Project Halle (Saale)

Balancing Act: Dual City

In 1990, two towns on opposite sides of the river Saale joined together, and the differences could hardly be stronger. On the eastern bank lies the university city, around 1,200 years old, and virtually unharmed by World War . On the western bank lies Halle-Neustadt, the modern new town founded in 1964. A town conceived as a model socialist town and designed for 100,000 residents, it was declared a town in its own right in 1967.


An Odd Couple

Since 1971, Halle-Neustadt has been noted above all for its six-lane-wide and six-kilometre-long main transportation axis called the Magistrale. Otherwise, both towns show two fundamentally contrasting urban forms that overlap into each other’s territory in many places and whose histories become apparent in a series of serious breaks, contrasts, and conflicts regarding the use of space both for the town and for social reasons.

Play VideoThese contrasts are particularly noticeable along the Magistrale, which runs from the centre of the new town, Neustadt, to Riebeckplatz, south of the main station. The IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010 has initiated six projects along this perhaps most radical and striking interface between the old and the new in Halle. These projects pose questions about the right way to deal with the remnants of modernist urban construction. What contributions do these modernist structures make to the distinctive character of the “dual city”? What would be lost by demolishing them? In addition to building projects serving urban development and economic improvement, temporary cultural interventions along the Magistrale have opened the proceedings in a public dispute concerning the relationship between the old town and the new.

In the New Town …

Play VideoCultural contributions are intended to make the centre of Neustadt more attractive for young people. The first project, to use the empty station concourse as a permanent “Centre for Contemporary Culture,” failed in negotiations with the Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). However, there was already a “skaters’ bar” here, and perhaps this led to the idea of building a skate park. Anyhow, the skate park opened next to the centre in 2009. In addition to a unique sports facility, it also provides public green areas. The congrav Skaters’ Club is in charge of running the facility, which makes demands on the club but also encourages it. In its capacity as a provider of independent youth aid, the club initiates social projects for young residents of Neustadt.

Play VideoThe Housing Complex III is situated to the east of the centre. Three projects were carried out under the banner “from housing complex to residential district.” The Platz am Tulpenbrunnen was redesigned with the cooperation of its immediate residents. The aim was to entice new investors into the surrounding shops to put some fresh life into this part of town. Next to the square is the Grüne Galerie (green gallery) containing sculptures from the GDR era. This freshly designed green zone links the Tulpenbrunnen and the centre of Neustadt. An adjacent housing block has also been converted to create new housing in Neustadt. This includes maisonettes and terrace-like housing with private gardens.

… Between the Two …

Play VideoThe Saline Island lies in the middle of the river Saale like a stepping-stone. Salt was extracted there from the 18th to the 20th centuries. In the 19th century, a gasworks and the Sophienhafen harbour were built there. Now the island is no longer used at all for commercial purposes and presents certain opportunities for creating an attractive link between the old and new towns and for once again joining the town to the splendid riverside along the Saale. Three pilot projects were implemented here. Water-related sports are catered for by a new town harbour and the redesigned entrance to an existing outdoor swimming pool. A footbridge connecting the island with the old town will be completed by 2011. Then Neustadt will have to be joined too. The projects should make the island more attractive as a natural environment and residential area as well as for new investment.

… And in the Historic Centre

Play VideoThe district of Glaucha lies on the eastern bank to the south of the Magistrale. With 30% of its houses unoccupied and a high rate of unemployment, this is a problem area. The lofty flyover bridge, the Magistrale, separates this district from the centre of the old town. There is not enough demand to justify investment. The town wants to trigger a turnaround by supporting smaller projects. Halle’s Multigenerational House has been relocated to the centre of the district. In addition, two associations have been founded to take care of arranging for the empty buildings to be used for individual cultural purposes as well as organising street festivals and activity days. Furthermore, the town has engaged a building expert as a facilitator. The facilitator visits the owners of buildings in need of repair and informs them about the available funding.

Play VideoThe Francke Foundation lies on the eastern edge of Glaucha. This foundation, dating from the 17th century, is a fourteen-hectare campus with different cultural and academic institutions. The inhospitable spaces along and under the Magistrale separate the foundation’s buildings from the town centre, more or less isolating them. Eleven-storey prefabricated buildings in the historic Francke Foundation gardens are further evidence of the low esteem the latter enjoyed during GDR days. Today, the social and cultural institutions again comprise a multifaceted educational campus, albeit divided into small plots. Open areas along the “Roter Weg” (red path) were to be redesigned, interconnected, and opened up. However, this project soon fell foul of the very differing wishes and needs of the foundation and its neighbours. So far, the connection to the old town has been improved primarily by changes to the underpass under the elevated highway. Two cooperatives and a school opened their grounds onto the Roter Weg, creating a “Feld der Begegnung” (field of encounter). In this way, neighbours were to be encouraged to continue their discussions about the joint use of the spaces.

Play VideoAt Riebeckplatz, the start of the Magistrale heading towards Halle-Neustadt is marked dramatically by two twenty-two-storey high-rise buildings. Representatives from business and the town as well as other interest groups came together at two “high-rise tables” to discuss conserving, replacing, demolishing, or using the buildings differently. During the course of the debates, it became clear that there was no economically viable alternative to demolition. However, on reflection there were reservations about the future picture of the whole square without the high-rise blocks. The proposal to replace the northern block with a new building appears interesting, but the cost-effectiveness of doing so will have to be demonstrated. In any case, there is room for doubt whether there is enough demand for office and residential space at Riebeckplatz at the moment. The “high-rise tables” will continue in order to discuss how Riebeckplatz will examine the demolition of the high-rise blocks.

With or without Modernism?


A multifaceted, lively, and widespread public discussion at various levels has been brought about by all these projects. The objective is to demonstrate both the problems and the potential of urban modernism for the character of the “Dual City” even-handedly. How controversial dealing respectfully with the remnants of modernism in Halle can be is demonstrated by the setting up of a citizens’ initiative in 2006 pleading for the demolition of the flyover. The city will consider the possible partial dismantling of the flyover in connection with pending redevelopment projects. But its significance as the most important transport axis between the old and new towns has been indicated. Thus, the Magistrale has become the seventh project of the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010.

Florian Heilmeyer, 2010

"Baustart" – The projects of the IBA Stadtumbau 2010 in Halle (Saale)

By Toralf Friesecke, Akatong Film, in cooperation with complizen Planungsbüro and IBA-Büro GbR, 2008 (German, Flash-Video, 10'05)

More pictures of Halle (Saale)


Info: Halle (Saale)

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 321.684
2009: 231.978
2025: 206.120 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 135,02 qkm