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Urban revitalization of Alt-Sachsenhausen

Urban revitalization
District: Local district:

Project description

Reason for planning
The quarter, which in the 1960s and ‘70s was famous for its traditional Apfelwein taverns and characterized by a well-functioning residential and commercial mix, developed into a nightlife district with an oversupply of bars and clubs. This proved detrimental especially for residential and retail facilities and, on account of subsiding demand in this segment of the hospitality industry, resulted in vacancies and increasing decay in the building fabric from the late 1980s onwards, sparking the typical self-reinforcing cycle of vacancies, inhibition to invest in future usages, structural decay and negative image.
In an effort to counteract the above trend, the City of Frankfurt decided to establish the Alt-Sachsenhausen masterplan zone including a set of defined objectives and strategies. The City Council passed the resolution on January 26, 1995.

Planning objectives
With the resolution to adopt the masterplan for Alt-Sachsenhausen the guidelines for the development of the district were fixed and a local urban revitalization process initialized. The masterplan illustrates the shortcomings of the existing building stock and points out the potential of future development. Along with preserving the typical features of the building fabric, the objectives of the revitalization measures are set to revive the quarter by enabling and promoting a new kind of mixed-usage. The main focus here is on strengthening residential qualities and transforming the monostructured hospitality such that it can be reconciled with the needs of the local residents. Rather than promoting just one aspect of the hospitality industry in the zone, the City plans to introduce new resident-friendly uses that will revitalize the area during the day too.
The intention is that new cultural facilities and offerings encouraging and complementing the urban development measures will provide fresh incentives in the quarter and place additional emphasis on function.

Development district
The Alt-Sachsenhausen masterplan zone is bounded by the following streets: Sachsenhäuserstraße / Deutschherrnufer in the north, Schulstraße via Walter-Kolb-Straße in the west, Schifferstraße in the south and Dreieichstraße in the east.

Project progress
A modernization consultancy office was set up in the zone in 1996. Here property owners can discuss details of planned modernization and renewal measures in relation to their property with an architect commissioned by the City.
In 2000 a color scheme for Alt-Sachsenhausen proposing a specific color design for each building façade in the zone was presented to the public.
In 2001, the resolution to establish a grant scheme aimed at providing further investment incentives for the realization of the objectives contained in the urban development masterplan and the color scheme was adopted.
Financial support is granted to property owners for the following measures: refurbishment and modernization, conversion, extension or building new rented apartments along with converting existing bars and restaurants into apartments or non-intrusive commercial businesses. In addition to a 20 % allowance of the eligible costs of these measures, a second subsidy payment is granted for having the façade painted in line with the recommendations set out in the color scheme.
In early 2003 the use of such funds from the modernization grant scheme was extended to measures in the public space, enabling new complementary designs in the public space in addition to having the building fabric improved.
The municipal initiatives and activities described above have slowly but surely succeeded in bringing about a positive change in the quarter. Considerable improvements in the conditions of the building fabric are very obvious now. The modernization consultancy office and the grant scheme were met with great approval.
Along with improving the building fabric, recent years witnessed an increase in those projects capitalizing on bringing about structural and functional change in the quarter. Accordingly, measures focused on projects offering different, complementary offers that appeal to a wide audience, such as converting and opening the Kuhhirtenturm and providing daily access to the neo-Gothic Dreikönigskirche and the Gothic Deutschordenskirche with a Baroque portal.

Information on the project published by the City Planning Department

More information

Conversion and redesign of the public space

Photo: Redesigned entrance to the quarter with apple bollard and relief stone, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

In early 2003 funding from the modernization grant scheme was extended to cover measures in the public space, meaning that in addition to enhancing the existing buildings new matching designs could be introduced to buttress the quarter’s revitalization.
These measures include improving the quality of the pavements in the pedestrian precincts such that they emulate the 19th-century originals, redesigning the entrances to the quarter, and realizing a concept for upgrading the existing historical fountains so typical of Sachsenhausen.
In redesigning the public space the focus is on restoring maximum clarity as this will highlight the quality of the quarter’s historical downtown spaces again.

Photo: Decorative cobblestone with apple design in the renewed pavement, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

The measures have been implemented in stages and are as good as complete. The first construction stage in Grosse Rittergasse commenced in 2004. The cobblestone pavement was re-laid and granite bandings added. These reference the historical design of the roads with their high curbstones that once separated a narrow pedestrian path from the middle of the lane, which was open to vehicles. Now installed flush with the road surface the bandings serve to add structure to the roadscape.
Subsequently all downtown lanes were redesigned one after the other to comply with the same principle.

Redesigned Paradiesplatz square, © Olaf Reuffurth

Paradiesplatz square has likewise received a makeover. Small cobblestones define the center of the plaza; larger stones were laid towards the square’s periphery and reaching as far as the edges of the buildings. The trees were arranged in a circle. The square has its own power supply for festivals. The nature of the design measures is such that they will not impede festival businesses.
The final construction stage in the center of the old town will see the development of a plaza between Kuhhirtenturm, the historical fortifications, and the new residential building opposite which, as an extension of “Alte Brücke” bridge, will form another entrance to old Sachsenhausen. Cobblestones will be selected to match the surrounding pavements. The Bäckerbrunnen fountain, which previously adorned the courtyard of the Haus der Jugend youth hostel, will be relocated to a new place in front of the old city wall and will return to being an operating fountain.
Spotlights have been fitted in front of the historical city wall which, paired with the illumination of the Kuhhirtenturm, are set to accentuate the historical aspects of this newly created plaza. Construction is envisaged to be completed by the end of 2015.The conversion of Frankensteiner Strasse is underway and expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Elisabethenstrasse will receive a makeover as part of the “Making Frankfurt More Beautiful” scheme.


Refurbishment of the fountains and redesigning their locations

The Hirschbrunnen fountain, © Olaf Reuffurth

Special attention will have to be paid in the City’s efforts to upgrade Sachsenhausen’s old quarter to the fountains as these are typical landmarks that characterize the quarter. In conjunction with the upgrading and redesigning the urban roadspace project, the City has decided (wherever necessary) to refurbish the fountains and to place them as close as possible to their original locations. In the future, all water features will be restored and used again, with additional lighting emphasizing the ornamented columns in the upper part of the fountains. Each fountain will be surrounded by an area paved with small cobbles.

St. George fountain, © Olaf Reuffurth

To date, seven out of the nine fountains have been modernized in this way and now shine in a new light.

In addition to the existing fountains in the old quarter, in 2007 the “Ritterbrunnen” featuring the figure of St. George, which was previously missing , was restored. A stonemason reconstructed the “new” Ritterbrunnen based on historical records after the statue was “rediscovered” in Frankfurt’s Historical Museum. The sculpture is a depiction of St. George on horseback, fighting with the dragon. The original stature is kept in the Historical Museum.

The Frau Rauscher fountain, © Andreas Fux

The most recent statue to undergo refurbishment was that of “Frau Rauscher” in 2009. The fountain basin was also cleaned, and in the process the formerly nondescript gray unit restored to its original red color. It is a shade that complements Sachsenhausen’s color master plan, which includes an almost identical tone. The small plaza around the fountain was cobbled to match the design of Klappergasse and on three sides lined with apple trees, among other plants.
A plate inserted in front of the fountain displays the words of “Sachsenhausen’s national anthem”.
The Bäckerbrunnen, originally located in the courtyard of Haus der Jugend, will be relocated to its new home in 2015, which will be in front of the city walls – a project part of designing the plaza in front of Kuhhirtenturm.
This measure concludes the refurbishment of fountains in Alt-Sachsenhausen.

Cultural facilities

Artist studios on Paradiesgasse, © Olaf Reuffurth

In an effort to increase Sachsenhausen’s appeal not only in Frankfurt but also in the region and beyond, along with overall urban development the City is keen to strengthen the quarter’s cultural facilities and offerings. However, Sachsenhausen property owners and publicans, and here the district differs from others in Frankfurt, have very little interest in playing an active role in changing the quarter’s image as primarily being a hub of nightlife.
Following several attempts to generate change from within the quarter, the City of Frankfurt started putting new cultural facilities in place in order to transform the quarter into an innovative and charismatic cultural magnet that would attract the broader general public, too.

Accordingly, a new cultural axis that extends along Großen Rittergasse has gradually evolved. It is devised as an independent addition to the eminent cultural axis that stretches from Frankfurt’s main train station along Museumsufer and culminates in the Ikonenmuseum on Brückenstrasse.

Not open to the public for a long time, the Kuhhirtenturm tower marks the beginning of the new cultural axis. The City of Frankfurt renovated the tower, which forms part of the former Sachsenhausen fortifications, and transformed it into a museum dedicated to composer Paul Hindemith, who lived and worked here in the 1920s. Today, a small chamber music hall is situated in the tower’s cupola. The result is a venue that attracts music lovers and history enthusiasts alike and has been very positively received since opening in 2011. The plaza in front of the tower is likewise getting a makeover.

The cultural axis extending along Großen Rittergasse includes three artist studios on the groundfloor of Frankensteiner Hof, where the Sachsenhausen Bureau of Social Welfare has been headquartered since the former Water Management Department’s building was renovated.
The quarter’s cultural attraction has been further enhanced by the fact that the Neo-Gothic Dreikönigskirche and the Gothic Deutschordenskirche with its Baroque portal are now open all day long.

Refurbishment and transformation of Kuhhirtenturm tower into “Hindemith-Kabinett”

Kuhhirtenturm after conversion, © Peter Altenburger

The west entrance to the quarter features a tower known as “Kuhhirtenturm”, which in previous years served as the home of composer Paul Hindemith. The tower, which forms part of Sachsenhausen’s original fortified walls, was most recently used as an apartment by Haus der Jugend. After the residents moved out, there was a unique opportunity to convert the tower as part of the urban redevelopment scheme, as part of the project of upgrading and enhancing the attractiveness of Sachsenhausen’s old quarter. The idea was born to offer the tower to the Hindemith Foundation as an ideal venue for presenting Hindemith’s life and works in an authentic setting.

Chamber music hall in the Kuhhirtenturm, © Peter Altenburger

In the course of 2010 the Kuhhirtenturm was extensively restored in keeping with monument preservation regulations. Refurbishment work on the tower was completed in February 2011. Since then, the Hindemith Foundation has used it as an exhibition space that is open to the public.

This gives music lovers and history enthusiasts alike the opportunity to meet in a place that is closely bound up with Paul Hindemith’s biography and works as well as the cultural life of 1920s Frankfurt.

Chamber music hall in the Kuhhirtentum, © Christian Richters

Hindemith lived in this tower for several years and it was here that he composed a number of significant works including the opera “Cardillac” and the song cycle “Marienleben” based on poems by Rilke. Many details from this period have been preserved and Hindemith himself bequeathed posterity a sizable number of documents, all of which are on show in the permanent exhibition in the tower, with the Hindemith room, among others, devoted to his life and works. However, the highpoint is quite literally the tower’s cupola, which houses what is perhaps the world’s smallest chamber music hall. Works by Hindemith – and others – will be performed here in the future.