Walter Christaller

Walter Christaller (* April 21, 1893 in Berneck in Calw, † March 9, 1969 in Königstein im Taunus ) was a German geographer and is considered the founder of the theory of central places.


Walter Christaller was born in 1893 as the son of evangelical pastor Erdmann God kingdom Christaller and his wife, the famous Protestant writer Helene Christaller, in the Black Forest. He studied economics and geography, and led for the first time, quantitative and statistical methods in geography one. 1930 could Christaller end his national economic studies at the University of Erlangen. The focus of his work was agricultural geography and urban planning in southern Germany. In his main work " The central places in southern Germany " from 1933, he developed a theory of central places, which he presented to the Erlanger geography professor Robert degrees man as a dissertation. Christaller's theory was initially received little attention. At that young Reich Association for Space Exploration was recognized the importance of teaching Christaller's for spatial planning as the first scientific institution. His theory forms the basis of supply principle used in regional planning to date of the central places.

After he had been a member of the USPD in the early 1920s, Christaller was close before 1933 the Communist Party, which is why he initially appeared in France in 1934. But he received thanks to influential friends in 1934 a scholarship and returned to Germany, habilitated in 1938 at the University of Freiburg and was from 1937 to 1940 Assistant Professor at the Institute of Local Government Studies at Theodor Maunz. 1940 Christaller joined the NSDAP and was from 1940 to 1945 employees in the staff headquarters planning and land in the SS Planning Office Reich Commissariat for the Strengthening of Germanism, which partly scientifically accompanied the war of conquest in Eastern Europe and should legitimize. He was involved in this context of spatial planning in occupied Poland and worked inter alia, the settlement planning in individual areas ( " Warthegau " and Białystok ), in which he interspersed his model of central places. Christaller praised the model of central places are classified hierarchically according to the places by their supply offers and each regional center is surrounded by a ring of medium-sized towns, which are in turn surrounded by a ring of sub-centers, implementation of the " leader principle " in spatial planning.

In 1945 he became a freelance geographer, member of the Communist Party, and later the SPD and founded in 1950 together with Emil Meynen the German Association of Applied Geography (DVAG ). The model of central places became the basis for land use planning in the Federal Republic of Germany after the Second World War, coordinated by the Federal Institute for Regional Studies and Research, which was headed up in the 1960s by Meynen. After 1945, he also developed spatial planning concepts for the Communist regime in Poland.

He developed in the 1930s idea of central places found much popularity with peers and has been developed especially in the sixties by G. Kluczka on. It assumes that the settlements spatial- functional standing in a landscape related to each other and belong to hierarchical levels. To determine the position of the central place of settlement, nine functional areas were used, the out rich in the sense of " Congestion " about the place. Historians resorted to Christaller's thesis from the 1950s and discussed in particular for the late Middle Ages and the Modern History. In 1973, D. Denecke made ​​an attempt to make the concept even for older sections of the Middle Ages used.

Since 1996 awards DVAG the Walter Christaller Prize for young geographers.


Works (selection)

  • The central places in southern Germany. An economic- geographical investigation of the legality of the spread and development of the settlements with urban functions. University Press, Darmstadt 1980, ISBN 3-534-04466-5 ( Repr ed d Jena 1933).
  • Basic ideas for settlement and institution building in the East. In: German peasantry, Vol 32, 1940, pp. 305-12.
  • Theory of space and spatial planning. In: Archive of Economic Planning, Vol 1, 1941, pp. 116-35.
  • Contributions to a geography of tourism. In: Geography, Vol 9, 1955, p.1 - 19th
  • The hierarchy of cities. In: Knut Norborg (ed.): Proceedings of the IGU Symposium in Urban Geography, Lund, 1960, No. 24, 1962, p.3 - 11th (Lund Studies in Geography, Ser.B, Human Geography ).
  • With Hans -Richard Fischer: Our earth. Stuttgart House Library, Stuttgart 1958.
  • Some Considerations of Tourism Location in Europe. In: Papers, Regional Science Association. Vol 12, 1964, p.95 - 105.
  • How I Discovered the Theory of Central Places: A Report about the Origin of Central Places. In: P. W. English, R. C. Mayfield (ed.): Man and Space Environment. Oxford Univ. Press, 1972, pp. 601-610.

Literature on Walter Christaller

  • Mechthild Rössler: Science and habitat. Geographical Ostforschung under National Socialism. Reimer, Berlin, 1990, ISBN 3-496-00394-4.
  • Recently, P. et al ( eds.): Geography and National Socialism. 3 Case Studies in Geography institution in the German Empire and Switzerland ( = urbs et regio, 51 ). University, Kassel, 1989, ISBN 3-88122-456-4, among other things includes a study on the history of the Geographical Institute in Freiburg (M. Rössler ) and Münster (M. Fahlbusch ).
  • Klaus M. Schmals (ed.): 50 years ago ... even the planning has a story. IRPUD, Dortmund 1997, ISBN 3-88211-099-6.
  • Götz Aly, Susanne Heim: mastermind of destruction. Auschwitz and the German plans for a new European order, 2004 ( first 1991), ISBN 3-596-11268-0.
  • U. Wardenga / N. Henniges / H. P. Brogiato and B. Schelhaas: The Association of German professional geographers. A socio-historical study of the early phase of DVAG. ( = Forum ifl 16 ), Leipzig, 2011.
  • Trevor Barnes / Claudio Minca, Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller. In: . Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (3 ), pp. 669-687 (2013 )