The Miracle of Leinefelde?

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Leinefelde, is a small town in former East Germany that doubled  in population due to the construction of a large cotton mill in GDR times.  Nowadays the town is joined with Worbis to stay strong even in times of severe population decline. The population of Leinefelde has shrunk with the same speed as it grew after the Wende and after the closure of the cotton factory.  Leinefelde has since demolished large amounts of buildings. On the outskirts of Leinefelde Sud, the first large flats, that were only built in 1991, were already demolished again in 1998.

Thanks to a visionary mayor the city has had a very consistent policy, with architectural quality  high on the agenda. Now after several years of refurbishments in the southern city, the original plattenbau is hardly recognizable anymore. All the buildings have been either renovated or demolished.

As a result of competitions, two architects were selected who have shaped the major part of the transformation. The first phase is designed by Meier, Scupin, Petzet architects from Munich. The second phase by Stefan Forster from Frankfurt. Both have been able to design and execute an integrated plan. In terms of urban planning, housing typology and architectural appearance their designs have given a new identity to the neighborhood.
The town villas Forster are the most iconic. These slabs have been downsized from 6 to 4 layers, and parts have been cut out, leaving a row of urban villas. The precast concrete walls are finished with stucco in fresh colors and new balconies so that the association with plattenbau has completely disappeared.

The renovation of Leinefelde South is very convincing, due to the consistent approach. It has changed the image of the neighborhood tremendously, but it also raises a number of questions. Tino Hartlep, head of technical services at Wohnungsbau und Verwaltungs GMBH Leinefelde, tells us that after the demolition and renovation only two of the buildings in Leinefelde Sud are equipped with an elevator.  That conflicts with the strong aging of the area. The ownership situation and thus the type of residents has not changed. The beautifully renovated houses are still rented out for social rent. People with a high income cannot live there.

Despite these questions in Leinefelde the added value of the architect is greatly appreciated. Tino Hartlep confirms this with his story on recent experiences of WVL. On a very limited scale WVL builds new barrier-free housing with varying experiences. They have noticed that, in a traditional process with all parties in independent roles much more quality is achieved for the same price, as a design and build process. In future plans WVL holds on to the vision that good design should be leading.

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