Horst Naumann, Poster for “The New Dresden” exhibition, 1946, Stadtmuseum Dresden.

In 1946, a major exhibition was held in Dresden entitled “The New Dresden”. It brought together reconstruction projects for the city from varied sources: not only from renowned architects and planners, but also from ordinary citizens who answered the Committee’s call to help reconstruct the City of Dresden.

This poster was specially designed to advertise the exhibition. Its creator Horst Naumann (1908-1990) skilfully conjures up the idea of an urban dream oscillating between tradition and modernity.

In the foreground of the picture is the monumental figure of a putto holding Dresden’s coat of arms. Seen against the light, this child symbolises the former city that disappeared during the war. Behind his dark silhouette appear pale architectural forms, bathed in light, like a promise of renewal. Their style is heterogeneous: one can make out classical forms (a dome), but also more modern ones (smooth facades), or even totally futuristic shapes (skyscrapers in the background).

The competition of ideas for ‘The New Dresden’ was a clever political gesture, but above all it was an opportunity to highlight the people of Dresden’s resilience. On public display here were ideas ranging from the sensible and serious to imaginative utopias. But, in the end, neither the former nor the latter were used to rebuild the bombed-out city centre.

Sonia de Puineuf