The Lahnaue Gießen

A24 Landschaft Landschaftsarchitektur: The university town of Gießen has recovered the Lahn River, exposing the urban development potential that it had long neglected: the central river banks with their meadows and adjacent urban quarters. The framework plan will develop the shores of the Lahn into a completely new and multifaceted inner-city recreational area. Implementation will proceed in phases, as soon as the various spaces become available.

The river has long been thought of and used as a purely functional domain. The 1849 construction of the railroad – with its high embankment – alongside the river effectively severed any inner-city access to the Lahn. As a result, the river meadows now form an inner-city periphery comprising many inaccessible properties, some of which exhibit large-scale utilization, while others are used only in small fragments or as vast parking areas. Only with the Europe-wide paradigm of uniting cities with their rivers was Gießen’s potential fully recognized.

The long-term Lahnaue Framework Plan encompasses the entire inner-city river basin while dictated by the overall concept of connecting the Lahn to the city. The plan envisions six segments: from the open and extensive grassland park in the north, through the more densely urbanized areas in and around the inner city, and stretching to the natural ensemble of existing river meadows in the south. The segments are connected by a new, continuous path running along both banks of the Lahn. The plan also entails the removal of parking along the riverside, unsealing the areas, as well as renewing and expanding the existing parks. The idea is to develop connections between the segments, establish public squares and extend cross-regional bicycle paths to reach the Lahn. Not least, the concept reclaims private property along the river for public use while initiating renaturation processes and measures for long-term preservation of the riverscape.

The city of Gießen used the 2014 State Garden Show and the public interest it has aroused to implement the first two measures of the framework plan. The first project is the newly built entrance to the city in the central urban area of the framework plan. The entrance – “By the Mills” – includes a representative square, a new boulevard, an elaborate mill garden as well as varyingly designed approaches to the water. Across from the square lies the large meadow playground, which occupies the site of a former parking lot. The playground invites children of all ages to play and wreak havoc on four differentiated play terraces. These also reference the river theme, emulating typical elements of a meadow landscape. The second realized project is a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge at the northern part of the city. It now constitutes one of three bridges crossing the river in Gießen and has greatly improved the city’s infrastructure. The new public spaces surrounding the bridge make the riverside north of the Lahn accessible. These are the first elements of the extensive grassland park envisioned in the framework plan. With the gradual implementation of additional goals from the framework plan, the city of Gießen, which had literally turned its back on its river, will gain a new urban-spatial orientation, and along with it, a fully new inner-city recreational area.

Landscape Architecture: A24 Landschaft Landschaftsarchitektur GmbH
Project: On To New Shores – The Lahnaue Framework Plan
Authors: Steffan Robel
Location: Gießen, Germany
Design and construction period: 2010-2014
Area: Framework Plan: 42 ha, realised projects: 3 ha
Construction costs realised projects: 3 million Euros
Client: City of Gießen
Image credits: Hanns Joosten
Text: A24 Landschaft

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