Project Weißenfels

A Time for Founders

Weißenfels, in the administrative district of Burgenlandkreis, is located about thirty kilometres southwest of Leipzig on the river Saale. It was an important industrial centre, and its new town north of the Saale is characterised by numerous former industrial sites. These areas in the middle of the new town are no longer used and separate the newer estates in the north from the “Gründerzeit” (founder period) areas in the south, which were built during the industrialisation period in the late 19th century. In the context of the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010, a green zone evolved here following the demolition of the ramshackle factory areas. The course of this zone is from east to west and, its purpose is to make the new town more attractive for the residents.


The town’s IBA slogan is a play on words in German, “Grün der Zeit” (greening of time) and “Gründerzeit” (founder period, referring to the late 19th century when its industrial and economic power was founded). Thus this slogan refers to the green zone as well as to a second planning objective. Weißenfels sees cooperating with the food industry as the backbone of its urban redevelopment. The themes that Weißenfels has chosen for its IBA project also reflect this. They are: “Business Creates Green Areas,” “Business Creates Housing,” and “Business Creates Education.”

After 1945, Weißenfels became the largest shoe producer in the GDR with the VEB Kombinat Schuhe (state-owned combine). More than six thousand employees in the Weißenfels area produced around 65% of the total shoe output. Privatisation of the firm following German reunification in 1989/90 led to the far-reaching collapse of the shoe industry by 1992. Due to competition from low-wage countries, the industry had no chance of survival following the opening up of the markets. The lack of jobs in the neighbouring chemical industry also caused out-migration. Even the setting up of new companies, mainly from the food industry, could not stop this trend. In 1990, the population still numbered a good 37,700 inhabitants. In mid-2008 this number was only 29,133, and falling. (Forecast for 2010: 28,610 inhabitants.) The food industry, with meat production, baking products, dairies, and beverage production together with the plastics industry now form the most important employment sectors for the townspeople. But there are also problems. The new abattoir will slaughter 20,000 pigs a day. Thus, it is absolutely critical to evaluate it from an ecological standpoint because of odour emissions, the sewage burden, and the high volume of traffic from delivery and from collection. It was therefore logical to involve the expanding food industry closely in the urban development process when Weißenfels became an IBA town in 2003. In the meantime, the firms have built up a network which sees its role as being responsible for the joint marketing of the location.


The largest project in the context of the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010 is the gradual creation of a green belt from the brownfield sites of the new town. With the slogan “Business Creates Green Zones,” this green zone aims to join the old and new towns, including the Saale, and thus to once more create a strong connection between river and town. It is designed to be easily maintainable. Rubble from the demolished factories was used in some parts to form these new areas. As a central element and as an “intergenerational project for the citizens of the new town,” a grove was set out along an old coal route. Citizens donated and, for the most part, planted the trees themselves in September 2007. The disused electric power station will be rebuilt as a multi-purpose events centre. It is run along the lines of a company belonging wholly to the town, which is both user and operator.

The food industry also participated in the planning considerations. The firms within this network supported individual projects and carried out compensatory measures, chiefly in the green zone. Furthermore the representatives of the Netzwerk Ernährungsgewerbe Sachsen-Anhalt Süd (Food industries Network of South Saxony-Anhalt) support the other priorities of the Weißenfels IBA project— education and housing. Resources from the Urban Restructuring in East Germany)programme in effect financed the preparation of the green zone. The first three stages of this were handed over to the public in early 2009.


Several “new town workshops” developed the ideas and planning for the green zone. They were held from 2003 onwards and included architects, town planners, landscape architects, as well as representatives of the IBA, business, the town, associations, as well as citizens, thus arousing the interest of the people of Weißenfels for urban redevelopment issues. This was evident by the lively participation in activities such as tree planting in the new green zone.

Thus the plan, co-designed with citizens, emerged for a western landscape zone as an extension to the green zone over the Saale and into the historic centre. This “bridge building” encompasses both the “Altstadtsaaleufer/Stadtbalkon” and the former “Getreidewirtschaft” projects. A part of the historic promenade, including Klingenplatz, is to be redesigned in 2010. Thus the 19th-century new town will not only be improved as a residential district but also connected, via a “landscape bridge,” to the attractive old town. This was the seat of the Duchy of Saxony-Weißenfels from 1656 to 1746. The baroque palace of Neu-Augustusburg also dates from this time. It is built on the white rocks that gave the town its name. Further signs of the Baroque period can be found in the castle church, the duke’s house, and the town hall as well as in numerous townhouses in the historic centre, which had numerous prominent residents, including Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672), Johann Beer (1655–1700) and Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis, 1772–1801).


The new town has taken centre stage in one further aspect of the Weißenfels IBA project. As part of the “Business Creates Housing” project, the late “Gründerzeit” district east of the Märchenbrunnen on Merseburger Strasse moved into the limelight. Here, a long-term process is meant to lead to new forms of housing that will take into account the diverse needs of the food industry employees who live there. This study of the area, carried out within the framework of the IBA, demonstrated that, despite existing potential, a workable solution could not be attained. The IBA also reached its limitations here. As the private owners did not involve themselves as much as had been expected, the urban housing association took up the initiative outside of the IBA process.

Under the headline “Business Creates Education,” Weißenfels aims to establish itself as an educational centre for the food industry professions. This will not only provide local businesses with skilled new entrants into the workplace, but also encourage new business ventures to settle there. The enhanced educational curriculum is intended to make the town more attractive to young people. Training and further education measures will be devised and carried out in cooperation with the food industry network.

Ingrid Reuter, 2010

More pictures of Weißenfels


Info: Weißenfels

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 43.639
2009: 33.315
2025: 26.140 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 51,6 qkm

IBA-Website of Weißenfels