Nomina sunt Omina - Capital City Bonn: Inventing an Image for the Federal Republic of Germany

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Design History, 2014, 27 (2), pp. 148 - 166
Issue Date:
2014-01
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Bonn's ascension to the rank of capital city in 1948/1949 represented the first major success of a new political culture and the original aesthetic imperatives it was designing. In 1948 five cities, Berlin, Bonn, Frankfurt, Kassel and Stuttgart, vied to be chosen capital city of the soon to be formed Federal Republic of Germany. When the dust settled, the unexpected had occurred; the sleepy university town in the Western reaches of the country, Bonn, had triumphed over a cultural centre, financial centre, commercial centre, and the former capital city. The new political aesthetics were firstly based on the repudiation of any aesthetic program associated with either National Socialism or Monarchism, Third Reich or Wilhelmine Germany. Carlo Schmid warned that nomina sunt omina - names are omens! 'Names express what is really there, or ought to be there', that is, the essence of things. Although Schmid was warning about the name of the future constitution, his attitude reflected a broadly held belief that names and symbols are important, even crucial signifiers. This paper explores the ways the choice of Bonn was perceived by West Germans in their visual media through a look at several political cartoons and how the cartoons and official state press photographs from the Bundesarchiv collection contributed to the formation of Bonn's symbolic identity.
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