Merry Town Planning (Fröhliche Neugestaltung): Humorous Comments on the Reshaping of Berlin during the Nazi Period (summary)

Lars Olof Larsson (PDF)

The article presents a cycle of satirical drawings by the German architect Hans Stephan (1902–1973), created around 1940 and collected under the title Merry Town Planning (Fröhliche Neugestaltung). The drawings remained unpublished as long as the war lasted, although they certainly circulated among Stephan’s colleagues. The existence of slides of some of the drawings suggests that he also showed them in his frequent lectures in Germany and abroad. For the first time, the drawings were published in the Bauwelt journal in 1956 to prove the critical attitude of Stephan towards the Nazi regime. Later, they were published in several articles, and the entire cycle of 14 drawings was published and critically analysed in my book in 2008. The original drawings were lost. However, black-and-white photographs of the whole cycle and a coloured offset print of one of the sheets exist.

Hans Stephan started his career as an urban planner after graduating from the Technical University of Berlin. In 1937, he joined the General Building Inspectorate for the Reich Capital (GBI), headed by Albert Speer (1905–1981), where he was in charge of one of the three planning departments. His colleagues soon recognised his talent as a draughtsman, and Stephan created caricatures and cartoons of his colleagues. The drawings by Stephan reflect the efforts of the young architects of the Speer Institution not to give in to the wartime gloom and the ironic look at the megalomaniacal plans for rebuilding Berlin. Of course, all these men, in their privileged position, were completely loyal to the regime. Stephan seems to have been painting until 1942. The bombing of Berlin deprived him of the desire to have fun and mock the plans for the urban redevelopment of Berlin, especially as the design work was stopped in 1943 and GBI staff moved from the city centre to new workplaces in the suburbs or even rural areas. The original drawings likely perished with part of the institution’s archives. After the war, Stephan continued his architectural career in West Germany. However, he was soon called to West Berlin, where he became one of the most important urban planners.

Keywords: Albert Speer, caricature, Hans Stephan, town planning, architect