The Miracle of Leinefelde?


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.


Halle, Schrumpf oder Schwarm?


Halle, capital of Saxony Anhalt has about 230,000 inhabitants. The old city lies on the eastern bank of the river Saale. West of the Saale the gigantic neighborhood Neustadt was built during DDR times. In the 90s Neustadt was inhabited by about 93,000 people. Nowadays there are only 45,000 inhabitants left in Neustadt.
About sixteen years after the Wende, Halle doesn’t shrink any more. The population is stable, according to Lars Loebner, head of the planning department of the city of Halle. There are however big differences between the different city districts. The old quarters of the city now slightly grow, the large plattenbau areas shrink even further.


When addressing the shrinkage problem Halle has stimulated investments in the towncentre and the old quarters around it, with success. In Neustadt only some apartments have been refurbished. On the edges a lot of buildings have been demolished.

The predominantly social housing in Neustadt is now mostly occupied by elderly people who started living there before the Wende and by immigrants. For a durable development of Neustadt, new generations have to move in. In order to stimulate that Lars Loebner wants to give Neustadt a ‘cool’ image. During an international design workshop with students the idea was suggested to connect Neustadt and Heide Süd. In Heide Süd you can buy a plot to build your own home. The question is if this strategy will work. The two areas are not well connected and very different.

Neustadt still has some fantastic empty plattenbau- buildings. These buildings are perfect to develop as ‘klusflats’ (cheap casco appartments, infill by the inhabitants) . Maybe such a strategy would be more successfull in making Neustadt ‘cool’.