John Nolen ( Biographical note )

Landscape Architecture 2 (October 1911):52-59.

In addition to his vast knowledge of American city planning projects, trends, personnel, and literature, Nolen sought out and learned from planning developments in other countries. He was particularly well-informed from personal observation, correspondence, and reading about planning in Britain and Germany. The bulk of this article provides the specifications established by Düsseldorf officials for a major competition to design extensions to the city as well as appropriate changes and improvements in the existing urban fabric. It has always been something of a puzzle that from the country acknowledged as the leader in city planning progress not a single Germany planner entered the competition for the design of the Australian Federal Capital. That competition was also announced in 1911, and few if any German planners could afford to spend the time and money required to produce two competitive designs in a single year. Nolen does not tell us the value of the prizes offered to winners in Düsseldorf, but some British and Australian professionals criticized the Australian government because they believed the awards were below acceptable levels.
The scientific basis and painstaking thoroughness which underlie German city planning are illustrated by the recent action of Düsseldorf. That city has already reached a degree of perfection that would be likely to content the most ambitious and far-sighted American city. Yet Düsseldorf is now proceeding to take another long look ahead, and to plan systematically and intelligently for the still greater and better Düsseldorf of the future. To this end, the city has instituted a competition for a city plan.

Several points of special importance should be noted. For example, the city authorities are prepared to furnish, as a reliable basis for the city plan for Düsseldorf, topographical surveys, tables showing density of population, land and building values, traffic census, food supplies, industrial development by trades, and much other information of a similar character.


The city offers to supply this survey and data under the following items:

Plan of city to 1:10,000 scale, showing land in possession of city, that owned by other public authorities, and larger plots owned by private individuals.

Special plan of the Aper and Grafenberger Forests, 1:5,000 with contours.

City plan 1:15,000, with particulars of density of population in the various parts of Old Düsseldorf.

City plan 1:15,000, with particulars of different building values.

Graphic representation of predicted needs of building land to meet increase in different sections of population till the year 1950

Results of traffic census at fourteen points in the town.

Daily amount of traffic on the lines of city tramways in 1910.

Journey times and fares from the center of Düsseldorf to the various centers of traffic.

Receipts and expenditures of tramways in comparison with the mileage and passenger traffic.

Recent street-building methods. Tramways with their construction.

Compilation of means of providing city with food.

Growth of the town, 1795-1910.

Industrial development according to trades.

Traffic in Düsseldorf harbor, 1795-1910.

Rail goods traffic in Düsseldorf, 1896-1910.

The relation of the number of inhabited estates to the number of dwellings in sixteen large cities.

Density of houses in twenty large cities.

Density of houses in statistical area of Düsseldorf, 1905.

Average rent in statistical area.

Occupied buildings with gardens.

The division of buildings according to size in statistical area.

The sale for residential property in Düsseldorf, 1902-1910.

Direction of wind, compiled from observations in 1909 and 1910.


In addition to the survey, tables and data mentioned above, the city authorities draw the attention of city planners to the following volumes:

"Düsseldorf and its Buildings." Published by the Architects' and Engineers' Association.

"Sanitation in Düsseldorf"--development of engineering knowledge, second group, seventeen booklets.

"Study of the Working and Administration of Düsseldorf in XIX Century." Brandt.

"Guide to the Residence and Estate Market." Thalheimer.

"Old Düsseldorf in Illustration. A collection of Lower Rhine

Home Arts." Kleesattel.


The conditions for the new city plan are stated as follows: The plan must satisfy the needs of traffic, public health, administration, and beauty. The scheme of buildings now existing in the district of Düsseldorf to be retained as far as possible in the suggested plan. Revision is, however, not forbidden, and the competitors must decide to what extent rebuilding is necessitated by their schemes. The designs must contain suggestions for the extension and supplementing of existing streets and communication systems, tramways, city and general railways. Further, there must be designated in the plan, sites for the provision of dwellings and centers of industry, having regard to the conditions governing each road and water communication, points of the compass, prevailing winds, parks, and forest lands. The scheme of roads, tramways, and city railways, as well as general railways, should extend to Kaiserwerth and Ratingen in the north, Hilden in the east, Benrath in the south, and Nensz in the west. The proposed traffic arrangements should be so laid out as to allow of a possible linking up by streets and railways with the surrounding large cities, Duisburg, Essen, Elberfeld, Gladbach, Rheydt, Crefeld. Suggestions are to be shown for the provision of open spaces in the city of Düsseldorf, and in the lesser and greater district extension; in the greater, however, only where serving as a connection of the forest and meadow lands already existing in it, which the commons of the other two districts allow.


The following ten points are to be observed and provided for in the new city plan:

(1) The principal commercial streets from the city into the country are to be considered the groundwork of the plan. A future supplementing of this main network with new streets is to be assumed. The main streets must be wide enough for tramways, and their construction over and under the future fast trains, high level and under-ground railways must be provided for. The necessity for further bridges over the Rhine in the future is to be borne in mind.

(2) Boulevards and promenades, that must be as free from through traffic as possible, must be provided for between the open spaces. Hereto belong also the streets on the Rhine to north and south of the city, in the setting out of which the fixed water-line is to be taken into account. This is to be noted in connection with the centers of industry.

(3) Necessary cutting through and widening of streets, for improved connection of the streets named in (1) with the inner city, are to be shown.

(4) Proposals must be made for the division of the city into residential and industrial centers, whereby a revised distribution of the city divisions in the several classes and zones of buildings becomes possible. In arranging the industrial centers, good railway communication and direct or indirect communication by means of railway with the Rhine should be considered. New harbor basins must be foreshadowed.

The separation of the industrial from the residential quarters, by park and woodland, should be aimed at.

Residential quarters, with dwellings suitable for the various classes of the inhabitants, detached houses, terrace houses, small and large blocks of dwellings, as well as plans for open and enclosed places, to be provided for, in addition to existing buildings, to such an extent as to meet the requirements of the increasing population until the year 1930. Graphic representation of the increase in occupation of land for buildings predicted to 1950, compiled from the Düsseldorf Statistical Office, is submitted.

By regulating the widths of streets and depth of building blocks, wholesome conditions of living are to be produced. At the same time, the ground should be apportioned carefully, and nothing allowed to go by chance. Low buildings are to be recommended. Suggestions may also be indicated for new suburbs in the larger district, easily accessible by train.

(5) The position of the principal railways is detrimental to the further development of the city at different points. It should be considered in what way this disadvantage can best be overcome, especially how far the numerous crossings over can be done away with.

Increase of the present insufficient accommodation for traffic at the principal railway station is to be aimed at, so that an increased amount can be dealt with.

The railway system around Düsseldorf is to be supplemented with a main line bridging the Rhine to the north of the city.

The suggested alterations and extensions of the railways need only be roughly sketched out on plan, but must be accompanied by explanatory notes.

(6) Suggestions are to be made for the introduction of a contemplated line of railway from Cologne, and from the industrial district, for the connecting up of these two lines with each other, and with the line to Crefeld.

(7) Sites as large and convenient as possible, supplementing those existing, to be allotted for wood, park and meadow land, as well as for exhibition purposes, aviation, games and sports.

The rivulet valley, not yet built on, must be especially taken into consideration. First to be considered for the new schemes are those lands in possession of the city, then those belonging to the other public authorities, and, lastly, larger pieces possessed by private individuals.

(8) The city entertains the project of erecting a new City Hall in the quarter between Stiftsplatz and Schulstrasse Platz. The required area is 18,000 square meters of enclosed courts in extent, and provision must be made for a possible extension in the future. The market-place is, if possible, to remain on its present site.

(9) The requisite sites, Plätze, must be provided: for an arts and crafts school building of about 2,200 square meters site area; a museum of about 5,000 square meters extent; large concert-house of about 5,000 square meters extent, with proportionately large garden, and a city theater to seat 2,000. Further, schemes must be thought out for supplying the city at one or more points with market halls for food coming into Düsseldorf by rail, ship, or other conveyances from the southern city centers, and from parts to the west and southwest to the city. Further, a place for a new slaughterhouse, about the size of the existing one, is to be provided.

Among other public buildings of the first importance, there will be primary, secondary, and elementary schools; and, in this connection, it must be borne in mind that for every 5,000 inhabitants there must be an elementary school of fourteen classes, seven for boys and seven for girls. Then baths, conveniently grouped with public libraries, reading-rooms, savings-bank branches, etc. An effort should be made to place conveniently the various sports grounds in relation to the different localities, as mentioned in (4). Sites for all public buildings must be chosen, so far as is possible, from land in the possession of the town.

(10) The suggestions made, especially those in relation to traffic, the disposition of extended industrial and residential quarters, the division of the latter into the several classes of buildings, and also the placing and grouping of public buildings, and any point which seems of importance to the author, should be discussed in a short explanatory report.


Another significant feature of Düsseldorf's scientific spirit and painstaking thoroughness in city administration and city building was the opening, in October, of an institution for the education of the higher officials of German municipalities. Düsseldorf has conceived of a plan under which a special college or university intended for the training of the chief municipal officials has been created. This institution of learning will be supported and controlled by the municipality. The course is intended to cover two semesters of three months' lecture periods each, at the end of which students will undergo a graduating examination. The course of study will cover all phases of municipal law, connected in several instances with practice; also the modern problems in the life of a city, such as the labor question, the relief of the poor, social questions as a whole, public sanitation, the organization of city government and city charters. The tuition fee will be one hundred marks, or about twenty-five dollars, a semester. The teachers are authorities in their special branches, and are drawn from the circles of university professors, judges of high courts, and men who have had practical experience in municipal administration

This institution will be open to men who have graduated from a "gymnasium" or a "real-gymnasium" of the first class, or to those who have passed an examination equivalent to the graduating examination of one of these institutions, for example, the officers' examination for the army. Many officers of the army, finding that their advancement is too slow, and others who originally intended to serve the state as jurists, give up these careers after some years, and try to obtain positions in the municipal service. It is expected that a large number of these men will study in this new and unique university. Furthermore, city officials, who, without having passed the examinations mentioned above, make good this lack of academic training by years of practical work in the municipal service, as mayors of smaller cities, etc., will probably likewise take up theoretical studies in the new university. And finally, engineers and men engaged in the several branches of technical work, whose cooperation is so important for the development of a modern city, will also enroll in the Düsseldorf institution. 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
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