Gustav Oelsner (1879-1956) was an architect and building Senator in Altona/Hamburg who stamped his mark on the cityscape of Altona in the style of “Neues Bauen” during the 1920s. “Neues Bauen” is a design style or movement that played a major role in shaping European cityscapes for almost half the 20th century and formed the foundations of the Modernist Internationalist style familiar across the world today. The renowned Helmholtz Settlement, built in 1927 - the first terraced housing (“Reihenhaus”) settlement in Germany - is a prominent example. This settlement is a destination for those interested in the history of architecture and is visited by students and architects from across the world.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gustav Oelsner (who had Jewish heritage) left Altona/Hamburg to escape Nazi persecution, joining several thousand Jewish academics who emigrated to the secular state of Turkey, at the time of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Many of these German Jewish refugees contributed their expertise to Turkish universities.
As a university teacher Oelsner worked at the Technical University of Istanbul. There he established the first chair of urban planning. Additionally, he worked as a government consultant in the Department of Urban Planning in Ankara. Oelsner made significant contributions to modernizing of urban construction in Turkey and influenced the next generation of architects and urban planners. In many districts of Turkey Oelsner's characteristic approach to design and philosophy remains visible.
From February 2018, an interdisciplinary exhibition will outline the work of Gustav Oelsner.