Project 1: IBA-Start Site at Grossräschen-Süd

In the centre of the IBA idea

Hardly any other city in Lower Lusatia has changed as much in the past twenty years as the former mining town of Grossräschen. The south of the town was almost completely destroyed by open-cast mining – ironically paving the way for Grossräschen’s future as a lakeside town. The IBA Terraces, the Seebrücke, and the Seehotel on the banks of the nascent Lake Ilse make the »IBA start site Grossräschen-Süd« the foremost example of the region’s structural transformation – »from a miner to a lakeman.«


Grossräschen was a mining town until 1999. The Meuro open-cast mine was in the south part of the town, separating Grossräschen from the neighbouring town of Senftenberg. The one-time road to Senftenberg was bulldozered, together with the southern part of the town – including the separate village community of Bückgen. Shortly before reuni-fication in 1989/90, around 4,000 of the town’s inhabitants were relocated – many of them to the new panel construction development Grossräschen-Nord. Today, very few of south Grossräschen’s buildings remain to tell of the town’s mining history.

It all began in 1888 with the founding of the »Ilse Bergbau-Actiengesellschaft« (I.B.A.) in Bückgen. The I.B.A. started the first diggings at »Ilse« and built the »Victoria« briquette factory, a brickworks, several company buildings, and housing for its workers and employees. But 100 years later, the buildings created by mining were themselves sacrificed to lignite, leaving the so-called Ledigenwohnheim (accommodation block for single workers) and the accommodation block for officials at the Ernst-Thälmann-Strasse. Both buildings were scheduled for demolition – together with a handful of neighbouring buildings – and were evacuated. But in 1993, however, the original mining claim boundaries were redrawn, saving the (now listed) buildings. They had been left to fall derelict, been damaged by vandals and suffered several fires. The whole town – including its decayed historic town centre – had become bleak and dreary. In 1999, open-cast mining in the region finally stopped.


The Ernst-Thälmann-Strasse is now the Seestrasse, which connects the revitalised city centre with a new bankside promenade on the nascent Lake Ilse. To see how much the city has changed, you have to take a walk along the Seestrasse (with its historic »Ilse period« buildings renovated and back in use), along the one-time open-cast mine edge and over the IBA Terraces on the (fu¬ture) lakeshore, up to the Viktoriahöhe viewing platform and back via the »Avenue of Stones.« Here, in the former headquarters of the now defunct I.B.A., is where planners and regional politicians came together to create ideas for an Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) – and, today, this is where the IBA has its offices.

The first visible sign of revival in this almost forgotten precinct was when the IBA moved into the newly renovated former officials’ accommodation block in 2000 – the IBA’s founding year. A year before, in 1999, the IBA preparation company and the city of Grossräschen had held an international architecture competition to design an information centre near the future Lake Ilse. Out of seventy-four different designs, the Frankfurt/Main architect Ferdinand Heide’s plan for three individual buildings along a promenade – the IBA Terraces, which would be 270 metres long – was chosen. Next, a contractor, a financing strategy, and an operating concept were needed, so the city and the Wirtschaftsentwicklungs- und Qualifi-zierungsgesellschaft mbH (WEQUA) in Lauchhammer founded the construction and operating company IBA-Terrassen mbH, responsible for constructing – and, up until 2007, for running – the Terraces; from 2007 onwards, they were run by the IBA itself. The Terraces took only a year to build, and cost 3.9 million euros, three-quarters of which came from the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the rest from the so-called federal-regional administrative agreement on lignite restoration.

Opened in 2004, the IBA Terraces were awarded the Brandenburgischer Architekturpreis, and received a lot of attention both in specialist circles and from the wider public. All the major architecture magazines reported on this radical structure on the edge of an open-cast mine, and Die Welt described it as »the most striking ›edge of civilisation‹ in the world.« The IBA’s visitor and information centre soon became popular as a venue where Lusatian associations, companies, clubs and families could hold events. International specialist conventions and conferences of federal and state ministries also take place here – as do numerous cultural events and private celebrations. It is also the starting point for the tours of the region organised by the IBA. The Seebrücke was inaugurated a year after the IBA Terraces opened. At the suggestion of Grossräschen’s Bürgermeister, the Meuro trench’s last spreader – a piece of mining equipment – was reused for the Seebrücke. It will project from the dry trench for a few more years until the lake floods fully. Until then, the Seebrücke will be a powerful symbol of structural change – a bridge to the future.

The flooding of the Meuro trench began in 2007, when the vents were symbolically opened at the IBA Terraces – with enthusiastic local participation. In just ten years, the Lake Ilse – named after the historic »Ilse« – will be full. The IBA Terraces’ Lusatian Lake Land visitor centre, directly next to the new Seehotel was opened to coincide with the start of the flooding. It took a Grossräschen businessman – the first private investor in the future Lake Ilse – just a year to renovate the fortress-like Ledigenwohnheim and turn it into a 4-star hotel with 77 beds.

The »IBA start site Grossräschen-Süd« is rounded off by the »Avenue of Stones,« a walking route lined with trees and with items from the Meuro trench planned by Cottbus landscape architect Helmut Rippl. The route is 500 metres long, and leads behind the IBA offices and the Seehotel directly to the Viktoriahöhe – a former briquette factory site. The new steel viewing platform on the summit of the little hill was designed by Senftenberg firm Joswig.


The Meuro trench flooding was the start of Grossräschen’s future as a lake town: since 2007, it has been officially known as Seestadt Grossräschen. The foundations laid during the IBA’s lifespan have given the town and the investors something to build on. The Lake Ilse, part of the Lusatia Lake Land, is expected to be fully flooded by 2015. Back in 1997, the LMBV carved out a future harbour for the town in its then-active open-cast mine operation. Today, the Seebrücke, already completed, stands at the harbour’s entrance – where, in a few years, pleasure boats will set out and return. Grossräschen will become the home harbour of the Ilse Seesportverein (Lake Ilse sports club), which was founded in 2003 with the IBA’s support and has been temporarily using the neighbouring Lake Sedlitz. The master plan commissioned by the city from the Joswig firm in 2008 also includes plans for a lake sports hall and restaurants.

On the opposite bank, the »Ilse-Kanal« will create a direct connection with the Lake Sedlitz (once it is completed in 2015). The Lake Ilse, the harbour, and the IBA Terraces will make Grossräschen the gateway to the Lusatian Lake Land – helped by its direct connection with the Berlin – Dresden motorway. Grossräschen-Süd will also be developed as an attractive residential site between the lake and the inner city. In a few years, it will be a lively district with homes, sports, hotels, and restaurants.

The Fascinating Tours of open-cast mines have started from the IBA Terraces, inviting visitors to explore the new landscape.

IBA-Project manager

Arjen de Wit
Phone: +49 (0)35 753 - 370-15

Our partners

City Großräschen
Hotel Großräschen


Go by car or by public transportation to IBA centre:

VBB fahrinfo - Link (mit Vorbelegung)
go back

last update: 1/26/2017 13:13