Focus Work
Illuminated Advertising in the Cityscape of Berlin in the 1920s

Focus Work
Luana Günthardt and Emilie Sauter

«Advertising is on its way to displacing architecture,» wrote architect Hugo Häring in an article in the magazine Architektur und Schaufenster in 1927. The spread of illuminated advertising and the associated transformation of the cityscape triggered a lively debate in the Weimar Republic. Photographic and written records testify to the emergence of a resistance against the arbitrary installation of illuminated advertising and of a desire for advertising to take account of architecture, harmonizing the advertising medium with the facade. Interest groups positioned themselves in favor of illuminated advertising or against it, articulating specific design demands. The concerns of local heritage protection and the needs of industry developed in opposition to each other. The debate took on a political dimension because of the demands of the German Heritage Society for laws on the display of advertising. On the one hand, architects had to position themselves on a theoretical level. On the other hand, driven by the laws as well as by other pressures, architectural practice witnessed an active confrontation with illuminated advertising.

This thesis examines the development of the debate on illuminated advertising, as well as its manifestation in the Berlin cityscape in the context of the Neues Bauen of the 1920s. It is hypothesized that illuminated advertising had a formative influence on the architecture of the Neues Bauen and, as a new architectural element, had a constitutive effect on facade design. On the other hand, it is assumed that signs could only achieve this relevance through their widespread presence in contemporary discourses. Accordingly, this paper first explores the interdisciplinary intentions that favored the integration of illuminated advertising into architecture, and, in doing so, it also addresses the positioning of the architects on a theoretical level. Then, through a close study of the Scharlachberghaus (1927), Herpichaus (1928), and Haus Berlin (1931), this paper examines how illuminated advertising was explicitly incorporated into the architectural expression of Neues Bauen in Berlin and what role it played in its design and construction process, analyzing the interrelations between public debate, political results, and architectural practice.


Dr. Andreas Kalpakci