District Contrast – feeling or reality?

Portikus Bayerischer Bahnhof (photographed by us)

When we entered the brownfield of the “Stadtraum Bayerischer Bahnhof” for the first time we were immediately struck by the contrast between the prefabricated housing estate on the “Straße des 18. Oktober” and the old buildings of the Südvorstadt.
For the second task, we want to continue this focus, but this time approach the topic with scientific methods and investigate whether these contrasts can also be determined objectively. First, we will look at the building structure, secondly at the building materials used, and finally at the use of the buildings.

Building structure and architecture

What does urban structure actually mean?

One can derive an explanation based on the use of the word1 and on the images provided by an Internet search query. The meaning is approximately the following: Way in which, in a coherent area, buildings are constructed. Dimensions such as the geometric shape of the buildings, but also building height, or open spaces between the individual structures play a role. Essentially, everything is included that is visible in a cross-section, floor plan or black plan.

figure 1 – urban area “Bayerischer Bahnhof” (own illustration)

The black plan

The plan shows a part of the city of Leipzig, in the “Großraum Bayerischer Bahnhof” area. The two main traffic arteries of the area are marked in a dark blue. On the one hand, this is the Straße des 18. Oktober, which runs from the center towards the southeast, and on the other hand, the Kurt-Eisner-Straße, which runs from the Südvorstadt towards the east. The black objects illustrate built-up areas. The green area represents the place where the project “Stadtraum Bayerischer Bahnhof” will be realized. Marked in red and light blue are the adjacent neighborhoods. Red illustrates the prefabricated housing estate enclosed by the major streets and blue is the southern suburb.

In the following, we will take a closer look at these neighborhoods, starting with the prefabricated buildings. Due to the lack of buildings, the central wasteland will not be analyzed in further detail.

Straße des 18. Oktober

figure 2 – region Straße des 18. Oktobers (own illustration)

Figure 2 is an enlarged section of the black plan. The black, blue and orange buildings in the red area represent GDR prefabricated buildings of the 1970s2, whereas the yellow marked buildings follow a different, yet utility-oriented architectural style. These are for example schools, a supermarket or an indoor swimming pool.

An area shaped by socialism

There are some points that are particularly striking when looking at residential buildings. The first is the shape of the buildings. They are, for the most part, always rectangular with a very large length/width ratio. There are three exceptions where a square shape (orange) was chosen. However, it should be added that the reason for this is three smaller prefabricated buildings pushed into each other, which form a large overall structure.

It is also particularly noticeable that the prefabricated buildings run either parallel or at a 90-degree angle to the street of October 18. This makes it clear that the entire red area was designed in one planning step and did not develop organically over a long period of time. Fittingly, one can see that some buildings are repeated, such as those marked in blue, which again creates the impression of practical and purposeful planning in which the primary goal was to quickly create living space and architectural aspects were pushed into the background.

Another interesting aspect is the large open spaces between the individual buildings. There are several reasons for this. To understand them, it is necessary to consider the building height, which makes it possible to accommodate many people on very little floor space. This results in major infrastructural problems with denser construction, including parking or underground piping systems. Furthermore, a more open building structure offers more comfort than density. Imagine, for example, lacking light flooding or social problems caused by an overly high population density.

It can be said at this point that the prefabricated buildings have a practical use above all. The aim was to make a lot of living space available very quickly using easy methods. The architecture is characterised by objectivity and large dimensions.

Südvorstadt – Characterised by the Wilhelminian period

The picture is visibly different on the Südvorstadt which is adjacent to the western side of the Bayerischer Bahnhof. The district marked here in light blue on the black map has a longer historical background, which is also evident in the architecture. Here it is especially clear that Leipzig has a great wealth of buildings from the Wilhelminian and Art Nouveau periods, both quantitatively and qualitatively3. This wealth is mainly the result of the period between 1871 and 1914 when an enormous building boom was accompanied by rapid population growth3. In the following, we will analyze the architecture and building structure of Südvorstadt in more detail.

figure 3 – Südvorstadt (own illustration)

The buildings marked in red are characterized by simple and functional facades, often with balconies. Under this category, we have combined both prefabricated buildings and newer apartment buildings as well as modern architecture. The reason for this classification is mainly to distinguish them from the buildings in Art Nouveau style marked in light blue, which is characterized mainly by stylish and extravagantly decorated facades4. Marked in yellow is an old industrial building, which also shows a historical reference to the Gründerzeit, exemplary of the period of growth during industrialization, in which more and more companies were founded. On the right edge of the picture is Kurt-Eisner-Strasse and thus the end of the wasteland Bayerischer Bahnhof.

Building structure

What is most striking about the area of Südvorstadt is the structure, which differs from the buildings on the Straße des 18. Oktober. Here it is clear that the district is characterized by a clear block construction, each of which is crossed by intersecting streets. In contrast to the previous study area, this part of the city has grown and been supplemented over time, which is also shown by the very different shape of the buildings in one block. As a difference, the shape of the ground plans of the buildings is also noticeable here, which is quite opposite but always designed within the framework of the block construction. From this point of view, it should also be emphasized that the buildings in Art Nouveau style almost exclusively face the street and are never found in the courtyards. This could be due to the fact that the areas within the blocks were originally used as open spaces (e.g. parks) and thus remained free. However, it is also possible that these (interior) buildings were demolished due to their age and facades facing the street were considered more worthy of preservation. Furthermore, reasons of building regulations or fire safety regulations are also imaginable. The emptiness has now been filled by new construction, as the intention was also to use the inward-facing areas.

The building height of the old buildings is significantly lower than that of the huge prefabricated buildings in the area around the Straße des 18 Oktobers. One possible reason can be found in the Saxon building regulations at the time, which stated that houses could not be higher than the width of the street, presumably also for fire protection reasons5. This could be accompanied by problems of light flooding, especially in the inner courtyards, as these buildings are hidden by buildings adjacent to the street. In addition, a possible problem with the block design could be that it could lead to the development of air lanes, although this need not be confirmed in practice.

Summary – building structure and architecture

The high proportion of historic Gründerzeit buildings is immediately visible when walking through Südvorstadt. This makes the urban quarter stand in clear contrast to the area opposite, where functionality and socialist influences are clearly in the foreground. Thus, the purpose of housing is also defined in a completely different way, shifting away from utility-driven architecture to a block building structure with artistic, diverse construction. This building structure and construction method is particularly popular among young people and generally represents a higher standard of living and housing, which is also apparent when looking at real estate prices6.

A look behind the curtain

The visual differences also continue in the area of housing.
The construction and planning of the prefabricated buildings are characterized by little individuality compared to the old buildings. The various house types of the 1970s were created on the basis of uniquely developed construction plans. These were then built at the corresponding construction sites exactly according to these plans. The central planning allowed no room for individual design and led to difficult apartment layouts with sometimes very small rooms. This creates a very uniform appearance of the particular neighbourhood.

On the contrary, every old or Wilhelminian style building looks unique in design and floor plan from the outside as well as from the inside. This is due to the fact that most buildings from this period were built by private individuals.
Due to the housing shortage in the 1970s, the prefabricated buildings were designed for efficient housing creation. The aim was to enable living space to as many people as possible in as small an area as possible. In contrast, the Altbauten/Gründerzeitbauten were built at a time when urban living was the privilege of the upper-middle classes. As a result, their exteriors were very luxurious and served as a status symbol.
This becomes clear when comparing two buildings of similar design. An old building from Hardenbergstraße and a prefabricated building of the type IW65 (Section II) serve as objects of study. The construction plans of both buildings served as a basis.

figure 4 – prefabricated buildings (left) and art nouveau buildings (right) (photographed by us)
old building – Hardenbergstraßeprefabricated building IW 65
base area257m²126m²
floor count4 + top floor5
floor living space220m²115m²
overall living space880m²575m²
apartment count810

The prefabricated building has more flats despite having less than half the floor space.
The background for the development of the prefabricated buildings means that there is hardly any commercial space in them. The use of the ground floor for opening a shop is unsuitable due to the floor plan. This situation is also very clear in the street of 18 October. In the figure, it is apparent that the buildings around 18th October Street are almost exclusively used for residential purposes.

Commercial utilisation

The resulting open spaces between the prefabricated buildings can be used optimally for public facilities such as schools and kindergartens.

figure 4 – building utilisation Straße des 18. Oktober (own illustration)

In Südvorstadt, the number of business premises is significantly higher. On Karl-Liebknecht-Straße almost every ground floor is used commercially. For example, there are 38 gastronomy businesses on 1.5 km. Spacious floor plans and a central location offer optimal conditions to open a business here.

figure 5 – building utilisation Südvorstadt (own illustration)

Future wishes of the residents

A total of 25 people from the Zentrum Süd-Ost and Südvorstadt took part in the survey.
The survey is intended to point out what residents expect from a new residential area. The types of buildings occupied are made up as follows: 6 people live in prefabricated housing, 16 people live in old buildings and 6 people live in other types of housing (houses, newly built apartment buildings).
Of the persons interviewed, only 4 have problems with mould. It is striking that this occurred exclusively in the old building. This could be due to the lack of heat and moisture insulation in the buildings. More than 50% of the respondents pay about 8-10€ warm rent per square metre. Only one person pays more than 15€.
Looking at the desired use, none of the options is irrelevant from the respondents’ point of view. The most important options seem to be shopping facilities and public amenities. Here, more than 21 people considered this aspect to be at least important.
If we now look at the visual factors of the building structure, two important points emerge among the participants. Both the integration into the existing building structure and the design of the facade are important to most people. In contrast, the block construction with inner courtyards and little open space seems rather unimportant to people.
Overall, there are no differences between the individual housing types in the prioritization of the criteria to be selected.

figure 6 – survey; explanation: 1 – not important at all, 2 – not important, 3 – important, 4 -very important


In summary, it can be said that the perceived impressions from Task 1 are reflected in reality. Significant differences can be observed both in the building structure and in the building use of the neighbourhoods. The project Stadtraum Bayerischer Bahnhof faces many challenges. Particularly under the aspect of urbanization, it is exciting to observe whether the efficiency of the prefabricated buildings is compatible with the attractiveness of the old buildings.


1: Online dictionary with examples: https://www.dwds.de/?q=Bebauungsstruktur&from=wb 

2: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plattenbauten_in_Leipzig

3: https://www.leipzig.travel/de/kultur/architektur/architektur-der-gruenderzeit/

4: https://www.planet-wissen.de/kultur/architektur/von_der_gruenderzeit_zum_bauhaus/index.html

5: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%BCdvorstadt_(Leipzig)

6: vgl. rent index Leipzig 2018, page 9

figure 1+4: source black plan:

black plan Leipzig Bayerischer Bahnhof, greeen! architects gmbh, 01.07.20

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