Urban planning in the city of Dresden and surroundings

On April 29th, one of the first and long-awaited sunny days of the Dresdner Frühling (spring in Dresden), we explored some key places of the city to learn about different methods of urban planning and urban changes that took place in the last 30 years, with the guidance of Dr. Schmidt (Chair of Landmanagement, TU Dresden). The first place we visited was the southern area of the city of Dresden, next to the Bismarckturm (Bismarck Tower) in the District of Zschertnitz, from where we had a wonderful view of the valley in which the central part of the city was developed and is still growing. There, some important explanations were done by Dr. Schmidt concerning the types of land uses (forests, agriculture, industrial areas, settlements), the distribution of the agglomerations, the rural areas and the traffic corridors in the State of Saxony, as well as the population changes in the city of Dresden between the 1970s and nowadays, which shows the increasing amount of inhabitants in the city since 2005 due to higher rates of births and migration from the surroundings to Dresden. At the moment, Dresden is the 12th biggest city in Germany.

After this first insight we headed to the District of Gorbitz, part of the city of Dresden, to see a housing complex with a total of 15,000 flats for 40,000 people, 10% of the population of the city at the end of the 1980s. The complex was first planned in the 1970s, in the GDR (German Democratic Republic) times, when a lack of housing for the population in East Germany urged the Government in Berlin to plan large house building programs that would be developed up to the 1990s, in 5-year plans. The municipal planners of the city of Dresden decided to build the houses on former agricultural lands in Gorbitz. The reasons to choose this area were a relative good connection to the city center through the existing transportation network at the time and the proximity to a market and shopping area to ensure the provisioning of basic goods for the population that were going to inhabit the new flats. To build such a large amount of houses, an industrialized method of building was developed: the prefabricated type. In 1981 the first constructions started. The buildings had 6-floors each and contained many flats of 1 or 2 rooms that were all designed with the same shape, look and disposition. All the flats were owned by the Government and/or by cooperatives, to which people had to apply to rent one. The complex was fully planned with all the basic services (water, sewerage, heating, electricity), new streets, the extension of the transportation network, open green areas, schools and kindergartens, new market areas, but without working areas such as industries, large commercial areas, etc. After the reunification of Germany, a lot of houses were built in other places of Dresden and many people moved out from Gorbitz to the newly built flats. Several of the empty flats of the complex were deconstructed completely or reduced to fewer floors due to the high costs of maintenance. Nowadays, the city of Dresden is investing in the improvement and modernizing of the flats to attract people again to live there.

The third site we visited was in the District of Kesselsdorf in the city of Wilsdruff, right next to Dresden, as an example of “sub-urbanization”. Kesselsdorf remained mostly a rural area up to the 1990s, when a settlement was developed on former agricultural lands by the hand of private initiative of investors of the so called West Germany. This represented new opportunities of tax incomes for the municipality, which was the responsible to choose the site for the construction. This sub-urbanization was very common after the reunification of Germany, since an increasing amount of housing buildings in the surroundings of the cities were built. In the case we visited, those houses were designed to attract the part of the population with higher incomes who wanted to leave the city center of Dresden and live in a quieter and cleaner environment. About 2,000 people moved from Dresden to Kesselsdorf during the 1990s. The housing offer was created after surveys conducted by the private initiative to know how many people from the city would like to move outside Dresden, resulting in a 75% of those surveyed. The new buildings did not match with the rural environment of single houses style, since they contained many floors and the capacity to house several families. In the last years, people from the surroundings moved back to Dresden to get better access to their work places, education and leisure and cultural offers, as well as to better infrastructure. This process is the so called “re-urbanization” of the city.

In between, we also could pass through Moritzburg, a community in the city of Meissen, near Dresden, which maintains a baroque Schloss (palace/castle) that started to be built in the 16th century and served as a hunting lodge for members of the nobility of Saxony, including Augustus the Strong in the 18th century.

On the was back to CIPSEM, we had finally the great pleasure of visiting the District of Hellerau, part of the city of Dresden, in which the second oldest Garden City of Germany is located. The Garden City concept was initiated at the end of the 19th century in the UK as a method of urban planning. The development of this concept in Hellerau took place by the hand of Karl Schmidt-Hellerau, a businessman who moved his furniture manufactory from the center of the city to the outskirts in the first years of the 20th century. The city was completely planned and had the purpose of providing better conditions of life for the manufactory’s employees, allowing them to inhabit in single houses with small gardens in the yards. The urban complex includes the houses, a central market, the industry and its administrative offices and even a theater. The place is still visited nowadays, mainly by architecture students and specialists because of the attractiveness of the complex from the sight of the urban planning and the outside look of the buildings.

Report by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay); photographs by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay), Binod Gurung (Nepal), Dulip Somirathna (Sri Lanka)