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Developed round a fan design

The planning spirit which gave the city its face

The structure of the city was defined largely by the city's founding father, the margrave Karl Wilhelm, and the great architect and town planner, Friedrich Weinbrenner: The castle and city layout are prime examples of baroque urban planning and the famous fan shape has found its way into countless atlases and encyclopaedia. The city owes its neoclassical style above all to Weinbrenner, the son of a Karlsruhe carpenter. When he returned home in 1800 after spending six years studying in Rome, he was commissioned with the expansion of his native city. It was Weinbrenner's ideas which gave the city the image it still has today. Of special importance to the history of architecture is the series of neoclassical squares along what is now the Karl-Friedrich-Strasse, with the Marktplatz, Rondellplatz and Ettlinger Tor. The history of both the city and its architecture is concentrated along the middle and main axis of the fan, the "Via Triumphalis". This is an example of the planning spirit which has always inspired new developments in the fan- shaped city. Many of Weinbrenner's buildings were destroyed in the Second World War, yet his architectural concept survived not only the city's "third" renaissance in the post-war years, but even the period of rapid expansion which turned Karlsruhe into a big city. Weinbrenner was also responsible for Karlsruhe's most famous landmark, the sandstone Pyramid on the Marktplatz which marks the grave of the city's founder. Despite the dynamism of its development, Karlsruhe has lost nothing of its past charms and attractions, nor has it succumbed to urban sprawl.

Although the rigours of the fan-shaped principle have not always been easy to accommodate, successive generations of planners have indeed managed to combine the historical with the modern to produce a harmonious whole. There have been some innovative approaches to urban expansion outside the old city gates as well, including the Dammerstock estate built under Walter Gropius in 1929, the Rheinpark Rappenwört and the model Baumgarten estate built in the early sixties.

Via triumphalis
Via Triumphalis:
the city's central axis

More recently, the restoration of the city centre between 1970 and 1995 set new trends, as did the traffic concept introduced in the seventies, which resulted in the creation of a pedestrian precinct. Parking spaces were turned into meeting points, of which the vivacious Ludwigsplatz is but one example. And as for the parks: When the city was first founded, its public parks were considered one of the most important features of the fan-shaped layout. The city renewed its commitment to this principle when the 1967 Federal Garden Show was held in the Zoological Gardens - which have the oldest Japanese garden in Europe - and the Schlosspark. The "Zirkel" was lowered and the links between the Schlossplatz and the city improved.

As far as the development of the city centre at the dawn of the 21st century is concerned, it is once again the Via Triumphalis which will provide the spark for the next era in Karlsruhe's architectural history. The changes planned - among them the conversion of the Weinbrenner building on the Marktplatz, formerly used by the Department of Health, into a "Bürgerhaus" or citizens' centre complete with services and restaurants - induced the city to launch an urban planning competition to provide it with the ideas it will need to shape its future.

Over the past few decades, many of the city's architectural needs have had to be met outside downtown Karlsruhe - starting in the "mother town" of Durlach, whose old town centre has been lovingly restored, showing great respect for its historical significance. The conversion of the industrial wasteland on the Brauerstrasse in the south-west of the city also deserves a mention: Here, an old ammunition factory and listed building has provided a home for the Centre of Art and Media Technology (ZKM), Collectors' Museum, City Art Gallery and College of Design and so has become a top address on the international art scene. That part of Karlsruhe to undergo a makeover most recently is the Nordstadt. When the American armed forces and their families left Karlsruhe in 1995, "Volkswohnung", the municipal housing developer, took up the challenge of renovating and expanding the existing buildings and adding new ones to create homes for some 7,500 people.

An old rail freight depot in the south-east of the city, just five minutes by bicycle from the city centre, is now being converted into a housing estate for up to 6,000 people. The site also includes some 80,000 m2 commercial space for the creation of new jobs. Approx. 11 out of a total of 34 hectares have been earmarked as park space. This park will form the backbone of the entire district, providing recreational space for both the south and east of the city. Leading into the Grünzug Südstadt, the new park will also provide the last link in the green belt surrounding the city centre.

Helga Riedel

Karlsruhe - a young city in the heart of Europe· From the seat of a court to a modern city · The cradle of democracy and seat of justice
A pioneer in science and research · Technology - the driving force behind business· It's always holiday time in Karlsruhe
Art combines the historical with the modern· Together with our partners into a European future· Milestones in Karlsruhe's history
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