The IBA has changed Perspectives

Interview with Stefanie Rudel and Siegrun Ruprecht

"We need external stimuli of the kind the IBA brought to the city." 
Stephanie Rudel head of department for urban renewal, IBA representative for Halberstadt (left)

"It’s a matter of seeing empty space from another perspective, exploring empty space and training new ways of seeing."
Siegrun Ruprecht town planner in the urban planning department, IBA representative for Halberstadt (right)

What was the initial situation in Halberstadt when the IBA began?


Stephanie Rudel: Right after German reunification, Halberstadt was included in the federal Model City programme. The available funding meant that it was possible to renovate the old town and build in the Fischmarkt and Holzmarkt area. To design a new city centre in an area, which had been empty and disorganised for decades, was a huge achievement, which fills the people of Halberstadt with pride.

Siegrun Ruprecht: Halberstadt suffered a lot of war damage. The reconstruction brought large-scale, industrially built housing into the city centre, but also left behind a number of empty spaces. The demolition in the old town mustn’t be forgotten either. From 1990 the planning objective was to rebuild on these plots and to close the gaps.

How did the theme “Cultivation of Empty Space” come about?

Siegrun Ruprecht: At the turn of the millennium it became clear that it wouldn’t be possible to build on certain areas in the city centre, because nobody needed new buildings there. The demographic development made this quite clear.

Stephanie Rudel: We asked ourselves what had to change in the city centre to make it more attractive. The empty space came to mind and so, in collaboration with the IBA Office in Dessau, we came up with the theme “Cultivation of Empty Space”.

Siegrun Ruprecht: Building on every empty plot of land is not the issue. It’s a matter of seeing empty space from another perspective, exploring empty space and training new ways of seeing. After all, “empty” can have all kinds of meaning

… How can such a thing be trained?

Siegrun Ruprecht: A concept for a “Vision Training Pathway” was developed with the office chezweitz & roseapple, Dr. Martin Peschken and the IBA Office. Actions at selected sites in the city took a unique approach to the theme of empty space.

Stephanie Rudel: The “Reading Picnic” at the Abtshof was the first and also most surprising encounter with the theme. It was quite a whimsical idea, but it really hit the spot. It generated a new awareness of the value and potential of the place.

Siegrun Ruprecht: The picnic motif continued along the “Vision Training Pathway”, like a golden thread. There was the “Film Picnic” on the busy Heine-Platz and the “Sound Picnic” on our lovely cathedral square. All different kinds of places with different kinds of emptiness.

Do the people of Halberstadt see their city in a different way today? What kind of impact has the IBA had?

Siegrun Ruprecht: We think more actively and consciously about the cityscape, we’ve captured the public’s interest, and we’ve learned a lot. For instance that the empty space at the cathedral square is an appealing one and that empty space can be turned into something attractive, as it is at the cathedral hill. We’ve also found out where empty space is intolerable and really calls for something new, as it does at the Abtshof.

Stephanie Rudel: There was a risk that an “event mentality” would take hold and that the real issue behind the event would not be understood. It was nevertheless a good beginning, although we still have a lot to do to get the local population on our side.

Siegrun Ruprecht: The IBA has boosted the development of the places along the “Vision Training Pathway”. Building is now going on at the Abtshof, the cathedral hill has been landscaped and planning is underway on the “Domforum” (cathedral forum), a joint project by the parish and the city.

Which aspect will you build on for the future?

Stephanie Rudel: There’s no question that this new, different way of seeing things will continue to influence our renovation projects in the city. Personally, I’m much more likely to see the positive in an initial situation, and I know that there’s more than one answer to a question. We need external stimuli of the kind the IBA brought to the city.

Siegrun Ruprecht: We’ve definitely learned that it is important to involve the public in the development of ideas and projects from the outset and to look for allies.

Info: Halberstadt

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 53.086
2009: 42.939
2025: 34.717 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 142,97 qkm

IBA-Website of Halberstadt