Browsing this web site you accept techinical and statistical cookies. close [ more info ]

Görlitz, Germany

Cultural Heritage: Goerlitz (Germany)

Municipality of Goerlitz

Green without borders
General concept 1999/2000.
Landscape Architects Dr. Hendrikje Becker, Friedewald
Construction planning in Görlitz, Heiderose Starke
City centre zone on both sides of the River Neisse,
which runs along the German/Polish border
The general concept groups individual projects
in different phases of planning and realisation

The City of Görlitz, which is built on both sides of the River Neisse, was divided into a Polish part, Zgorzelec (ca. 36,000 inhabitants), and a German part, Görlitz (ca. 63,000 inhabitants), after the Second World War. After this, both halves of the city developed independently of each other. Both halves of the city have turned towards each other since the political revolution in 1989 and the planned eastern expansion of the EU. The task for the future is the European City of Görlitz - Zgorzelec. The city is located at the most eastern point of the Federal Republic of Germany (Free State of Saxony) and at the most westward point of the Republic of Poland. The economic and social circumstances of the inhabitants of both parts of the city developed very differently in the following years. 
Founded in 1071, the city still retains its special character, nestled as it is in the romantic Neisse Valley. The gorges and plains of the Neisse Valley, the original relief inside and outside the city boundaries and the natural vegetation complexes, some of which remain preserved today, gave the city both space and limits for development, and economic and cultural uses and for recreation and leisure. 
In geographical terms, the two city districts of Görlitz and Zgorzelec belong to Lower Silesia; in terms of natural space they are part of the East Lausitz field and hill landscape, an agricultural plain crowned by wooded hills and mountains. The Neisse Valley is like an independent natural unit. The city itself occupies roughly 2580 ha between 420 mNN and ca. 180 mNN. A prominent rock base in the north-east of the city is taken to be historically where the town was founded. The castle and St. Peter's Church now stand there. Settlement spread outwards from the Neisse westwards into the Nikolaivorstadt suburb and in the late 16th century to the east. The city of cloth and dye specialists started to rise to prosperity in the 13th century as a flourishing trade centre along the via regain. Strong industrial development and rapid city expansion then took place during the 19th century. The city was connected to the grid maintained by the Saxon and Prussian Railway Companies. Brown coal mining also started close to the city. New districts were constructed, creating pleasant residential areas in the middle of generous park complexes. 
The reunification of the two German states in 1990 brought a phase of economic transformation to the district of Görlitz. Industry and trade disappeared from the city in the following years, although there is settlement around the city periphery. The problems of restructuring are expressed in almost 23 % unemployment and in constant migration. The opening of the borders to the future EU state of Poland is on the horizon in the medium term. Existing structures and open spaces in both parts of the city have considerable potential for a joint development of the city.

Cultural heritage - Preservation and Development
The Slavic village of "Villa Gorelic", which was mentioned for the first time in 1071, was first the site of city development around what is now known as the historic old town where many important trade routes once crossed (via regia, Amber Road). Strong, fortified walls, within which wealthy families of merchants settled in magnificent town houses, became too restrictive for the developing industries and their additional buildings during the 19th century. The centre moved southwards, where the city's new appearance was characterised by shopping and residential streets, public buildings, parks and restaurants. Görlitz survived the Second World War almost without damage, but it was divided along the Neisse. Once the GDR had been founded, the city's appearance suffered with the introduction of a residential housing construction programme right outside the city during the 1970's. The subsequent trend among inhabitants to flee the old town to new and modern residential blocks left behind vacancies and desolation in the valuable, historic buildings of the old town in Görlitz. 
The reunification of the two German states in 1990 gave Görlitz a new chance to use subsidised redevelopment programmes to halt the desolation. Redevelopment, refurbishment and modernisation of the city centre have resulted in inward migration from the younger areas around the city. The revival of the historic buildings goes hand in hand with a more gradual economic revitalisation. 
The medieval city structure, which has been preserved almost entirely, contains approximately 4000 valuable individual monuments from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and late 19th century eras ("Gründerjahre"). A century ago, Görlitz gained the reputation of being the Garden City of the East with its numerous public parks and beautiful greenery. The short distances between the dense city area and the special, inherently individual, natural landscapes around the Neisse led to their development as recreational and leisure areas to the west and the east. These recreational areas, the industrial wasteland from the recent past and the subsequent development in the regions around the city (mining) open up far-reaching possibilities for city development, especially with a view to the opening of the eastern EU border to Poland. The municipal structures that have been built in the Polish district of Zgorzelec since 1945 barely permit any conclusions on the former green settlement structures, especially in the northern parts. 
The city development concept "Green without borders" builds structural, economic, cultural, social and political bridges across the Neisse to create an atmosphere in which the German and the Polish parts of the city grow together. The preservation of the cultural legacy and the required reorientation open up new possibilities for city development. 

The location of the city in the varied landscape of the Neisse Valley, the renovation of the still intact building structures from the Renaissance, Baroque, late 19th century, Art Nouveau and modern epochs and also the park structures constructed in the 19th century, allow a vision in which both parts of the city are linked together in terms of city development, culture, education, tourism and the economy. Pedestrian, bicycle, rail and water transport infrastructures, which originally worked very well in the city, as well as numerous restored buildings, baths, and refuges close to the Neisse, ideal for anyone seeking rest and recuperation, have been preserved in some cases. Abandoned production plants are awaiting new uses. Deficits in the functional links between the two cities, in the permeability of these links, in terms of ownership circumstances and with regard to aspects concerning the natural landscape (water quality in the Neisse, fortification of streams etc.), or with regard to the quality of the city or the landscape, must be eradicated. On the other hand, restrictions on the use of certain areas, mostly nature and landscape reserves in the Neisse river valley, also impose limits on the development.

Görlitz - Zgorzelec in the eyes of the general public 
By building up and expanding municipal open areas along both sides of the Neisse, Green without borders creates the Green network Neisse Valley, functionally linked by various types of bridges. The open space system is divided into zones with different principal functions:
Landscape balance and ecological functions such as landscape protection and development functions (navigation landscape)
Municipal functions such as functions of purely municipal open areas (navigation town)
Equal multiple-functions in which municipal functions are just as important as functions concerning landscape protection (navigation town-landscape)
The navigation areas offer the possibility to discover the city theme by theme on both sides of the river. Meridian events in each navigation area mark the 15th meridian, which runs through both parts of the city. They offer ways of identifying a common theme of new city individuality in both parts, based on the river culture, the city, the regional landscape history, international relations, politics and art. The meridian lights, located on the meridian,- are markings to denote where the meridian crosses the banks of the Neisse - and the meridian places - places close to the meridian, such as the Jägerwäldchen (Hunter's Forest) - are also part of this.
The generous provision of education in both parts of the city permits a cross-reference to other groups of themes. Gastronomy crosses thematic borders and allows people to socialise, to enjoy themselves and to get to know each other in every way. 
All areas of the green network are connected by links: bridges, pedestrian and cycling paths, rail connections or in some cases only by visual impressions of green structures.

Strategies and Results 
Green without borders is a general concept for an aligned city development of both parts of the city, which initiates possible points of communication, work, education and tourism, mainly in the open areas in the centre of the city. The strategies are truly cross-border and not simply parallel measures on both sides. Everyday points of contact should turn neighbours into partners, thus improving the competitive edge of the European City. 
Public funding is indispensable for successful implementation. European Union subsidy programmes (Interreg., Phare, CBC) in particular are necessary. They must be supplemented by regional funding programmes in order to give a decisive momentum. The main focus in the areas will be on city design measures with individual additions. Other zones require fundamental city development and a new purpose. Bridges over the river are symbolic, but are of particular elementary functional significance. 
In addition to publicly funded measures, private sector contributions, citizens' initiatives and associations will play an increasingly important role. 
The individual projects are at different phases of realisation. For example, the design of the river banks in the old town and the gardens between the historic strongholds (Nikolaizwinger and Ochsenzwinger) has already been completed. The Centre of Further Education in Crafts and Heritage is located in the city's oldest secular building, the Waidhaus. It brings together specialists and students from all over Europe to pass on old and new techniques of renovating listed monuments. The former Vierradenmühle now functions as a small hydroelectric power plant and is also a terraced restaurant overlooking the border river. The Neißetal boat hire is developing to become a tourist attraction. A new university building directly on the banks of the river is the architectural contrast between the Middle Ages and the 21st Century. 
Plans are currently being drafted for other projects (e.g. Old Town Bridge). The plans for a tramline crossing the border will only be possible in the long-term. However, a city bus already runs along a bi-national route, which has breathed new life into the city centre retail trade. The concept also contains visions that will require 10-15 years to complete.