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German architects tackle global issues

Kate MüserJuly 22, 2015

Did you know that part of China's National Library and a St. Petersburg hospital were built by German architects? Architecture firms in Germany are expanding in developing markets by solving modern urban problems.

King Fahd National Library in Riad, Saudi Arabia, by Gerber Architects, Copyright: DAM2014/C. Richters
Image: DAM2014/C. Richters

The Bauhaus design movement was, for many years, closely associated with German architecture. Founded by architect Walter Gropius and later continued by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bauhaus stood for the vision of uniting art and design.

It was the rise of the Nazi regime in the early 1930s that drove many of the country's Bauhaus architects into exile. Not only did their work become known abroad, but Bauhaus-style projects were erected in other country, including the 4,000-building White City complex in Tel Aviv and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Chicago Federal Plaza.

Now a new generation of German architects is establishing its reputation abroad, making the most of the positive attributes associated with the Made in Germany label - like quality and reliability - and focusing on sustainability, urban development and technology.

Most of the international projects can be found in neighboring countries like Austria, Switzerland and France. But the markets in Russia, the Arab world and especially China are increasingly opening up to German architects.

"The markets of the future aren't necessarily those, where the most money is or where there is an economic upswing. Perhaps they are the markets where climate change is creating the need for new urban development," Philipp Auer from Auer Weber Architects told DW.

German architecture in global demand

According to a survey conducted by the Federal Chamber of German Architects, some eight percent of Germany's over 120,000 architects are active abroad. The aim of the Network for Architecture Exchange (NAX), founded in 2002 to promote German architecture abroad, is to expand that number - in part, with a new traveling exhibition.

Auer Weber is one of 28 German architecture firms now on show as part of the exhibition "Contemporary Architecture. Made in Germany" now on display at the German embassy in Paris.

The exhibition, which is set to run for the next two years in cities around the world, represents 40 international projects. It focuses on the challenges present-day architects face in the modern world, including climate change, sustainability, urban density, and technology.

Click on the gallery and the video above for more on Germany's architectural exports.