The head of the city – Representative buildings

With the mass destruction, if not the total destruction, of the urban centres, the buildings of their leadership – the head of the city – and their executive organs – its hands – were also destroyed; the body – the population – was scattered to the four winds. The task was to rebuild a functioning urban body. 

This is why the reconstruction of representative buildings is usually of particular importance in reconstruction plans, as they offer the possibility of building symbolically effective emblems. For Brest, it was also decided that the representative buildings should be clad in granite.


The location of the representative buildings is defined in Mathon’s reconstruction plan along the main and secondary urban axes. The state buildings built first are designed in a uniform neoclassical and monumental formal language, without regional architectural references, while the later urban municipal buildings, such as the town hall or the administrative centre, are clad in concrete slabs or simply plastered. The monumental design serves to demonstrate the power of the state and the buildings representing the city to display the restoration of stable civil and legal conditions. 

Town Hall

In 1757, the town acquired the Hotel Chapizeu and converted it into the town hall and police station, having previously used rented flats. The building, which was destroyed in 1944, was never rebuilt.

After 1945, the provisional town hall was located in a multi-winged, thoroughly representative barrack complex near St. Martin’s Church. 

The new town hall situated on the Place de la Liberté was part of the Mathon plan. Built from 1957 to 1961 by Maurice Léon Génin, this building forms the head at the eastern end of the town’s main axis, the Rue de Siam. The town hall is clad in concrete slabs and consists of a representative wing and an administrative tower, which stands high over the town.  Along with the Place de la Liberté, it forms a symbolic counterpoint to the naval headquarters in the Château (castle), and helps to underline the confidence of the citizens and local politics in this strongly military town.

7.1 Town Hall, rue de Lyon, early 20th century   

7.2 Temporary Town Hall, rue Malakoff, circa 1960 

7.3 Town Hall, Place de la Liberté, 1970s

7.4 Town Hall, Service de l’État civil, rue Frezier, reception hall, ca. 1970 

Post office

Built in 1927 on Place Anatole France, the post office with its sculptural façade was designed in Art Deco style with mosaics on the façade and in the counter hall. In 1950, the architect Pierre-Jack Laloy reconstructed it on the same site in a similar cubature, giving it a symmetrical, neoclassical façade granite facings and monumental cornice, as well as a central hall with a concrete and glass roof. The building is a prominent feature at the upper end of Rue de Siam.

7.5 Post office building, place Anatole France, 1936 

7.6 Post office building, place Anatole France, counter hall, 1936 

7.7 Post office building, rue de Siam, 1955 

The Courthouse

The original “Palais de Justice” (Courthouse) in Brest was completely destroyed during the Second World War. The new building, designed by Gabriel Béné, was completed in 1952 and is located at the southern end of the transversal urban axis of the ‘Plan Mathon’, not far from the former site. The high plinth area, consisting of more roughly worked stones compared to the smooth granite slabs of the façade and the wide-open staircase in front of the central risalit designed with colossal pillars, emphasises the monumental character of the building. The granite sculptures “Lex” (Law) and “Tuetur” (It is protected) by the artist Marcel Courbier are located at the two ends of the staircase stringers.


In Dresden, the buildings representing the city are not generally part of a newly planned urban context. Nor do they follow a uniform stylistic concept, as damaged representative buildings were generally rebuilt in the pre-war image. Due to lack of money, the interior design of the buildings was often simplified and carried out according to more modern design principles. During the transformation, many works of art related to the buildings were created in the style of socialist realism.

Town Hall

In Dresden, a new town hall with a very high tower was built between 1905 and 1910, as more space was needed for the city administration.  

From 1946 onwards, the city hall, some of which had been badly damaged, was rebuilt. The reconstruction was based on returning the building to its pre-war state, but the materials used and details on the building were simplified.  From 1948 to 1952 work on the south wing followed, and from 1962 to 1965 the east wing, which was designed in a much more modern way and contains the representative halls whose original design was not reconstructed.

7.8 Town Hall, general view from the east, 1974 

7.9 Town Hall, large Festival Hall, 1937 

7.10 Town Hall, Festival Hall, 1966 

Post office

In Dresden, several post office buildings were located in the city centre around a square,, which was aptly renamed the Postplatz in 1865. However, the Directorate General of the Post which was built there between 1876 – 1881, was not rebuilt despite its central location. Only a post office branch was housed (a barrack building) on Postplatz near the original site until 1990.

7.11 The Post Office, ca. 1890   

7.12 Post office huts on Postplatz, 2003 

7.13 Main Post Office 6, stamp, 1982

House of Socialist Culture

North of the Altmarkt on the new east-west main street, a monumental, over 100 m high house of socialist culture, comparable to a “House of the People”, was originally to be built in the style of National Traditions. After several competitions, it was finally decided to build the modern design by Prof. Leopold Wiel, based on the parliament building in Brasilia, by the chief architect Wolfgang Hänsch.

7.14 Herbert Schneider: Project for the House of Socialist Culture, 02/1956 

7.15 House of Socialist Culture built according to the competition design by Leopold Wiel, 1969