Painful beginnings of Central Place Theory
Academic disciplines like geography and urban studies can be represented, sometimes, by the famous Christallerian Model. In fact the Central Place Theory (or model) has become emblematic for geographers, urban planners, economists, amongst others. It is a well known information that this model was conceived, theoretically, in the doctoral thesis of Walter Christaller, presented in 1933. But do many know when and where its first “practices” were?
The practical applications were not as happy and utopic as the theoretical ones: Walter Christaller joined the Nazi Party in 1940 and put his science at the service of the Third Reich in order to “plan” the occupied parts of Poland. A painful sort of planning, for sure… It was a paradox by itself. Central Place Theory is used to locate and plan concentration camps. Thus, the centre of the Third Reich was sending to terrible death the people judged anti-central. They are put in those anti-places supposed to be the farthest from the centre, yet called “centres”.
Later, after the war, Christaller joined the Communist Party and “recycled” his theory: it was simply used to restructure spatial relations in the Bundesrepublik (A configuration which is still, in many aspects, in place at present).
Science, and more generally scientia, is what we want it to be: when put at the service of vice it can turn much more terrible than ignorance.