Heimat im Wartezimmer: Architecture, Identity, and Migration in a Socialist Model City
Heiner Müller once described living through the last decades of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) as perpetually being in a Wartezimmer (waiting room): a state of messianic anticipation, forever waiting for the train that would never arrive, for the construction of an socialist homeland that was never fully realized. Eisenhüttenstadt, the first planned city built in the GDR, was intended to exhibit the ideals of the governing SED party as a showcase for a novel architecture and urbanism that would cogently organize new modes of life for its proletarian residents. My thesis has examined 70-plus years of architecture in Eisenhüttenstadt, from its founding as an ideologically charged “prestige project,” through a decline into an affect of ‘Wartezimmer’ in the 1970s, and its current condition following the demise of the East German state. Eisenhüttenstadt today hosts the largest Ankunftszentrum in the state of Brandenburg, a facility which houses individuals awaiting decisions on applications for political asylum. It is also home to growing support for the far-right political party Alternativ für Deutschland or AfD, which has capitalized on the disenfranchisement of the former GDR citizen as a means of spreading its vitriolic messages of an imagined German identity in such communities. Today Müller’s Wartezimmer is still tangible - though the anticipated messiah is no longer the realization of an industrial utopia, but the fulfillment of the promises of a reunited Germany.