Project Quedlinburg

Perspective: World Cultural Heritage

Quedlinburg has one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in Germany. On the one hand, its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1994 gave the town a great opportunity. On the other, it presented it with serious problems. Of the 1,300 half-timbered houses covering an area of 90 hectares, approximately 250 are empty and about to fall into ruin. When individual historic buildings or collections are lost then the total picture of the town is lost too, and with it the material basis on which World Heritage status is based.


With the IBA theme “Perspectives: World Cultural Heritage,” in a time of out-migration and with tight budgetary constraints, Quedlinburg is working on a strategy to preserve and further develop the complete area of listed monuments in the old town as a resource. In so doing, the town followed the approach of not treating the historic building fabric as a piece of scenery, but of activating it as a place to live and work.

Quedlinburg is one of the very early mediaeval centres. It became an Easter palatinate for the Ottonian rulers in 922. The religious foundation for ladies was of decisive significance for Quedlinburg’s economic and political significance because that gave it market rights, and the right to mint coins and levy tolls. The town prospered economically in the late Middle Ages. The largest upturn in urban development occurred at the time of the Thirty Years War. Most of the 1,300 intact half-timbered houses were built in this period.

In the 19th and 19th centuries, Quedlinburg attained world economic significance in the cultivation of flowers and seeds. Seed cultivation firms and metalworking were the biggest employers in the twentieth century. In the time of the GDR, VEB Mertik (state owned enterprise) sometimes employed more than three thousand workers. After 1990, numerous firms were closed down and others were lost to the town when they relocated. Individual surviving seed cultivation institutions then became part of the Federal Centre for Research on Plant Cultivation in Quedlinburg. The newly founded Julius Kühn Institute has its headquarters here. When Quedlinburg lost its position as district capital in 2007, some one thousand workplaces were lost. Since 1990, 20% of its residents have turned their backs on Quedlinburg to migrate or to move into the outlying districts. Of the 28,663 residents in 1990, only 21,500 remained in 2008. It is expected that by 2020 there will be between 11,000 and 18,000 inhabitants.


Today, tourism is one of the most important sectors in Quedlinburg – however, the town does not want to turn itself into a museum.

To combat the deterioration of the old town during the GDR era, proposals stemming from the citizens’ movement in 1989 were carried out. Widespread demolition in the north of the town was prevented. After 1990, renovation work was begun mainly on the smaller half-timbered houses, measures that were affordable for the private owners.

Despite impressive success in renovation and restoration work carried out since 1991 as a “model of town restoration” and in the programme for urban monument protection, the far-reaching economic and demographic structural changes are challenging the very existence of the town and its areas of listed monuments. It is above all the large empty buildings that have found no new usage even after twenty years because of the high expenditures required. Entire streets of buildings are under threat. The town’s coffers are empty, and the municipality is scarcely able to raise the co-financing necessary to provide subsidies.

The IBA project in Quedlinburg acknowledges that a number of private building and cultural activities have contributed to the preservation and vitalisation of the historic core of the town. Apart from public funding and funding by the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz (German Foundation for Monument Protection), this initiative is the backbone to protecting and encouraging further growth of the World Heritage Site. The IBA contribution to the town consists of consolidating this commitment and communicating all the experience that Quedlinburg has gathered.

Play VideoAction platforms were therefore formed such as the annual “monument breakfast” and the “Citizen’s for Quedlinburg forum” allowing the exchange of information between the citizens, town administration, local politicians, and the Office for the Protection of Monuments. The “Citizen’s for Quedlinburg forum” offers a platform for cooperation with the UNESCO management plan. This sets priorities for future spatial and cultural economic activities to protect and further develop the world heritage. The city realised this plan was a unique opportunity. It must, as an integrated planning tool, accomplish combining monument protection, urban planning, and economic development as well as a concept for sustainable tourism and the cultural profiling of the town.


One aspect will be of particular significance for the future viability of the old town. This is the question of the integration of monument protection and thermal insulation measures in historic buildings, as these are not allowed to be wrapped up in modern insulating materials. Thus the old town is in competition with other housing market segments of the town which are more cost-effective and energy efficient. Renovation methods will therefore have to be further developed that make it possible to consider the legal requirements of monument protection, thermal insulation, and CO2 reduction, and which are affordable for proprietors and tenants. To do this, the expertise of the Deutsches Fachwerkzentrum (German centre for half-timbered construction), specialist companies, and resident architects will have to be called on. In cooperation with the town’s renovation association, they have created impressive examples of renovation and reactivation of historic building substance over the last two decades.


The experience that Quedlinburg has gathered over the last twenty years will be made accessible to national and international visitors during the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010. Individual tours of the town can be completed using the IBA audio guide. This audio guide tells the histories of “people and buildings.” The places visited will include examples of “classic restoration” as well as unconventional approaches to conservation, such as renovation that deliberately foregoes normal standards to allow the “old to stay old.” In doing so, this does not only use less expensive solutions, but it also creates new living and working spaces with a special atmosphere as well as “upgradeable buildings.” These are buildings that have been looked after only so far as enable them to wait another decade for new owners without suffering damage. Some buildings have only been partially renovated—for instance the shop room on the ground floor, whilst the upper floor remains in stand-by mode. Other listed buildings will be used temporarily, for instance as guest apartments. In the IBA year, the audio guide is presenting the multifaceted restoration practices, including Quedlinburg’s unconventional methods, and is promoting the upgradeable buildings in particular.

Lea Bauer, 2010

More pictures of Quedlinburg


Info: Quedlinburg

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 29.096
2009: 21.372
2025: 17.479 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 78,14 qkm