One rendering depicted what at first seemed ruins but proved to be remains from an archeological find. The adjoining panel noted that the renovated Town Hall would soon serve as an exhibition space for temporary displays as well as a home for the remains, in reality, the groundwork for the old city wall and various Altstadt buildings of all ages, Roman, Carolingian and medieval. It also mentioned that the groundwork had naturally only become available to archaeologists with the Altstadt’s razing in the war. Though I found the paragraph’s tone perhaps too casual, be it merely my imagination or the reality, I could see for a moment people in field khakis picking over the husk of a quarter which had at last ceased to smoke.
The next panel over presented the viewer with before- and after-photographs of several buildings so that one might follow the restoration process’ attempt to bind past to present. Yet the side-by-side comparison brought out just how much had changed in the intervening time. The building at 40 Markt Krönungsweg provided an excellent illustration thereof. While the ground floor windows retained their arches and the gable its steep pitch, the upper stories’ separations and overhangs were too crisp, jutted from the new structure farther than they had on buildings from the pre-war period. Despite being clad in red sandstone, the new 40 Markt’s modern fittings and lines created a disconnect between past and present.
Images new and old of the Hühnermarkt’s surrounds showed the same uneasy composite, and a nearby legend made the reason much clearer. In addition to the replicas already foreseen, the project’s overseers had accepted proposals from upwards of twenty architectural studies for new builds within the Altstadt. In the end, the proportions of replica to new builds proved roughly half and half. Indeed, so numerous were the new builds that I could no longer reasonably consider the undertaking as quarter restoration but instead urban renewal.
As I read more of the project, I better came to understand how renewal came at the price of its people. Whereas the first panels which I came upon laid emphasis on the Altstadt’s popular character, brimming with the bustle and color of life, work and trade, the later cast some doubt on whether the city planners sought bustle and color. Though the call for residents went out to young and old, family and single, it left quite unsaid what was to become of the Altstadt’s current inhabitants. I found it difficult to imagine many current residents being able to afford higher rents, whatever the planners’ promise for all of spacious homes, cosy apartments with balconies on courtyards, small buildings giving onto the city skyline.
In comments scrawled on the panels at the walkway’s end, such as “Richtig alt”, “kein Zombie” and “Innenstädter gesucht die kommen gerade aus Unsern!”, I thought to find something like confirmation of a city’s malcontent. And I too was ready to head elsewhere.