Weimar-Era Autobahn Planning

One engineer […] called for giving up the usual roadside trees used for urban avenues and fruit trees along the side of the road. Instead, functional bushes should be planted, which would allow an unobstructed view and protect the roads from “careless humans and animals.” In collaboration with the garden architect Alexander Schimmelpfennnig from Kassel, who later worked on the Reichsautobahnen, blueprints were drawn up that envisaged largely dense conifers. Tall-growing trees were to be used as signal trees to announce dangerous curves. Roadside trees were planted on a test track. While Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe questioned the readability of such botanical signals, garden architects criticized the use of nonnative plants.1

Taken from Thomas Zeller’s Driving Germany, as he explains one of the rejected plans for integrating roads into landscapes. This example comes from the years before National Socialism, before Autobahn design centered on acting as a propaganda tool first and foremost. Zeller goes into further detail of these early plans for automobile-only roads (Nur-Autostraβen) and how they pursued harmony between a new form of infrastructure and its environment.

1. Zeller, Thomas. Driving Germany: The Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930-1970, trans. Thomas Dunlap (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 50.

For reference:

Zeller, Thomas. Driving Germany: The Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930-1970. Trans. Thomas Dunlap. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007.

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