Connecting new Landscapes with the Saale

Interview with Prof. Dr. Iris Reuther

"Public dialogue is always a challenge because you have to prove that something results from the plans.”

Iris Reuther, Architect for urban Planning, Office for urban Projects

In 2003 Weißenfels became one of the first towns to successfully apply to participate in the IBA 2010 with the topic “Grün der Zeit” (“Green Times”), which was derived from the word “Gründerzeit” (“Time for Founders”). The subtitle was “Added-Value Urban Landscape”. What is behind this slogan?


Iris Reuther: Back in the 1990s when the Office for Urban Projects was updating the overall plan for the old town, we discussed with representatives of the town whether houses really had to be rebuilt everywhere, faced with the large number of empty buildings and land. If fewer buildings are needed as a result of fewer inhabitants alternatives must be sought. Nature was already reclaiming the former industrial sites in the Neustadt quarter. Accepting this process, connecting it with the Saale and applying it to the old town became a conceptual idea.

However, it is not enough to let nature work on its own in order to solve Weißenfels’ urban development problems …

Iris Reuther: That is not what we mean. We mean a long-term project and developing new urban qualities. The idea is to establish landscapes and green spaces where there were previously closed-off industrial premises. The IBA process gave birth to the idea of connecting such spaces with one other and with the area along the banks of the Saale. It has only now become possible for the Saale cycle path to follow the river and pass through the old town. When the former grain industry site on the banks of the Saale was demolished in 2008, many Weißenfels citizens had an eye-opening experience: a wall disappeared and they were able to access the water and experience a new quality of life.

You can see the IBA with the green axis on an industrial brownfield site in Merseburger Straße in the Neustadt quarter. How does the old town benefit from this, and how can the citizens of Weißenfels use the new landscape?

Iris Reuther: On the old town bank the “City Gallery” is supposed to extend the public spaces on both sides and to open up a direct view. These new open spaces can accommodate changing leisure habits: Sport is increasingly taking place outside, in particular paths along water are considered to be attractive. And why should people not sail on the Saale at Weißenfels, too?

Did you communicate such ideas in the Neustadt Workshops? How did people react?

Iris Reuther: It is important to discuss projects in public and with a wide audience if you wish to gain acceptance. Weißenfels went right to the people with the “Neustadt Workshops”. The first was held in a tent on Merseburger Straße right next to the “Märchenbrunnen” (fairytale fountain). Representative from the business community, political life and culture and the citizens’ association in particular were all involved. An informal advisory committee emerged from this group of people, and it took over the job of preparing and implementing projects such as the evaluation of a design competition for the former power station and the landscape corridor in the Neustadt quarter. Of course, public dialogue is always a challenge because you have to prove that something results from the plans. But the group of supporters grows with such a committee.

You mentioned the food industry. Does it support the IBA process?

Iris Reuther: For example, compensatory measures for the extension of the abattoir have been included in the design of the new landscape corridor in the Neustadt quarter. What is important for the businesses are factors such as water supply and wastewater disposal, transport links, but also educational facilities and the town’s image for employees moving to the area. This therefore resulted in intensive dialogue and concrete shared projects.

What is the vision for Weißenfels after the IBA?

Iris Reuther: Weißenfels can present itself as “The green town on banks of the Saale” and as a confident small secondary centre in the centre of Germany. If the image of the town can change to such a degree that people realise that the beautiful part of the Saale valley begins in Weißenfels and not along the river in Naumburg, then the town will have succeeded.

Info: Weißenfels

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 43.639
2009: 33.315
2025: 26.140 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 51,6 qkm

IBA-Website of Weißenfels