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city | building | plan - 850 Years of Urban Development in Munich

Stadtansicht von München  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
City view of Munich with its famous Frauenkirche

Crises and Consolidation, 1973 - 2000

Munich’s post-war development reached its peak with the 1972 Olympic Games. Afterwards, the oil crisis of 1973 put an abrupt end to the “golden years.” Not until the 1990s, after a phase of small steps, did the city council again decide in favour of a comprehensive concept to expand and ensure Munich’s importance as a metropolis.

“A City in Equilibrium”

A new urban-development plan, obviously influenced by the developmental caesura of 1973, was drafted by the city council in 1975. This new plan sought to rectify the consequences of the overheated growth that had occurred in the recent past, while simultaneously aiming to encourage economic growth and safeguard jobs.

Unlike the urban-development plan of 1963, these new guidelines weren’t so much a statement of urban-architectural policy as they were an articulation of socio-political models: "... a city in equilibrium, where functions and interests are harmonised with one another to yield the greatest possible equality of opportunities and the highest quality of life for all citizens."

The so-called “polycentric concept” was the central idea for settlement development. The rapid growth of clerical and service-related businesses further heightened demand for office space in the inner city. To counteract a one-sided usage structure and the threat of desolation, the burden on the inner city was to be alleviated through the creation of numerous, attractive, decentralised venues.

Inner Development Instead of Urban Expansion

The previous policy of constructing large and costly settlements on the periphery of the city was abandoned. In its place, building activity was to concentrate on readily accessible and heretofore undeveloped sites within existing settlement areas. Valuable undeveloped areas on the city’s periphery were to be preserved for recreational usage. The renewal and modernisation of previously neglected urban areas was recognised as an important priority. The Städtebauförderungsgesetz [municipal construction encouragement law] of 1971 created new legal and financial foundations for this endeavour. Instead of large-scale urban renewal through the demolition of old buildings and the erection of new ones, from the start Munich pursued a concept of urban renewal that sought to conserve existing structures. The increasing attractiveness of the inner city led to a corresponding increase in luxurious modernisation and real-estate speculation. In seriously jeopardised areas, the city drafted preservation rules designed to counteract the trend toward the displacement of residents and commercial operations.

A Change in Traffic Policy

It had long since become obvious that the road network couldn’t be sufficiently expanded to keep pace with the demand. The solution would have to be found in the increased expansion of public transportation. Road construction was to be limited to “the unavoidably necessary volume.” Numerous road projects were abandoned. Routes which were formerly intended for roads could now be used as valuable recreational areas and greenbelts.
Meanwhile, quieting traffic in inner-city residential neighbourhoods became a new task for traffic planners. Better access to the inner city via public transportation made it possible to reduce environmental pollution there. Residential and living quality increased; public space along streets and on piazzas was wrested from cars and regained for people.

Core City and “Bacon Belt”

Long into the era after World War Two, Munich remained the clearly delimited core city with a surrounding rural environment. Communities in the region remained mostly untouched by Munich’s growth and its transformation into a modern metropolis. The rural character of the city’s surroundings survived longer here than it did in the environs of most other big German cities. This contributed importantly to the high recreational value that continues to distinguish Munich and its surroundings.

In the course of the 1950s, settlement activities began to spread into the surrounding countryside. The pace of growth soon became faster in the environs than it was in the city. This brought serious difficulties; traffic problems were most obvious, but other problems resulted from the unbalanced apportionment of financial and social burdens on the core city and the region’s communities. Last but by no means least, uncontrolled growth jeopardised the beauty of the region’s landscapes and threatened its unique recreational value.

Local Policy and Regional Responsibility

The region’s developmental problems could be addressed only through cooperative efforts by the core city and its surrounding communities.

As early as 1950, the majority of nearby communities and districts had voluntarily joined together to form the “Planungsverband Äußerer Wirtschaftsraum München” [“Planning Association of Munich’s Outer Economic Region”]. This association’s task, i.e. to coordinate communities’ plans and integrate them into a regional plan, was largely overtaken by the “Munich Regional Planning Association” in 1973.

Compared to the cities and communities, regional planning had only limited options for asserting its policies. Experience shows that local interests often oppose agreement on common goals. Regions surrounding such cities as Hanover, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart strengthened the role of regional planning by transferring part of the planning authority (e.g. land-use planning) from the communities to the planning association. Models of this sort haven’t met with much success in Munich’s region, which continues to rely on voluntary consensus.

New Impetus

A new phase of economic growth began in the 1980s. Lower energy costs thanks to drastic reductions in the price of crude oil and the increased use of new technologies enlivened the economy. Munich evolved into a high-tech metropolis within the framework of the Bavaria’s ambitious modernisation and investment policy.

At the same time, the chronic shortage of sites for new construction began to change into a surplus. Modernisation in many industries had left much commercial space vacant. The Deutsche Bundesbahn [German federal railroad] shifted comprehensive central rail facilities away from the city’s core and toward its outskirts. Additional space was also freed when military bases became unnecessary and could be closed in the wake of the collapse of the socialist power bloc.

A wave of large projects began with the goal of putting the vacated sites to good use. The strength of this movement prompted some commentators to describe it as a “new Gründerzeit [founding era],” comparable to the first Gründerzeit in the 19th century, when many new businesses and industrial operations were founded in Germany.

Flughafen Münhen, Terminal 2  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
Airport of Munich
© Michael Nagy / LHM

Munich’s New Airport

External protagonists now became the prime sources of initiatives to develop the city and its region. After many years of planning, the construction of Munich’s new airport provided new impetus for economic development and paved the way for Munich to become a truly “global city.”

Many years went by before a final decision could be made about the location of the new airport because resistance was offered by citizens, communities, and associations at each proposed site. Not until 1986 were the hurdles overcome so that construction could soon begin in Erdinger Moos [Erding Marsh].

Today, the new airport joins the airport in Frankfurt am Main as the second international aviation hub on German territory. Munich thus became one of the most attractive sites for globally active enterprises.

The Great Exodus

The new airport inaugurated a change in Munich’s settlement development. Some 550 hectares became available at the site of the old airport. These plots also offered new opportunities for the tight inner-city real-estate market. Munich’s trade fair was able to move out of the crowded confines of the inner city and into more spacious surroundings formerly occupied by the old airport in Riem. This was the city’s second-largest investment project, rivalled in size only by the Olympic campus. A new neighbourhood with housing for 16,000 residents and jobs for 13,000 people was built south of the trade-fair campus. A generously proportioned green zone that stretches far into the city was also built. The federal garden show is scheduled to be held here in 2005.

The city developed a new neighbourhood around Bavaria Park near the old trade-fair campus. Conceived under the motto “compact-urban-green,” it became an exemplary project for high-quality inner-city development.

The “Munich Perspective”

New challenges such as European unification, the opening of the East Bloc, and the globalisation of production and markets demand increased efforts to maintain and expand Munich’s competitive capabilities. The changed situation also requires different strategies in urban-development planning. Instead of a new version of the urban-development plan, in 1998 the city council drafted Munich Perspective, a flexible framework of orientation guidelines for the future development of the city.

The “compact-urban-green” leitmotif was implemented for settlement development:

  • “compact” means using space sparingly by building compactly and densely,
  • “urban” means a lively mix of residences, worksites, shopping and recreational venues, and
  • “green” means an attractive array of open spaces and green areas to improve the natural environment and the recreational potential.

Selected pilot projects are expected to indicate exemplary opportunities for implementing these concepts.

Green Planning in Munich

Munich owes a debt of gratitude to its erstwhile Bavarian rulers for having created the city’s most famous parks: Nymphenburger Park [Nymphenburg Park] and Englischer Garten [English Garden]. The transition from courtly, French-style gardens to English-style landscape parks reflects changes both in aesthetics and in society. Munich’s grand parks were open to people of all classes and walks of life. During the course of the 19th century, interest in the creation of larger green zones declined and fell into a century-long slumber. Landscape planning was restricted to adding greenery to impressive urban piazzas. A specific improvement came in 1898 when a ministerial decision stipulated that five percent of the overall area in new building plans would have to be surrendered free of charge to the city for green areas and children’s playgrounds.

Only after 1945 did a new generation of large inner-city park areas begin to compensate for increased urban-architectural density and crowding. Today, landscape planning has evolved into a discipline which seeks to satisfy and balance the requirements of ecological, social, design-related and aesthetic aspects in the planning of open spaces.

Hochhaus der ADAC-Zentrale und Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
High-rise building of the ADAC headquarter and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
© Michael Nagy / LHM

Tall Buildings in Munich - An Old Story

On its way toward becoming a “global city,” Munich has not been untouched by the worldwide boom in skyscraper construction. This rekindled a discussion whose roots can be traced to the early years of the 20th century.

Munich has always taken a critical view of skyscrapers. To preserve the appearance of the cityscape, planners decided to keep the old city entirely free of tall buildings. Despite protests, tall buildings were repeatedly permitted as long as they were located sufficiently far from Frauenkirche [the Church of Our Lady] and their heights did not exceed the height of the church’s towers.

On the basis of studies conducted in 1977 and 1995, the city council repeatedly expressed its desire for restraint in skyscraper policy. However, certain areas outside the old city were designated in which greater urban-architectural density in the form of tall buildings would be permissible.

The current trend is to give tall buildings greater significance for the modern appearance of the city. The guidelines of the skyscraper policy are to be complied with, but they may be interpreted with greater latitude and in a more contemporary manner in individual cases.

Munich in the 21st Century, Global - Local

At the beginning of a new millennium, the primary questions for Munich are: How will the city fare in the global context? Can Munich preserve its special qualities and further develop them under more difficult conditions in the future? What is the local viewpoint, i.e. how do Munich’s citizens regard their home city?

Text: Lutz Hoffmann, 2008


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