«In jeder Stadt (k)ein Warenhaus»

Ilmberger, Katharina and Langenberg, Silke , «In jeder Stadt (k)ein Warenhaus», in: Strukturwandel – Denkmalwandel. Umbau, Umnutzung, Umdeutung. Jahrestagung 2015, Arbeitskreise Theorie und Lehre der Denkmalpflege, Franz, Birgit and Scheuermann, Ingrid (Eds.), Dortmund 2016, pp. 73–81.

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Towards the end of the 19th century, department stores represented a new building task in Germany, whose development was a direct consequence of the industrial revolution, the growth of cities, increasing availability of goods and rising prosperity. The early large-scale buildings, inspired by French and English models, were created in close cooperation between architects, engineers and entrepreneurs and served not only to present goods but also, and above all, to represent the country. The same applies to the few department stores’ buildings built in the interwar period, although these show a strongly reduced formal language and objectivity. As a result of the economic upswing and increasing success of the companies, not only does the department stores’ architecture change significantly in the first decades after the end of the Second World War, but sales concepts and the choice of location are also increasingly adapted to the needs of the customers. By the mid-1980s, the corporations expand on an unimagined scale and cover Germany with a network of different department stores’ types – partly in response to increasing competition from retail centres outside the cities. Many of the concepts oriented towards continuous growth and conversion are now outdated. Above all, the “neutrally packaged” department stores in large cities that were built in large numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the system buildings developed for small and medium-sized towns in the early 1970s, are no longer attractive to customers and corporations. Both locations and buildings are increasingly being abandoned. The concepts developed for the re-use of the larger, mostly inner-city properties are certainly sensible for ecological and resource-economic reasons, and possibly also for reasons of monument preservation, and are preferable to the complete demolition of the buildings – nevertheless they seem only partially suitable for the sustainable and long-term preservation of the large stock of department stores in Germany.