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Gründerzeit architecture

History of the Gründerzeit in Leipzig

Gründerzeit-style building façade, architecture in Leipzig, culture
GründerzeitWilhelminian Architecture in Leipzig © Andreas Schmidt

Leipzig, the monument capital

With more than 15,000 cultural monuments - including 80 percent of Gründerzeit houses - Leipzig is Germany's capital of monuments and possesses the largest quantitative and qualitative wealth of buildings from the Gründerzeit and Art Nouveau periods. This architectural wealth is due to the city's remarkable growth between 1871 and 1914 when the population grew from about 100,000 to around 625,000. In addition to extensive residential areas and villa districts, a completely new infrastructure was created in the resulting construction boom: town halls, post offices, banks and hospitals. 

The main architectural buildings of this period include the new Town Hall, the former Imperial Court of Justice and the University Library. The boom in large-scale industry began around 1865, after guild regulations were abolished in 1861 and freedom of trade was introduced in Saxony in 1862. Private individuals and public limited companies provided great impetus for industrialisation.

Housing development

With the influx of immigrants as a result of industrialisation, demand for housing increased. The Gründerzeit's answer to this were uniform development plans and private-sector apartment block construction. A social mix in these new residential districts was achieved by setting up shop floors and merchant's apartments in the front buildings, apartments for employees on the upper floors and worker's quarters in the rear courtyards. Legislation adopted in 1889 meant that it was attractive for insurance companies to invest in local institutions. Until 1929 there were about 30 building cooperatives. 

After the First World War, small, functional apartments, uniformly-sized building complexes and communal amenities such as wash houses and green areas were built. Fortunately, the Second World War did not cause as much damage to Leipzig as to other major cities, so many of the magnificent buildings were preserved.

Gründerzeit architecture

The Waldstraßenviertel, Forest Street Quarter is an example of Gründerzeit architecture in Leipzig, culture
Waldstraßenviertel - Waldstraße © Andreas Schmidt

A dazzling example of masterful housing construction during Leipzig's historicist era is the Waldstraßenviertel, a neighborhood northwest of the city centre. The name "Waldstraßenviertel" derives from its location as it is situated alongside the Waldstraße (English: Forest Street). Its proximity to the Rosental park made the Waldstraßenviertel district particularly popular as a building site for the apartments of the wealthy bourgeoisie.

The tasteful late classicist, historicist and art nouveau buildings still characterise the Waldstraßenviertel today. The lavishly decorated street facades, the numerous preserved and renewed decorations, the murals in the hallways and reception halls are all particularly impressive. Around 550 houses belong to the Waldstraßenviertel, and most of them are listed historical monuments.

Villas on Karl-Tauchnitz-Straße © Andreas Schmidt

The Musikviertel is located southwest of the city centre. The name refers to the musical institutions of the second Gewandhaus (1884) and the Royal Conservatory of Music (1887) which were established in the neighbourhood. Many streets in the district have been named after composers.

The representative district was created on the basis of a development plan from 1880 and is characterised by magnificent historicist buildings, including the Bibliotheca Albertina, the former Imperial Court of Justice and the Leipzig Academy of Fine Arts. Furthermore, apartments were built for the wealthy middle classes.

The Roßbach House, which was designed by Arwed Roßbach in 1892/93, and the villas in Karl-Tauchnitz-Straße, where 13 of 32 villas are still preserved, are architecturally impressive. The villa plots were generously planned and provided space for front gardens and sheds. Thanks to its proximity to Clara-Zetkin Park and the alluvial forest, it offers the best living conditions.

August-Bebel-Straße 2 © Andreas Schmidt

The Südvorstadt district covers the area between the city centre and the Connewitz neighbourhood. Because of its proximity to the city centre and the trendy Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, it is popular with young people. The spacious residential area boasts a large stock of Historicist and Art Nouveau buildings.

In addition to Karl-Liebknecht-Straße and the parallel Kochstraße, the August-Bebel-Straße also stands out in terms of urban planning. It was designed after 1870 as a 34-metre-wide avenue between Richard-Lehmann-Straße and Mahlmannstraße and is considered one of Leipzig's most magnificent residential streets. Many of the villa-like apartment buildings with picturesque front gardens have been preserved. Stores were not allowed in the street.

The tree-lined middle road was originally planned as a riding trail and today provides an opportunity to relax. Also worth a visit is Café Grundmann at August-Bebel-Straße 2 with its original Art Déco furnishings from 1930 (residential building from 1880).

View from the Lenné-Anlage © Andreas Schmidt

The Schillerstraße, which adjoins the Petersstraße, is considered a splendid boulevard in Leipzig historicism. The residential and commercial buildings at Schillerstraße 3 to 6, built between 1861 and 1863 in enclosed buildings, represent outstanding architecture.

The houses are characterised by round arched windows, natural stone panelling, relief friezes and straight roof ends. Opposite the ensemble of buildings is a green area designed by the Prussian garden artist Peter Joseph Lenné, which was presented on the occasion of Friedrich Schiller's 100th birthday on 10 November 1859.

The Lenné complex houses the Schiller monument, which was created in 1914 by the Leipzig sculptor Johannes Hartmann using white Laas marble. The symbolic figures "Grandeur" and "Tragedy" rest against the pillar bearing the bust of Schiller. The Lenné grounds, also called Schillerpark by Leipzig residents, are especially popular with students as an oasis in the lively city centre.

© Andreas Schmidt

Located near the zoo, Nordplatz and its striking historical ensemble is considered one of the most beautiful squares of the Wilhelminian era (1890-1918). The St. Michael Church is located at the intersection of several visual axes and is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. The Protestant church was built according to designs by the Leipzig architects Heinrich Rust and Alfred Müller and consecrated in 1904. The church tower, which is around 70 metres high, is of particular significance.

The prelude to the development of the square was the Neo-Baroque residential building Nordplatz 1, constructed between 1888 and 1890. It is simultaneously the end of the Nordstraße, which leads from the city centre to the Nordplatz.

Other splendid historicist buildings follow, including the Neo-Renaissance residential building at Nordstraße 2 and the corner building Nordplatz 3, built in 1904/05. The latter forms the architectural transition to the Art Nouveau façade of the parish office (Nordplatz 4), which is adorned with an unusual entrance door.