Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Germany in Black and White

Spiegel Online has published a fascinating article exploring the history of German cityscapes and town-planning. The article uses black and white maps to visualize the changing trends in town planning. These city blueprints reveal how German towns and cities have developed over time, both organically and from ordered imposed planning.

Germany in Black and White uses OpenStreetMap data to show the building outlines and street patterns of a number of German towns and cities. The article examines the history of German towns in chronological order - starting with towns which first emerged in Roman times. Only a few German towns still retain the influence of Roman organization. However the rectangular layout typical of Roman camps, the orderly road network and the former city gates of Roman camps can still be seen in the layout of some of Germany's most historic towns.

In the middle-ages the orderly planning of the Romans gave way to a more organic form of development. In medieval towns winding narrow streets snaking around market squares and churches reveal towns which developed gradually and with little formal planning. 

During the Baroque period the idea of structured formal planning re-emerged with a trend to replace some medieval city centers with imposing large buildings and ordered geometric street patterns. During industrialization the huge increases in the urban population led to the development of densely packed housing. In the 20th century there were numerous different trends in town-planning. All of which have left a mark on the footprint of German towns and cities.

Germany in Black and White includes an interactive blueprint map. This map allows you to explore a black and white map of any German town and city. You can therefore apply what you have learnt from the article to see if you can spot the influence of history on the footprint of your own city.

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