Schwäbisch Gmünd, a mid-sized town in southern Germany, has engineered a far-reaching urban redevelopment process resulting in a new green heart for the city. This comprehensive project has structurally reoriented the inner city, including its traffic patterns. Historical urban structures were re-exposed, new urban axes were formed and expansive public spaces were built. A new image of the inner city has been forged by a new boulevard, a green promenade, paths and public squares along the old urban streams, as well as sporting areas and playgrounds. A24’s responsibilities ranged from planning the overall urban development concept down to designing the individual details.
A symbol for this new Gmünd is the reclamation of a central open area: the long overbuilt outlet of the Josefsbach – a small brook – into the Rems – a larger stream. This river mouth (Mündung in German) is the source of the city’s name. The water junction has become a link between the new and the existing open areas in Gmünd: located between the train station and the old town, it links the old baroque city garden, the Remspark, open spaces along the Josefsbach and the passages to the old town, which converge to form a new, spacious green zone. Each of these areas opens onto the river mouth, imbuing it with a rich play of various relationships to and perspectives on the water.
This new center of the city was made possible by the construction of a traffic tunnel and the spatial re-orientation that accompanied it, which included the removal and relocation of streets, the demolition of buildings and the creation and accentuation of new urban development axes. Critical prerequisites for the accessibility and redevelopment of the water area were the raising of the riverbed up to 4 meters and the flattening of the formerly steep riverbanks.
Where the B29 once carried 35,000 automobiles daily along four lanes has today given way to a leafy boulevard lined with ginkgo trees, creating a new entrance to Schwäbisch Gmünd. The new urban development axes lead from the train station forecourt, over the junction of the Rems and Josefsbach, through the reopened Ledergasse (German for “leather alley”) and into the historic center of the city.
Ledergasse traverses the entire length of the Josenvorstadt, which arose in the 14th century as part of an early expansion of the city. Originally settled by tanners, the street became one of Gmünd’s main shopping streets in 1977 upon the construction of a major department
The new Josefsbach Promenade begins at the river mouth and creates a green ring as it encircles the old town. By the water it becomes a sculpted river way, narrowing and widening to create a variety of perspectives and spatial effects. The part of the promenade at street level, above the restored historic city wall, connects the old town to the river through a series of public squares and playgrounds.
Within the immediate vicinity of the city centre, spacious open areas were developed for cross-generational sporting activities. The new activities strip runs alongside the new promenade, as well as over the railway tracks to the Gleispark youth recreation area. One particular highlight is the Netzvilla: a climbing frame resembling a multi-story villa. As tall as a house, the enclosed apparatus forms a complex three-dimensional structure, creating a play space almost eight meters high.
The comprehensive spatial revaluation and urban development of the inner city – which had formerly suffered from a lack of green areas – along with the attractive open spaces along the water and the broad spectrum of recreational offerings strengthens the urban core, providing healthy competition for surrounding communities and sustainably gearing the traditional town for the future.
Landscape Architecture: A24 Landschaft Landschaftsarchitektur GmbH
Project: Urban development of Schwäbisch Gmünd
Authors: Steffan Robel Location: Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany Design and construction period: 2008-2014
Area: 14.6 ha
Construction costs: 13 million Euros
Client: Landesgartenschau Schwäbisch Gmünd 2014 GmbH
Image credits: Hanns Joosten
Text: A24 Landschaft