The Palimpsest

The former slaughterhouses became Saarlouis‘ most important open space

The city of Saarlouis in Western Germany was a fortress city whose shape and history are unique. The city owes its name to the builder of the fortress builder Sébastien Vauban, the French Sun King Louis XIV. The demolition of the slaughterhouses near the former fortifications, brought the opportunity to create new open spaces on and above the former baroque bastions that tell of the history of the city.

The design of the landscape architects HDK Dutt & Kist for the Ravelin made the layers and breaks legible and tangible without being overly didactic: Their re-design of the historic fortress, the “Ravelin V”, is not only made for citizens and tourists, but also as a venue for life in the city and for everyday recreational use of the citizens.

The “ravelins” have been re-interpreted like old parchments, overwritten over and over again with several layers and supplemented with modern design elements.

Archaeological excavations brought the old fortress back to daylight. A bridge to the nearby “Vauban Island” was redesigned as a pyramidal prism. The designers were not only thinking of past centuries, but also people of today: From a nearby hospital, visitors and patients can use the lake and city park for walks. Steps to sit on, turn the bridge into a place to stay. The Ravelin is also designed with young people in mind, giving them an attractive gathering place in the city.

Surfaces, materials, equipment and lighting are all modern in design. Corten steel sheets form the historic edges. A bridge was rebuilt and the historic walls of the moats reconstructed. A wide flight of stairs leads down from the street into the main trench. It also acts as a stage and outdoor bench in the sun.

Bastion VI, nearby, conveys the enormous dimensions of the complex and has a viewing platform. At Here, the landscape designers made the fortress wall visible again in its original size with a series of steel brackets. To make layers and breaks readable and tangible through clever design, the design of the fortress is not only made for citizens and tourists, but also as a playground for life in the city and for the daily recreational use of citizens.

The fifth of the ravelins was developed and reinterpreted a “palimpsest” that was repeatedly written over and thus has layers of meaning. The ramparts are also characterized by Prussian conversions and extensions – the area was rich in historical material, supplemented with modern elements. Views from the city center reach Vauban Island. Excavations brought the old fortress back to daylight and has alludes to Vauban’s sense of geometry, which was influential in the Baroque period. With seating steps from the bridge, a place to stay that takes on the dimensions of Vauban’s fortress architecture. Surfaces, materials, equipment and lighting are modern.

The narrow sidewalk became a wide band that, as a tree-lined promenade, provides stopping points for three tourist and city buses. The planner made visible the demolition edge where the new city lay over the founding walls of the fortress.

Corten steel sheets form the edges and height jumps between the layers. The place d’armes was remodeled with lawns and structured with walls and earthworks.
Buildings from the Prussian era are visible as “sandstone inlays”. The bridge at the Batardeau was rebuilt and the wall of the trenches was reconstructed. An outside staircase leads from the street into the main ditch and from there to the Saar oxbow. The ditch was drained via an open meadow ditch at the site of the “Künette”, which used to direct the water from the fortress city to the Saar. The outside staircase is also used as a stage and a seat in the sun.

Lights illuminate the most important components. Bastion VI, the only remaining bastion of the Saarlouis fortress, conveys the dimensions of the complex. The top viewing platform was lowered slightly so that the walls and earthworks placed above the surrounding cordon stone serve as a parapet. Staircases and ramps were simplified, restoring the elegance of axial symmetry. At this point the size of the fortress wall is again visible with a series of steel brackets that replicate its thickness in alignment and in height. At the end even the “Oreille”, the curve of the bastion, is represented by steel brackets.

HDK Dutt & Kist have developed the Ravelin in Saarlouis into a coherent design that has strength and elegance. After all, the design of the former fortress is about the identity of the town. The ensemble is a unique selling point for your city. This place is now the most important open space in the city.

Location: Vaubanstraße, 66740 Saarlouis / Saarland / Germany

Design year: 2010

Year Completed: 2020


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