To bring the theme of the Ideal City back onto the agenda, we are planning

an exhibition with international participation, to be held in the early summer

of 2006 in Zamość, Poland and in the fall of 2006 in Potsdam. A central

interest thereby is to confront the invited individual artists with two plannings

of ideal cities, or with what has survived of them to this day.

The first station of the exhibition is Zamość, an internationally little-known

ideal city whose appearance and structure are almost completely preserved.

Founded by the Polish Chancellor Jan Zamoyski and built between 1580 and

1605 to plans by the Italian architect Bernado Morando, Zamość represents

the ideal Renaissance city of the humanistic spirit. It lay on one of the

important old trade routes connecting Southern and Eastern Europe, and its

residents came from all over Europe. Along with a large Jewish community,

whose synagogue was part of the city’s urban-planning cornerstones, Greeks

and Armenians settled in Zamość as early as its founding. The stately urban

houses on Rynek Wielki (Main Square) still testify to them. In the following

centuries, the city grew only moderately and was later mostly spared any

extensive destruction. Today, Zamość is located far from Poland’s urban

centers, close to the Ukrainian border in the Lublin district.

Potsdam, by contrast, was not founded as an ideal city, but grew from a

Slavic settlement to a Residence of Brandenburg’s Prince Elector. Only in the

late 17th and the 18th century was the city expanded along the orthogonal

grids that shape its layout until today, in accordance with plans by Johann

Gregor Memhardt and inspired by ideas of the mathematician and ideal-city

planner Nicolaus Goldmann. The complete destruction of the Old City has

even put Potsdam’s Baroque extensions into the center of the city. Behind

the plannings and transformation of Potsdam stood, as in Zamość, a strong

ruling personality, Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, called ‘the Great’. Both

cities are shaped by the political function of representation.

Potsdam and Zamość both played extraordinary roles in the time of the

National Socialist regime and the occupation of Poland. Against the backdrop

of these historical events, the idea of the ideal city appears in an especially

sober light: A state act was held in Potsdam’s Garrison Church on March 21,

1933, that went down in history as the “Day of Potsdam”. At the very

beginning of its rule, the regime staged this act as a symbolic connection

between Prussianness and National Socialism.

In the framework of the “General Plan East”, Zamość became a “special

laboratory”1 for the SS. The surrounding region was to become the first

German “large settlement area”. In November 1942, German families were

systematically resettled here and the local residents were driven away or

killed. Zamość itself was renamed “Himmlerstadt” – (’Himmler City’). At the

same time, 35,000 children from the region were forcibly taken away from

their families – some killed, some abducted to Germanization facilities. The

“Rotunda”, a former powder magazine where the Gestapo and the SS carried

out mass executions, reminds us of these events.

Today, both cities are UNESCO world cultural heritage sites.