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Image prior to the intervention. Parked vehicles in front of the retaining wall by the freithof


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previous state

Founded by the Romans, the city of Neuss has historically been a major meeting of ways. Its original centre, surrounded by medieval walls, was substantially destroyed in World War II, after which the city embarked on a long process of reconstruction. The clear direction of the main road, built over the original line of the main thoroughfare leading into the fortified enclosure, continues to be the principle axis of the old centre. A number of streets, of different kinds and irregular geometry run off this main road, often coming to an end in quite large squares, creating an urban fabric that is dense and rich in spatial episodes. Located around a magnificent medieval cathedral, the main spaces of the inner city, the square in front of the cathedral, the setting of a weekly market, the adjoining Freithof Square, constructed above an old cemetery, and the market square, at a slightly lower level, were long neglected because of the massive presence of vehicles invading their surfaces, fragmenting their spaces in different ways depending on their nature, and obstructing their public use.

aim of the intervention

In 1995, the Neuss City Council called for tenders for the renovation of the squares and streets of the historic centre, with the idea of promoting the citizens´ sense of identity with their city. The aim was to offer a vision of the future through a dynamic project that would be equally committed to contemporary urban design and the historic and architectural identity of Neuss. In converting the historic centre into a coherent urban complex, work was done in the entire city and its central area, the two parts being understood as a single entity. The main lines of the transformation were resolving traffic problems, reinforcing the connection between the city centre and the river, and setting up a dialogue between the different types of architecture.


The city centre was conceived as a traffic-free zone giving priority to pedestrians, so that traffic circulation and public transport routes were completely reorganised in a bypass ring at the perimeter, running parallel with the lines of the medieval wall, which was restored at different points. In the old centre of the city, the main street was cleared of traffic and of the two tramlines that had previously passed along it. In order to offer greater accessibility to the centre, long-distance transport was brought together with local transport, with an increased number of local buses running from the railway station to the old centre, while the array of possible routes and perceptions of them were enhanced by the different transport stops in the city. A riverside park was planned for the section of the medieval wall that runs parallel to the river in order to provide a closer link between the city centre and the port. The environmental and landscaping improvement of this area, along with the offer of new facilities and services on the riverbank, was seen as favouring the development of the river face of the city, and the relations between both urban banks.

The different projects to regenerate the city centre were on public display in civic forums in order to encourage the collective participation of the citizens. The work done on remodelling the public spaces in the historic centre and restoration of the facades of the buildings began in 1998 and was completed over a long process. Most of the streets, both the main road in the inner city and the transversal streets running off it, were uniformly paved in natural stone with the aim of presenting, despite architectural variations, a unified image for the centre as a whole with an identity that is integrated into the surroundings. At different points, the paving has incorporated allusions to the architecture, reflecting some of its characteristics. The slight differences in level between the cathedral square, Freithof Square and the market square, were resolved by way of a broad set of steps, which notably improved the spatial integration of these three areas. The installation of permanent mobile structures in the market square and a greater use of the lower levels aimed to contribute towards a reactivation of the city centre in commercial and leisure terms, as a complement to the activities that were concerned with creating quality public spaces.

The numerous pre-existing fountains in Neuss suggested that there should be still more fountains in the city. Installed at the ends of the streets, at the points of entry to the different squares, new fountains highlighted these areas as transition points while emphasising the relation between the city of Neuss and the water. In order to encourage the use of streets and squares as stopping off areas, other kinds of urban fixtures were designed, trees were planted in squares and in front of buildings to offer more vegetation, and a new lighting scheme was devised to make the centre more attractive as a night-time venue. One of the new nocturnal installations was the incorporation of a lighting cable along one of the tramlines still conserved in the main street. Now deprived of its original function, the line has adopted a new one as witness and symbol of the urban transformation of the historic centre of Neuss.


Before 1999, traffic was suffocating the public potential of spaces that should have been condensers of urban life. Different elements obstructed the continuity of pedestrian thoroughfares while interfering with a unitary reading of the urban landscape in the historic centre of Neuss. The intervention, with work being done on different scales and particularly sensitive to the general conditions that would bring about the viability and achievement of the operations that aimed to establish different points in the city centre as pedestrian havens, has been successful in regenerating the old centre as a setting for civic coexistence and bringing it back to life with new activity.

In conceptualising and implementing a new model of mobility for the city and a range of improvements to the urban context in areas designated according to their specific characteristics, the streets and squares are now more comfortable places and the architectural value of the old centre has been brought out, while the different public spaces have been integrated perceptively and structurally into a whole that reinforces and brings up to date the collective, economic and social functions of the historic centre of Neuss.

Mònica Oliveres i Guixer, architect

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technical sheet

CITY: Neuss (150,957 inhabitants)

COUNTRY: Germany




AREA: 350,000 m2

COST: 7,158,090 €



Office for Urban Development and Landscape Planning, Georg Penker, Erika Penker


Stakemeier G.b.R., consulting engineers