Travelling Exhibition

Brest-Dresden: urban imagination under (re)construction

This exhibition sets out to explore the way in which urban imagination is constructed and reconstructed, through a comparison of the histories of two cities – Brest (in France) and Dresden (in Germany). The former is a medium-sized city, the latter boasts half a million inhabitants.

Although Brest, a military arsenal facing the ocean, and Dresden, the baroque jewel of Saxony, may initially have seemed complete opposites, their destinies brought them closer together as they both suffered near total destruction during the Second World War bombings.

From that moment on, these two cities faced similar reconstruction challenges. They had different pasts and antagonistic geo-political positions during the Cold War: Dresden fell behind the iron curtain and became part of Eastern Europe, while Brest (located at the western tip of the European continent) became a port for nuclear submarines. These factors led to different ways of thinking and contrasting timeframes for reconstruction, where many wounds have had great difficulty healing. 

In this exhibition, we invite you on a journey through three centuries during which the development of these two cities will be compared with the aim of finding places where the differences meet and the similarities diverge. Each city conveys its own distinct self-image, defined by the constructions, destructions and reconstructions that have marked its territory. The completed projects as well as those that have remained on the drawing board will be put into perspective here. The notion of utopia will be touched upon because it is the generator of ideas and actions.

Thanks to their differences, Brest and Dresden, two cities with strong identities, allow us to reflect on the diversity of today’s European cities which are confronted with the same political, cultural and ecological challenges, but find multiple solutions, depending on their historical and present-day particularities.

We hope that each visitor will find in these reflections an echo of his or her own city and the solutions it can provide to the problems that mark out our common European history.

The exhibition is on display at the Transport Museum in Dresden from December 16 to February 25, 2023.