Inspired by the multi-layered historic development of the city of Schmalkalden, dating back to the early middle ages, the design resembles the aesthetic qualities of different periods of growth. These specific characteristics are represented through a complex system of varying paving patterns and on ground interventions accentuating the city’s historic development. Special attention in the planning process was given to public art in order to develop a coherent concept of arbitrating historic traces into present time. By complementing the past with contemporary art, a new aesthetic quality and increased awareness of historic features is being achieved.
The growth of the old town of Schmalkalden is characterized by two major urbanistic developments, both of which are shaping the layout of the city until today. Namely, the former Marktsiedlung (old town, founded approx. 11th century) and the settlement developed around the Neuer Markt (new city, approx. 15th – 16th century). The old town and its direct surroundings, encircling the church, are characterized by a rhythmic sequence of small alleys, streets and squares, seemingly unplanned in their layout and rich in spatial configurations. In contrast to the old town the urban typology surrounding the Neumarkt is defined by a regularly spaced geometrical layout.
The concept intends to develop one consistent and minimalistic paving pattern for each of the historic layouts described. The uniform texture of the surfaces is defining two very distinctive spatial entities and characters – the old town and the new city. The Altstadt with its varying open spaces and organically grown layout is accordingly being paved in an irregular pattern (wild pattern). For the area of the Neustadt, following the same argumentation, a much more regular paving pattern (crosswise bond, stretcher bond) is being used. The core area of the old town, namely the spaces surrounding the church, are, in accordance with their historical context, being designed separately and with a distinctive character. Thereby the historic pavers (sorted cobblestone), unearthed during archaeological excavations, are being reused on site.
The historic and present market squares, the Altmarkt and the Neumarkt, are particularly important centres of cultural activities. A framework of natural stone pavers is outlining the spaces for market activities and clearly distinguishes them from the remaining city scape. The buildings’ base is being accentuated with a verge of natural stone pavers which comprises entrances and offsets. The paving areas and the frame are distinguished through the texture of surface, but a concerted selection of colour allows for a coherent overall image.
Architectural characteristics have always defined urban spaces, their uniqueness, atmospheres and memories. The city of Schmalkalden is rich in these relicts, which have sustained to present times. An integrated art concept is focusing on historic traces, which have been found scattered throughout the city.
The historic Kunstgräben (water channels) are a characteristic of Schmalkalden. These channels are being redrawn and illuminated in selected areas. Historic locations of wells (e.g. Wehlt at the Altmarkt, a former watering trough) are being accentuated using reflecting pools, water columns etc. During archaeological and heritage preservation, a rare buried cultural monument, an ossuary dating back to the High Middle Ages (1543), has been unearthed and preserved. The excavated wall structures have been restored and covered with an accessible steel and glass structure making the historic site visible and integrating it into the urban space.
A true-colour illumination of the colourful facades, a characteristic of the city, is emphasised to achieve a representative image of the city. By having the option of choosing the colour temperature (neutral white – 4000°K, warm white -3000°K) the colour rendition can be optimised and a consistent ambience of the urban space during evening hours and at night can be achieved. All luminaires are being developed specifically for the project and are made of architectural bronze to be in line with the material concept. To further distinguish the primary illumination scheme, selected objects are independently lit up. According to their designation, historic importance and in regards to their readability, coloured light as a subordinated element of design is used to further accentuate. Blue lights symbolise water in the urban space, orange-coloured lights define places of metalworking. The reduced illumination intensity and low illumination temperature are strengthening the contrast to the overall lighting scheme and define important points of orientation at night.
Zeitspu(e)ren. Designing public spaces in the old town of Schmalkalden
Author: Peter Wich, Landscape Architect, terra.nova landscape architecture, Munich
Client: City of Schmalkalden, Urban Planning Council