that motorists can better speed through Providence without a thought to the adjacent city or how the highways look to the city people nearby.

    Like

  4. Thank you for bringing the Reed award to our attention. Dresden is an incredibly ambitious project and it is not surprising the architectural establishment would resist it. I was there a couple of years ago and saw the market square coming together and visited the newly rebuilt Schloss with its iron blast doors bearing the blast marks of the Allied bombing.
    We visited Berlin too and saw that it is reconstructing its Schloss as it was before the East German administration demolished the bombed building the Russians would never allow to be rebuilt. The greatest ally the traditionalists have had in this is the Russians who never allowed the modernists to run amok in East Berlin and Dresden as the Americans did in the west. West Berlin now resembles a bad version of Houston rather than the German capital.

    Like

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