After the German victory over France in 1871 Strasbourg, as part of Alsace-Lorraine, was ceded to the German Empire and became the capital of the Elsass-Lothringen Reichsland. In 1880 the municipal architect, Jean-Geoffroy Conarth, came up with a plan to develop Strasbourg as a capital which would showcase the modernity and glory of the Imperial German Empire. (There had been unrealised plans to extend the city since the 18th century.)
The first phase (1 on the plan above) consisted of an Imperial Palace (Now the headquarters of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine – the oldest international institution in modern history) and Palace of the Landtag of the Elsass-Lothringen Reichsland (The Regional Assembly, now the Théâtre National de Strasbourg.) opposite each other on a big public square, the Kaiserplatz (Now place de la république), ministries, post office, library and university along a grand East-West avenue, north of the historic city. This was completed in 1900 with other areas shown above including the station and private and collective housing, which took longer to complete. In 2010 the municipality of Strasbourg and the Alsace Region decided to carry out a six-year study of the area to better understand the development of the area, and better preserve it. The first study developed was l’axe impérial, the first stage developed and this weekend there is a programme of guided visits, displays and talks about the results of this first stage. (Here is the website.)
I live in the ‘quartier gare’ (5 in the diagram above) and the houses in my street were built in the first decade of the 20th century. The picture shows them and they are typical of the buildings of the period with a historical eclecticism of taste (Italian or German neo-Renaissance, neo-Baroque etc.) Among them some wonderful examples of Art Nouveau constructions can be found including my favourite building in the local rea, around the corner from me.
The building had got into a poor state with plaster falling off and measures erected to stop people being hit by any further pieces to crumble away. It has now been restored to its glory and I just love looking at it in the sunshine, as in the photo, with the different shapes, like the more oval openings for the balconies, the different treatment of the recessed corner and the figurehead, or spire, on the corner of the building.
Across the street the variation of the building designs, styles and details is added to with colour. There are several examples of wonderful or interesting details on the buildings but I think that is the subject for another post.
Around the corner is a group of buildings different in style, closer to the buildings I saw in the part of Gdansk where Gunter Grass was born. It’s no surprise that two sets of buildings in two Germanic cities should be similar. These ones seem to have been designed as public collective housing and that seems to be the use to which they are put. A quick tour of some of the buildings part of the ‘Strasbourg Neustadt’ in the block where I live.