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Architectours Special | University Town Halle (Saale)

In 2002, the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg celebrated its 500th anniversary. This refers to the foundation of Wittenberg University, Martin Luther’s and Philipp Melanchthon’s alma mater. The most famous (fictional) student at that university was perhaps Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet. Halle University was founded in 1694. It quickly became one of the most modern universities in Central Europe and the precursor of the enlightenment in Germany. In the same year, August Herrmann Francke founded a complex of educational institutions, the Franckesche Stiftungen (Francke Foundation). Francke’s schools had a model character and were significant for devising Prussian school policies. Since 1990, the Martin-Luther-University as well as the Francke Foundation have undergone a remarkable process of modernisation. Lovingly restored historical buildings interact harmonically with new buildings of high quality. Unlike Magdeburg and Dessau, Halle (Saale) hardly suffered any damage in the Second World War. In fact, only the old town hall and the area around the station was hit by bombs. The Old Town with its impressive five towers at the market square and unique and beautiful areas built at the end of the 19th century remained almost undamaged. Halle-Neustadt was built as a socialist town, designed for one hundred thousand workers at the gigantic chemical plants Buna and Leuna at the end of the 1960s. Meanwhile, the grey, capitalistic Old Town was – for ideological reasons – silently exposed to decay. Then, in the 1980s, inner-city redevelopment started again. Unfortunately, many historical buildings were knocked down in the process. Contrary to expectation, the gigantic satellite city Halle-Neustadt did not lose too many inhabitants. The city area along the straight “Magistrale” (strikingly similar to Le Corbusier’s layouts for radical urban reconstruction of Paris from the 1920s) has since 1990 been enriched with urban features. A hotel, a cinema and a shopping centre were built in a remarkably modern architectural style. During the past decade, the city centre has been cautiously restored to its former beauty. Around the birthplace of Halle’s most famous son, Georg Friedrich Händel, a music school, residential and commercial buildings were constructed. The Kulturinsel (“Culture Island”) with the “new theatre” as its highlight is a splendid example for new and vibrant life in an old and heterogeneous building structure. It is an ample proof for a historically grown city centre and sensitively inserted modern structures merging and creating a new urban quality of life. In 2006, Halle (Saale) will celebrate the 1,200th anniversary of its founding. back...

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