BTU coordinates nationwide Research Network on the Structural Heritage of High Modernism

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the interdisciplinary priority programme "Cultural Heritage Construction" proposed by the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg with a total of €12 million

The Cottbus city promenade was once an important ensemble of GDR urban development in late High Modernism. Its focal point was the "Kosmos" mocha milk ice bar, built in 1969; in its star-shaped curved shell roof, architecture and engineering merged to form a powerful unit. "Twelve years ago, the building was demolished because its value had not been recognized. It shares this fate with numerous important buildings of High Modernism, which is to be dated between 1880 and 1970. Many are demolished or disfigured beyond recognition by functional 'improvements'. Every day, testimonies of an entire epoch of architecture and building technology are irretrievably lost", regrets the coordinator of the Priority Programme, Prof. Dr. Werner Lorenz.

In many cases, it is precisely the novel building materials, the load-bearing structure or the manufacturing process that determine the heritage value of these high-modern buildings: the buiding’s structural system becomes the actual cultural heritage. However, strategies and methods for evaluating and preserving this particular genre of cultural heritage have only been rudimentarily developed. There is a lack of decisive fundamentals in construction history as well as in theory of conservation and engineering sciences. "So far, historical sciences, heritage conservation and civil engineering have operated largely independently of, even against each other. Cooperative potentials are barely exploited", explains the civil engineer and historian of civil engineering Lorenz.

With the Priority Programme 2255 "Cultural Heritage Construction", the DFG is funding a nationwide research network coordinated in Cottbus for a period of six years, in which the competence of distinct disciplines are to be bundled across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. The aim is to develop a new type of networked monument preservation based on engineering sciences, which can meet the complex realities of the heritage of High Modernism. "Those who want to shape the future must know on which foundations they stand - and they need the knowledge to preserve them appropriately," Prof. Lorenz sums up.

In the first phase, the German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting the joint research project with € 6 million over three years. After an application and selection process, researchers will start work in summer 2020. The German Research Foundation has founded a total of 14 new priority programs in 2019.