The military in the city

The stationing of the army may have a considerable influence on the cities, depending on the units and contingents, but also on the location of the military installations and the relationship with the city and its population. These interactions are subject to various transformations over time, as Brest and Dresden also show.


Brest was already a military site in Roman antiquity. Since 1631, the French Navy has taken advantage of the protected location of the Penfeld estuary to anchor warships there and build arsenals, shipyards, workshops, magazines and other service facilities along the banks. To meet the ever-increasing need for space, the military facilities along the river and the bay were expanded. During the Second World War, the harbour facility served as a military base for the German occupation forces; they built a submarine bunker on the banks of the bay. The largest bunker facility of the Second World War. Most of the military buildings were destroyed during the Second World War.

Brest Castle

The Romans already built a fortification on the site of today’s castle. Built in the 13th century, the castle was repeatedly rebuilt and extended. The castle  was given its present form by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban between 1683 and 1695. During the Second World War, it served as a defensive installation for German troops and was severely damaged in 1944. Following its reconstruction, the castle has been home to the ‘Force océanique stratégique’ (Strategic Ocean Force) as well as the Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum) since 1955.

10.1 Castle, general view taken from the right bank, around 1980 

École Navale – Lycée Naval / École des Maistrance / École des Mousses

The ‘École Navale’ (Navy School), one of the ‘Grandes écoles militaires’ (Military Academies), had been stationed on board ships in the bay of Brest since 1830. In 1920, it was decided to move it to the mainland to “Quatres-Pompes” in Saint-Pierre-Quilbignon. The symmetrical complex was built from 1929-1935 following the design of Hermant and André Maurice in the Beaux-Arts style with a wealth of façade detail. The complex was badly damaged in 1944. Reconstruction was immediately considered, but due to time constraints and more extensive training facilities, it was decided to use the existing Lanvéoc-Poulmic naval airfield on the south bank of the bay. The destroyed building complex was later rebuilt for the Lycée Naval, the École de Maistrance and the École des Mousses.

10.2 Naval School, monumental façade towards the harbour, 1936 

10.3 Naval Academy, aerial view, ca. 1936 

10.4 Lanvéoc-Poulmic, Naval School, Intrepid Tower, Hall of Honour, 1971 

Naval hospital, today Hôpital d’instruction des armées “Clermont-Tonnerre”

After the construction of the arsenal in 1631, the Saint-Louis naval hospital was established in 1665. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1678. In 1684, it was reopened together with the new faculty of medicine. In 1776, a fire again destroyed almost the entire hospital. For 54 years, four barracks and the parts of the building spared by the fire served as a naval hospital before the new hospital “Clermont-Tonnerre” was opened in 1834. There were up to 1,780 beds in the multi-winged complex. The hospital was completely destroyed in the bombing of 1944. From 1952 onwards, the hospital was rebuilt but in a heavily modified form.

10.5 Naval Hospital, aerial view, 1919 

10.6 Naval Hospital, rotunda courtyard, ca. 1914 

10.7 Naval Hospital, rebuilt chapel, photo 2000 


Dresden became a military centre when it was designated a royal seat in 1485. With the establishment of a standing army in the 17th century, the military facilities housed in the city centre became increasingly extensive. In 1871 the Saxon army was placed under Prussian High Command. Dresden became the second largest garrison location in Germany. The military-influenced Albertstadt was created to the north of the city centre. Due to its decentralised location, only a few military buildings suffered severe damage during the Second World War. Some of the buildings were used by the Russian army from May 1945. When the GDR People’s Army was founded in 1956, it partially moved into the military buildings. After reunification in 1990, the western sections were converted for civilian use.

Old Town Arsenal – Albertinum 

The former Old Town Armoury, now the Albertinum Museum, was built from 1559-1563. From 1743-1747 the building was given two new storeys, a flatter roof and a Baroque façade. From 1760, the top floor was used for church services by the garrison. After the transfer of the arsenal  to the Albertstadt, what had been the armoury  was rebuilt in  neo-Renaissance style for a  sculpture collection and opened in 1889. In 1945, parts of the building burned down. From 1961-1965, the first floor was returned to its original state to house the Neue Meister collection. After a flood in 2002, the building was renovated and restructured from 2006-2010; the courtyard was roofed over and given a suspended steel truss construction for the depot and workshop rooms to protect the artworks from flood damage in the future.

10.8 Albertinum, former arsenal, view from the Brühl terrace, photo 2010 

Arsenal Main Building – Military History Museum

The Arsenal’s new Main Building, built from 1873-1876, formed the focal point of the Albertstadt, which was built in  late classicist style. After the First World War and the reduction of the German military in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, the building initially retained its function before being opened to the public as an army museum from 1923. In 1945, the Red Army occupied the site. After 1946, the now so-called “Halle am Nordplatz” served as a public events and exhibition venue; among other things, the first exhibition on the reconstruction of Dresden was shown here. In 1972, the GDR German Army Museum moved into the building. After reunification in 1990, it became the Military History Museum of the Federal Ministry of Defence and was redesigned by the architect Daniel Libeskind from 2004-2011. The top of the wedge-shaped building points to the spot in the city where the Royal Airforce’s first target marker landed in 1945, initiating the bombing.  

10.9 Museum of Military History, transformed by Daniel Liebeskind, photo 2013 

Dresden Air District Command IV – “Friedrich-Engels”Military Academy 

The Luftgaukommando IV (Dresden Air District Command IV)in Dresden-Strehlen was built from 1936-1938 according to a design by Wilhelm Kreis. This symmetrical complex built in monumental neoclassical style, suffered only minor damage in 1945. It was restored for the seat of the Saxon state government and used for their purposes until 1952. Afterwards, the police took over the complex before the GDR’s National People’s Army used it as a military academy from 1959 and added several new buildings in the 1960s/1970s. In 1990, the German Armed Forces took over the buildings; the more modern buildings were handed over to the Technical University and the thoroughfare which had previously been closed was reopened to the public.

10.10 Seat of the state government, demonstration 03/1950 

10.11 District Defence Command, main entrance, 2009