Americanization of German Cities
Case Studies in Housing
For Ohio State University students:
City and Regional Planning 815 (6 graduate credit hours)

Spring 1998
More Columbus-Dresden syllabi
Hazel A. Morrow-Jones
Ohio State University
City and Regional Planning
Knowlton School of Architecture

Columbus, Ohio, USA
Bernhard Müller
Technical University
Dresden, Germany

Introduction | Readings | Dresden Part of Course | Columbus Part of Course


The course emphasizes housing issues, especially residential land use and development. Examining the process in a non-American context facilitates the understanding of that process.

Seminar Focus
Class readings and discussion will revolve around several questions:

  1. Is the Americanization of German cities actually happening? What patterns do we see that support this idea? First, we need to define and identify the American pattern, with emphasis on spatial distributions and potential conflicts. Columbus will be our local laboratory, but the patterns are visible in most American metropolitan areas. Do we see these patterns in Germany---specifically in Dresden?

  2. What processes led to these patterns? Are they similar or different in the two places? How do they function in each place? What are the social and economic outcomes? What conflicts arise?

  3. Policy interventions: What kinds of policies do we see in the two countries? What perceived problems are they aimed at? How well do they work? Are the suggested solutions really solutions? Do things that work in one country have a chance of working in the other?

  4. Conflict mediation and regional cooperation: Specific policy interventions that we find especially interesting.

During the first ten weeks (before we travel to Germany), students will read extensively, work with their groups to define their topics and base information, and write background papers on those topics. The American students will write the German background paper and the German students will write the American background paper. Obviously each will depend heavily on their colleagues in the other country for information.

We expect to have each group focus on one of the following six topics. All of these topics will need to be more narrowly defined by the group:

  1. Why would communities want to grow and attract new residential development? Philosophical, fiscal, and other reasons.
  2. How do new residential developments happen? The legal and regulatory side.
  3. How do new residential developments happen; where do they happen? The effect of market components.
  4. How does transportation affect residential development and how is it affected by residential development?
  5. How is public open space provided for and how could it be provided for in residential development?
  6. What conflicts occur over new residential developments? What solutions can be applied to conflicts that arise in the residential development process?

During the regular ten-week seminar, background papers will be written on each question, and then we plan to travel to Dresden for two to three weeks of intensive fieldwork. The fieldwork might involve visiting developments, interviewing planning officials, developers, etc., collecting data, doing survey work, and many other things. In the fall, the TUD students will come to Columbus for fieldwork here.

The final product from each group will include project reports and presentations. Evaluation will be based on the quality of this work as well as on class participation (quality not just quantity) and several small individual assignments during the quarter.


Class Readings
I have ordered the following books for the course. I strongly suggest attending the class before buying the books.

William R. Dodge. 1996. Regional Excellence; Governing Together to Compete Globally and Flourish Locally. National League of Cities.

Anthony Downs. 1996. Future Visions for Metropolitan America. The Brookings Institution.

Myron Orfield. 1997. Metropolitics; A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability. The Brookings Institution.

Neal R. Peirce. 1993. Citistates; How Urban American Can Prosper in a Competitive World. Seven Locks Press.

Larry R. Ford. 1994. Cities and Buildings; Skyscrapers, Skid Rows and Suburbs. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
See also the Review (H-Urban: December 1994) by Ian MacLachlan, University of Lethbridge and the Review (John Hopkins University Press: Reviews in American History 23.4 [1995] 675-680) "Sleuthing the Urban Mystery" by Jon C. Teaford, Purdue University.

Robert Geddes, ed. 1997. Cities in Our Future. Island Press. Washington, D.C.

Timothy Beatley and Kristy Manning, 1997. The Ecology of Place. Island Press. Washington, D.C.

Douglas R. Porter. Managing Growth in America's Communities. 1997. Island Press. Washington, D.C.



Field Projects | Historical Overview | Trip Schedule
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Professor Mueller and Dr. Schmidt have chosen three areas in and near Dresden with different characteristics for the group fieldwork in June, 1998 when the Ohio State University class visits Dresden.

The first area is in Dresden and is called Dresden-Neustadt -- the "new city". It is on the side of the Elbe River opposite from the reconstructed heart of Dresden. It includes old areas of the city which need to be redeveloped. Many houses need work and it is not a very stable neighborhood.

The second community is Bannewitz. This is a suburban community of Dresden with new housing developments dominated by multi-family housing.

The third area is Radebeul, a city adjacent to the border of Dresden, which has a very traditional housing structure and which is a very nice place to live in the Elbe valley.

These three areas represent very typical but different structures and situations in the Dresden region and will allow students to examine their group topics in a real-world setting.

Four students from each country (a total of eight per area) will work together and do fieldwork in each of these areas. They will examine the structure of the neighborhood, talk to planners and people in the community, look at planning documents, and investigate the different structures and characteristics of the areas. The issues will be very different in the different areas. After doing the research the student groups will assess the situation and work out a poster about what they discovered.

When the TUD students come to Columbus in the fall, three communities will be selected on which the students will focus their work.


The City of Dresden, capital of the German state of Saxony, sits on the Elbe River in eastern Germany. Dresden's built environment reflects the major periods and cataclysmic events of its history, including the physical imprints of different government systems. The city map shows the street pattern of a long-established European city, with a road system that was not designed for automobile traffic or parking. One also can see that 40% of Dresden's area is devoted to forest and that the flood plain of the Elbe is largely undeveloped park land. The Elbe is a major feature of the city and the location of bridges is a critical factor in transportation flows.

What one cannot see on the map, however, are the beautiful buildings, statuary, art work, and streetscape in much of the city attributed to the 17th century ruler, Augustus the Strong. Many views of the city have been painted, but the best known are probably those by Canaletto. The magnificent center of Dresden was known worldwide.

Unfortunately, that reputation probably contributed to the Allies' choice of Dresden for the bombing of Feb. 13, 1945. The fire bombing inflicted on the city that night left almost nothing standing and most of the remainders were bulldozed for safety. Immediately following the war, Dresden became part of the German Democratic Republic (the GDR or East Germany), which created an anti-war monument from the remains of the Frauenkirche---the Church of Our Lady.

The GDR began recreating the old heart of Dresden exactly as it had been. The street pattern remains the same. Archaeologists conducted digs at the sites, and old materials were reused when possible. New materials were of the same type and used the same techniques as the originals. Many buildings have been reconstructed from the rubble including the Zwinger, the Hofkirche, the Opera House, and others. The current project is the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche. The current views of downtown Dresden hark back to the art of Canaletto, with the addition of construction cranes.

The GDR also constructed buildings in styles that have become associated with socialist governments. Sometimes these buildings were massive but fit reasonably well with their sites. Housing was a special problem because so little rehabilitation was done on the housing stock in the city. The government attempted to alleviate the housing shortage by building projects like Görlitz on the city's edge. To an American, Görlitz looks like the worst excesses of our public housing program. In fact, people were eager to move into the monolithic blocks of buildings because they were up-to-date and available. The result was a social mix that helped the buildings to function as communities.

Since unification in 1989, rebuilding at the center has continued. Many old industrial concerns have closed because they were not able to compete in a market economy. Old industrial sites are a major problem in Dresden: The buildings often date from the Iindustrial Revolution; the infrastructure is not current; there are probably environmental hazards at the sites; the locations are suited to older industrial needs rather than today's; and some of the sites are protected by historical preservation designation. Unemployment also is a problem in spite of the city's recent success in attracting two major international high technology firms.

Since unification, Dresden has begun to see suburban development as well. On first impression, this development does not look very similar to American suburbanization. It is more compact, has a higher percentage of rental units, and is much better served (as is the whole city) by public transportation. The architectural style usually fits well with the older communities nearby, and the edge is very clear and right up against farm fields. On the other hand, the residents tend to be better-off people who have some choice in where they live. People with more resources move from the older apartments and Görlitz-style developments. This increases the concentration of lower income people in some of those older areas. In the U.S., similar trends have increased segregation by income, race, and social class. Whether they will have a similar, significant effect in Dresden is an open question.

Additional information on Dresden can be found on these web sites:

Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library (Library of Congress site)

Photographic Views of Early To Middle Twentieth-century Dresden, Germany


The program in Dresden:  June, 1998

Arrival and orientation
June 15

City-Suburb-Excursion - Suburbanization in Dresden
June 16

Group work
June 17

Excursion to Leipzig - Suburbanization -
A city people say is already "Americanized"
June 18

Group work
June 19

Excursion to Konigstein (Saxon, Switzerland)
June 20, 21

Excursion to Berlin - Suburbanization and Planning aspects
June 22

Excursion to Bautzen and Herrnhut -
Revitalization aspects as well as city development
Overnight stay in the St. Mariental monastery
June 23

Görlitz - City development -
Revitalization/ Problems of land use after mining of resources
(former brown coal mining areas)
June 24

Group work
June 25

Preparation of the presentation
June 26

Ore Mountains, Barenfels
Overnight stay
June 27, 28

Presentation and Workshop
June 29

Departure for USA
June 30



Historical Overview | Trip Schedule
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Columbus is located near the center of Ohio at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. Although neither of these rivers is commercially navigable, they influence movement and development patterns in the entire metropolitan area. The city's street layout and limited public transportation reflect its growth during the automobile era. Interstates 70 (east-west) and 71 (north-south) intersect near the center of the city. Interstate 670 (the innerbelt) is nearing completion, and Interstate 270 (the outerbelt) is being widened.

As the capital, Columbus always has had a significant number of government jobs. In addition, Ohio State University, insurance companies, and medical services are major employers. Although Columbus has industrial activities, it has never been as dependent on them as many other Ohio cities. Consequently, Columbus's economy has not suffered as much in recent economic restructuring and currently has exceptionally low unemployment rates and very healthy growth rates.

Within the American political system, cities and suburbs usually maintain independent governments. Even under the best of circumstances, this system tends to create competition and tension between the governmental units. One of the defining characteristics of the Columbus metropolitan area is that the City of Columbus has pursued an active annexation policy since the 1950s. This allowed for capturing much of the local growth and keeping annexation lanes open to the edges of the built-up area. Many of the suburban governments have learned a lesson from Columbus and have developed their own competing annexation policies. The result is a relatively low-density, sprawling metropolitan area that now spreads into six or seven counties, a situation that has benefited Columbus. However, such sprawl has raised concerns about traffic congestion, pollution, loss of farmland, inadequate open space, poor urban aesthetics, declining quality of life, and segregation of subgroups of the population. Change has happened rapidly and often haphazardly. The sculpture by OSU Fine Arts Professor Cochran symbolizes this sprawl at the urban edge.

For many years the City of Columbus's annexation did not include annexation to the Columbus School District. The result is an unusual spatial pattern in which a household can reside in the City of Columbus, but live in a suburban-style neighborhood in a new house and send its children to a suburban school. The Columbus School District has seen a steady decrease in numbers of students, and an increase in the proportion of minority students and students with special needs.

The older, center part of the city may not have benefited from the annexation at the edge. Some center city neighborhoods have lost their middle class to suburban development. Most new job growth is at the periphery, while many of the poorest households are in the center. Parts of the center have been destroyed to build freeways, most recently, the innerbelt. New development gets funds that might have been spent on upgrading center city services or infrastructure. On the other hand, a few center city neighborhoods have seen significant gentrification and new construction, while others remain healthy.

When new development or gentrification occurs in the center, it is often at the expense of low-income populations and historically important buildings. Low-income households may be displaced by gentrification. A downtown enclosed mall replaced old store fronts and single room occupancy housing with windowless facades and murals. A new downtown soccer arena provides the excuse for removal of an old state penitentiary. The city train station remains only in a wall mural on a parking lot. The local bias toward new development over preservation, in conjunction with the current tax code, helps to explain the surprising amount of surface parking downtown.

The class task will be to determine what constitutes an "American" city. We will then need to examine both Columbus and Dresden for those characteristics and try to understand the processes leading to their existence in the two cities. Seeing similar outcomes in two such different places will provide a special opportunity for understanding urban processes, problems, and solutions.

See a roadside sculpture in Columbus on this web site: "Field of Corn" by Malcolm Cochran

Refer to this OSU web page to see several images of Columbus taken during the course:


Dresden-Columbus Urban Planning Tour - Columbus Visit
September 27-October 12

September 27, Sunday
7:00 pm - slide presentation on Columbus by Mr. Edward Lentz.
University Hall Room 014 ­ OSU campus

September 28, Monday
7:00 am - pick up vans at OSU airport
7:30 am - pick up students at Suburban Lodge
8:00 am - City of Columbus tour - from OSU
12:00 pm - City tour returns to OSU

Lunch in van groups
(City Center would be a "good contrast" to the morning tour)

1:30 to 4:00 pm - 109 N. Front St., First Floor Training Room
Discusion of how Ohio cities are funded
(Professor Dale Bertsch and City Auditor Hugh Dorrian)

4:00 pm - leave in vans for corner of Cleveland and 11th:
  • walk to Rosewind Public Housing Project;
  • discuss COTA transit center planned for area;
  • drive through Linden; drive through Clintonville;
  • drive through Olentangy Village briefly.
7:00 pm - Arrive at the Counterfeit Heist on N. High St.
(for dinner in upstairs area. We have reserved the space – meals range from $5.00 up. Mike estimates that dinner will average about $8.00 per person. I'm looking for a sponsor.)

September 29, Tuesday
Work day - for poster sessions – arrange your own schedules. Vans are available.

September 30, Wednesday
8:00 am - vans pick up students at Suburban Lodge
9:00 to 11:00 am - meeting with Columbus Department of Development, Planning Division at 109 N. Front St.
(Stephen R. McClary, Beth Clark, Dick Ritchie, Diane Cole, and Daniel Thomas)
11:00 am - walk with Beth Clark to the Huntington Building, with a few detours on the way
11:45 am - Buffet lunch on the 34th floor of the Huntington Building, courtesy of Huntington Bancshares
2:00 pm - visit the new COSI site and peninsula
4:30 pm - tour German Village with German Village Historical Society, then dinner on our own in German Village

October 1, Thursday
Morning - to work on group papers
11:45 am - lunch at the Kahiki, 3583 E. Broad St.; drive through Bexley
1:30 to 3:00 pm - Mid-Ohio Regional Planning commission:
planners and staff members on regional cooperation and regional governance at MORPC offices: 285 E. Main St.
3:30 pm -The Broadwin with Concord Capital Corporation, 1312 E. Broad St.:
residential rehabilitation project by one of the local Low Income Housing Tax Syndicators
(Andy Haines and Phil Brown)
Dinner and Evening - the Bethel/Morse Connector group has a meeting at 6:00 pm

October 2, Friday
7:00 am - depart for Cleveland; come directly to the Embassy Suites' Grand Ballroom
(1701 E. 12 St - between Superior and Chester Avenues)
10:00 am - arrive at EcoCity Cleveland press conference unveiling the Ohio Smart Growth Initiative
12:00 pm - lunch at the Ohio Mature Suburbs conference
(Bishop Pella of the Cleveland Archdiocese will speak)
3:00 pm - Collinwood redevelopment site with Ms. Ginny Aveni
(Mark Aumen arranging)
Dinner and Evening - check into the Hampton Inn at Superior and 9 St.
(a couple of blocks from the Public Square) - dinner on your own

October 3, Saturday
10:00 am - walking tour of Cleveland core with Dr. Tom Bier (Cleveland State University)
Afternoon - in small groups to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Museum of Art, etc.

October 4, Sunday
FREE - rest and catch up!

October 5, Monday
7:30 am - pick up students from Suburban Lodge
8:00 am - OSU bus leaves from Carmack lot 3, SW corner
8:30 am - tour of near eastside (Old Town East, South Main) with Jack DeBaar Carriage Trade Realty and Management Plus (807 E. Main St.)
10:45 am - M/I Schottenstein Homes Headquarters (3 Easton Oval);
visitors go to 4th floor training room
11:00 am - Tim Rollins gives Easton presentation/slide show
11:30 am - Question & Answer session
11:45 am - lunch by hosts: buffet outside training room; return to training room to eat
12:45 pm - Craig Mohre and/or Brian Jones give New Albany presentation
1:00 pm - Easton and New Albany tour
3:00 pm - Short North self-tour
Dinner - at Kim Sharpa's home

October 6, Tuesday
Work day -Work on your posters; vans available
OR - Urban University Programs conference, "The State of Ohio's Regions."
[You don't have to register and lunch is not provided (since you will not be paying a registration fee), but I do need a count of possible attendees.]

October 7, Wednesday
8:00 am - pick up students from Suburban Lodge
9:00 am - tour of Darby Creek with Teri Devlin, Steven Flint, and Tim Richardson of the Nature Conservancy; wear "field trip" clothes, as you'll be hiking and taking water samples
Afternoon - poster work

October 8, Thursday
Morning - finalize posters; mount them in Brown Hall gallery space; vans are available
Lunch - on your own
5:00 pm vans meet at Brown Hall
6:00 pm - conference opening; exhibition in Franklin's Bunte Gallery; opening remarks and reception

October 9, Friday
7:30 am - pick up students from Suburban Lodge
8:00 am - poster session at Brown Hall
12:30 pm - depart for Licking County, Granville, Dennison University
1:00 pm - lunch at Dennison University
Afternoon - touring Granville with Granville City Planner
4:00 pm - Longaberger Headquarters, 1500 E. Main Street, Newark;
meet with James Gimeson, Vice President of the Longaberger construction division
5:00 pm - return to Columbus

October 10, Saturday (conference continues)
9:00 am - day-long conference at Columbus State University
4:30 pm - meeting with Mr. Harrison Smith;
presentation of the public and private sectors in development;
Honors House on OSU campus
7:00 pm - dinner at Iana's home

October 11, Sunday
9:00 am - depart for Hocking Hills State Park; picnic by OSU students

October 12, Monday
Morning - student program evaluation

Syllabus prepared for the H-Urban Syllabus Archive 20 November 2002.