Not to toot my own horn, but I do have a degree in this type of stuff and lived there for a while. The essential idea for the Russians was to Russify (not made up) east Germany. They saw updating existing homes/structures as a waste of resources and instead went about building new buildings in the Russian style, i.e. big ugly cement buildings meant for holding the most people at the least expense to the government.

Most of the "ugliness" seen by us modern Westerners was due to the lack of resources given to the population to restore/build/beautify their country. The Soviets didn't have any capital, and without money from exports--which was huge for East Germany prior to the war--things became decrepit and wasted.

Oddly, they did spend a good amount on cinema and have wonderful films. There's a resurgence of East German nostalgia showing it's head in more recent films such as Goodbye Lenin, where the good things about communism are being remembered and the worst parts, conveniently, forgotten.