A former Lord Mayor of Dortmund once said: “When I come out of the station, look right, left and straight ahead, then I think what a beautiful city this is!” There are bound to be lots of Dortmunders who would agree with this – when you come out of the station today you get a grand impression of interesting modern architecture framing the view up the dynamic broad steps leading to the 14th century St. Petri Church in the centre of the city - but Dortmund is not what you would normally call a beautiful city. So many of the mid to late 19th century Gründerzeit style buildings in the city of Dortmund were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. After the war, the city played a big role in rebuilding and reviving the country with lots of people from Germany and abroad coming here to work in the many industrial companies. And they needed places to live, spend their free time and do their shopping. So, the focus was more on getting buildings up quickly rather than creating something beautiful, although many would say this period also created its own particular charm.
When I come out of the station, look right, left and straight ahead, then I think what a beautiful city this is!
- Former Lord Mayor of Dortmund -
Baukunstarchiv NRW – NRW Architecture Archive
That is why Dortmund looks the way it does. You won’t find a picturesque old town quarter in the city centre. But if you walk through the city with open eyes, and get out to the suburbs as well, you will be surprised at just how much interesting architecture there is to be found – and you will understand why they chose to house the State of NRW Architecture Archive here.
Modern city with a mix of architectural styles
The city centre of Dortmund is a very lively place. On sunny days, especially at the weekends, it is full to bursting. Many visitors don’t actually manage to look up as they are too busy doing their shopping. But when they do, they see a diverse collection of many different architectural styles – mid to late 19th century Gründerzeit, typical 50s and 60s, a bit of brutalism from the 80s, and ambitious architecture from the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. Quite an exciting combination! A few buildings have even survived from the Middle Ages. You will see them near to the two city centre churches St. Reinoldi and St. Marien and at the Alter Markt square. You can’t miss them as they really stand out.
Gründerzeit in Dortmund
The Nordstadt district, north of the city centre is always well worth a visit, and especially if you are interested in the architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is where you will find the largest coherent collection of Gründerzeit architecture in North Rhine-Westphalia. You should definitely take a look at the Eulenburg building in Stahlwerkstraße or at the house at number 3 Feldherrenstraße.
The Gründerzeit buildings are also one of the reasons why the Kreuzviertel is one of the most popular districts in the city, with its wide range of historical styles from this time of change.
There is a lot more Jugendstil in Dortmund than you might expect. The Kaiserviertel district boasts many buildings proudly showing off their typical Jugendstil decorations, and many of the gravestones on the nearby Eastern Cemetery are also carved with Jugendstil designs. The former Zeche Zollern mine complex is a delight of Jugendstil design. The famous Machine Hall there is embellished with so much Jugendstil detail and its spectacular entrance portal even featured on a postage stamp to celebrate Jugendstil design – the portal is now a favourite backdrop for selfies.
If you would like to join a Jugendstil sightseeing tour of the east of Dortmund then have a look here.
PHOENIX See Lake
Dortmund is a dynamic city that is in a constant state of change and development and, with the number of inhabitants still growing and growing, a lot of construction projects are currently underway. And the new buildings that are going up now look really good. One particularly interesting example is at the PHOENIX See Lake area. Impressive modern architecture wherever you look, which has attracted quite a few professional footballers to live there as well.
Did you know?
On the corner of the Hellweg and Kleppingstraße, between the St. Marien Church and the old building which is now home to a well-known mobile phone provider, a stone archway connects the two buildings. This shows how wide – or rather how narrow – Dortmund’s streets were in the Middle Ages. It is said that the alleyways had to be just wide enough for a knight on horseback to be able to pass through while holding a spear across his saddle.
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