The Citizens of Merseburg are trying something New

Interview with Dr. Barbara Kaaden

"The important thing is to find partners and to support citizens’ commitment.”
Dr. Barbara Kaaden, Mayor and Director of the Urban Development Office

Merseburg’s IBA slogan “New milieus – new chances” is unconventional. How did you arrive at it?


Dr. Barbara Kaaden: The University conducted an empirical study in 2003/2004 and found that we have a very homogeneous demographic structure as a result of the way the town and industry developed and that creative milieus are missing. The University then suggested that it should add its potential more noticeably to the town’s development and to bridge the gap between the campus and the town with “stepping-stone projects”.

But the IBA is concentrating on the Burgberg in the town centre …

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: Following the proposals of the “Merseburger Memento 2001” we wish to concentrate our urban development efforts on potential within the town, which also allowed space for the “stepping stones”. I have to admit that we were not particularly original with our slogan “Back to the centre”, meaning that the topic “New milieus – new chances” ended up in cooperation with the IBA Office. The primary aim was to make use of the potential of the Burgberg and create the conditions for new milieus to develop there.

Weren’t you afraid that this slogan would alienate the residents of the “old milieus”?

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: A sensitive approach is indeed necessary. However, it was the university that was most disturbed by the focus on the Burgberg. Its campus still has no link to the town. But Merseburg does not have the strength to push through the IBA and “steppingstone” projects in parallel. The university has to a large degree withdrawn from the IBA process, and we greatly miss its critical involvement.

You still have quite a lot to show, which is also due to the new milieus.

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: It is not about social milieus. It is primarily about urban living. The IBA site, taking in the cathedral and the castle, is very beautiful and of great historic value, but after the tourists have gone home the area appears to be deserted. It should not remain like this, and people are again living on the Burgberg. The town and private owners have reconstructed several houses, and whoever does something to add vitality creates new milieus and therefore new chances. The citizens of Merseburg saw their activities as a contribution to urban development. We can encourage them to try something new.

How did you succeed in bringing urban life to the Burgberg?

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: It’s not just the town council that is doing this – there are also many private initiatives such as crafts markets that take place several times a year on the cathedral square. Two new galleries have been set up that do not just exhibit pictures but also hold readings, concerts and discussions and also rent out their rooms for family events.

Nevertheless, there is still a lot left to do.

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: It is difficult restoring the cathedral curia buildings between the cathedral square and the commercial centre. With the help of the IBA we wish to arouse the interest of building owners in these houses.

What conclusion do you draw from participating in the IBA?

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: We have been able to gain a large number of partners. The fact that the large majority of projects such as European Centre for Romanesque Art, the area intended for water tourism on the Mühleninsel or the arts centre in the Tiefer Keller quarter are in private hands is something special, but also something that cannot be implemented without corresponding public funding. Merseburg is using the IBA in order to solve problems of urban development that arose due to structural changes and the fall in population.

What advice can you give to other municipalities with the same problems?

Dr. Barbara Kaaden: What most of them are already doing: focus on the town centre, create new qualities in the centre of town. It is important to seek partners and to support citizens’ commitment. This is the path we have taken right from the beginning. It is very strenuous, but it is worth it.

Info: Merseburg

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 47.232
2009: 35.894
2025: 28.704 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 54,73 qkm 

IBA-Website of Merseburg