Project Köthen (Anhalt)

Homoeopathy as a Developmental Force

The lack of a regional transport network is hindering industrial development in Köthen. The decline of the mechanical engineering sector since 1990 has led to steadily decreasing economic power and thus to a dwindling population rate. Within the context of the 2010 IBA Urban Redevelopment, Köthen has started to build up a different identity for itself and thus draw on a unique tradition. Homoeopathy will again become an important building block in the town’s cultural and economic profile.


How far the methods of homoeopathy can be applied to urban planning will be tested in an urban planning experiment. In this way, Köthen will also revive another tradition now fallen into disregard: in the 17th century, the town had acquired a reputation as a liberal place for creative and experimental ideas. In 1617 the “Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft,” the first society dedicated to fostering the German language, was founded here. In 1618, Germany’s first educational publishing company was also established here. The explicit promotion of education and the ideas of the Enlightenment attracted scholars, researchers, and artists to Köthen. Joseph von Eichendorff owned a house here; Johann Sebastian Bach was the director of music to the court and composed the Brandenburg Concertos and parts of The Well-Tempered Clavier here. Samuel Hahnemann, regarded as the founder of homoeopathy in Germany, eventually came here in 1821. He remained until 1835, writing his most important books, and in 1829 he founded the Deutscher Zentralverein Homöopathischer Ärzte (DZVhÄ)—Germany’s first medical association. Arthur Lutze, the practitioner of alternative medicine, followed in 1855 and established the Lutze Clinic. This ushered in a period of economic prosperity for the town. Soon, 26,000 patients were being treated each year. Not to be outdone, Louis Wittig, a malt coffee producer in Köthen, advertised his product as “safe, healthy, homoeopathic coffee.” In 1914, the Lutze Clinic closed, and homoeopathy in Köthen was gradually forgotten. But very soon after German reunification, the first “homoeopathy tourists” came, and the citizens and town council founded the Hahnemann-Lutze-Verein association and the Homöopathie- und Wissenschaftsservice GmbH (homeopathy and scientific services limited company). A museum and an active homoeopathic practice were established as a private enterprise in Samuel Hahnemann’s house.

Centre of Homoeopathy


The private initiatives of the 1990s were later followed by council projects to revive Köthen as a centre for homoeopathy. A few steps from Hahnemann’s house, the former infirmary of the monastery of the Barmherzigen Brüder (Order of the Brothers of Mercy), one of the most important listed buildings in the town, was elaborately renovated. The European Library of Homoeopathy has been based here since October 2009 and already contains more than three thousand volumes. Some of these are valuable first editions of Samuel Hahnemann’s work. Events and exhibitions of the DZVhÄ should make the building a lively place for exchanging information and from 2010 a correspondence course for in-service students—Integrated Practise in Homeopathy—is being offered here in cooperation with the Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg.

In order to make the history and significance of homoeopathy in Köthen visible, the town has established a “Homoeopathy Trail” leading from the new library to the Lutze Clinic. Large signs with quotations by Samuel Hahnemann are displayed on the gables of some of the houses, and in the square in front of the Magdeburg Tower, a “Ruheplatz” (quiet place) has been redesigned using the typical homoeopathic medicinal plants.

“Homoeopathic Town Planning”


How far the basic principles of homoeopathy can be applied to town planning will also be tested in Köthen. Experimental research into this question has been carried out by an interdisciplinary team of town planners and homoeopathic physicians. In fact, there are certain analogies in the methods. In homoeopathy, the healing process is primarily furthered by “systemic self-regulation”. Drugs applied in minimal doses are supposed to induce the self-healing powers of the body. At times, the illness is aggravated in a controlled manner in order to provoke a reaction. The medicine is chosen using the “principle of similarity.” The ill person receives a homoeopathic remedy that would create similar symptoms in a healthy person. In lengthy individual talks with patients about their medical history (anamnesis), the efficacy of the drug and the progress of recovery are reviewed in order to determine further therapeutical steps.

These steps were abstracted methodically and simulated empirically in a specific test field in Ludwigstrasse. Here, fourteen buildings that had become economically untenable were to be demolished. The demolition would have further reduced the attractiveness of the street, and the housing association was not successful at first in getting support from tenants or owners. The physicians and town planners of the IBA working group initially analysed the problem (anamnesis) in a large number of personal talks with the people involved. As a stimulus, the fourteen buildings to be demolished were dramatically and dazzlingly illuminated using theatre spotlights whilst the streetlights were turned off for fifteen minutes. Building owners vented their annoyance aggressively at the subsequent meeting, but it was possible to channel this into a constructive process that same evening. The housing association then demolished four buildings in order to erect a new one. This new building was to be less solid with reasonably priced, wheelchair-accessible flats and would set standards for future building in the town centre. This investment encouraged the residents of Ludwigstrasse. In the meantime, residents have bought and upgraded four buildings, and new gardens and car parks have been laid out. Ludwigstrasse is getting a gradual face-lift.


The in part hefty reactions of those affected showed that, with the courage to deliberately provoke a crisis, unexpected energy can be activated, leading to the development of surprising solution attempts. The victims became participants from whose ideas the planning objectives are defined step by step. As in homoeopathy, the “healing process” is continually observed and guided. The planners operate as facilitators for a process which remains open-ended for as long as possible. In the second test for this town planning with a homoeopathic approach, the badly neglected Friedenspark will now receive “treatment.”


It is hoped that its reputation as a homoeopathic centre will bring European conferences and congresses to the town and Köthen will become part of an education network for homoeopathy. The experience gained with Ludwigstrasse should encourage this method of “open area development” to be applied to other areas. But what is more fascinating is the idea that, as the result of all this planning, Köthen can once again latch onto its image as a liberal, creative place for innovative and experimental ideas in the Anhalt network of local towns and cities.

Florian Heilmeyer, 2010

Movie: Ludwigstraße test area. Homeopathy as a developmental force

9:47 min, Henry Mertens, 2009 (German)

More pictures of Köthen (Anhalt)


Info: Köthen (Anhalt)

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 36.934
2009: 28.668
2025: 23.030 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 78,42 qkm

IBA-Website of Köthen