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Attack of the Cyberzombies: Media, Reconstruction, and the Future of Germany’s Architectural Past


While in Frankfurt a few weeks ago, I visited the site of the Dom/Römer project, a series of 35 buildings that are under construction in the historical center of Frankfurt am Main. While most of the buildings are going to be modern interpretations of the houses that once stood on the small parcels in Frankfurt’s city center, fifteen of the buildings will be historical reconstructions of historical buildings. As I approached the building site, I walked along a fence that had been covered with a vinyl picture of an artist’s rendition of the finished project. Scrawled across the picture was a graffito: “Bitte richtig alt. Kein Zombie!” The term “zombie” has been a battle cry for anti-reconstructionists from all over Germany as they watch historical reconstruction projects fill the empty spaces in their destroyed historical city centers. In this paper, I will investigate the current discourse that has conflated architecture with necromancy in German city planning. Are these reconstructions the signs of a crisis in Modernism, a sweeping wave of uncritical nostalgia, or dangerous returns to evil ideologies of the past? Using Walter Benjamin’s Kunstwerk essay, I will explore the role of historical reconstruction as medial architecture, buildings that function more like film than the so-called “authentic” architecture that is preferred by the current generation of Denkmalpfleger. What happens when a destroyed Bauwerk reaches the age of its technological reproducibility? These “zombie” buildings, I will argue, reveal mythical underpinnings in the projects of Modernism and the religious practices inherent in the concept of authenticity historical monuments.

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