On a site on the edge of the centre of Gera, adjoining the Congress and Cultural Centre, 2.5 hectares of disused land are awaiting reactivation – indeed have been for 15 years. The city has struggled to find investors for its once vibrant centre for many years.
In 2014, committed citizens and entrepreneurs from Gera took things into their own hands. The association ›Ja – für Gera‹ answered the IBA Thüringen’s call for projects and proposed the idea of a new ›strong centre‹. A Europan urban design competition followed in 2015, organised by the city, the association and a group of citizens, which generated ideas that fed into the following planning stages.
After a flash mob in 2016, in which local citizens took to Gera's ‘New Centre’ with their umbrellas, the memorable ‘Lemon Squeezer’ art project in 2017, and two large exhibitions at the Congress and Cultural Centre (KuK), Gera City Council approved the urban development master plan in 2018. As one of Gera’s largest urban development projects, it has been the subject of ongoing passionate and at times heated debate.
From June to August 2019, the ‘Raumstation Weimar’ collective invited visitors and residents to once again meet and exchange ideas at Gera’s ‘New Centre’: their ‘GERANIA’ project explored utopian ideas for using open space and how they could become reality. More than 40 events took place along with countless meetings and discussions.
The next major milestone followed in December 2019 with the announcement of an open landscape architecture ideas competition ‘Gera: Freiraum Mitte’ for the design and realisation of the green space and squares in front of the KuK and city museum. 19 entries were examined and evaluated by a jury in May 2020.
The prize-winning design by Grieger Harzer landscape architects draws its strength from a ‘green heart’ that extends to the north and south. A diamond- shaped stone grid reaches right up to the buildings on all sides, erasing the usual boundaries between traffic and green space. At the same time, the diagonal pattern links and mediates between the disparate neighbours and is versatile in its use, accommodating functions and greenery. A new, transparent frame structure serves as an urban stage and meeting place with open, stepped seating and introduces a new sense of scale to the square in front of the KuK Culture and Congress Centre. The project gives Gera’s Neue Mitte a new identity that is playful and attractive and has the potential to become a new magnet and scene of urban life in Gera’s city centre.