Walter Möbius, Dresden, Almarkt square. View from the former Möbius fashion shop of the construction site and the residential and commercial buildings (1953-1956; arch. H. Schneider and K. Röthig), the church of the Holy Cross and the town hall tower, 1953-1956, SLUB Dresden Deutsche Fotothek.

Walter Möbius (1900-1959) was the first in-house photographer at the Dresden University Library’s photography archives (now known as the Deutsche Fotothek). This photograph by Möbius gives us a bird’s-eye view of Altmarkt Square, which was under reconstruction at the time.

Individual historic buildings – the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross), the town hall tower – and some ruins of old buildings are easily recognisable, but above all we see the new buildings that were to structure the square. Their imposing size and sophisticated facades testify to the desire to offer the city’s inhabitants housing that would give the illusion of competing with the houses of the lords of the past. This is a late application of the doctrine of socialist realism and “national traditions” (formulated in the USSR) in the field of architecture. These “workers’ palaces” were meant to symbolise the social progress of communist society. Altmarkt square became the focal point of the city. It is bordered on the north by a wide street which was designed to accommodate the official events and military parades of the new political regime.

The high perch from which Möbius chose to take his photograph also allows us to see the prefabricated buildings, arranged in a square in the foreground. These were temporary structures which meant that workers could be housed on the building site in comfortable living conditions.

Sonia de Puineuf