Project 18: Gubener Wolle – Island in the Neisse River – Haus Wolf

Bridging across the Neisse River

Textile city, culture city, Neisse city, border city, Wilhelm Pieck city, Europe city – Guben-Gubin’s many nicknames reflect its rich and varied history. As Europe has grown closer together, a new chapter has been written in this city’s story. Three outstanding witnesses to the twin cities’ industrial and cultural past – »Gubener Wolle« (Guben Wool), the Island in the Neisse, and the grounds of the Country House Wolf – are the starting point for a revitalization of their shared city centre and of the whole of both cities.


Guben can look back on a long history as the centre of textile manufacture stretching back to the sixteenth century. The »Gubener Wolle« textile factory and the Wilke hat factory were built here in the nineteenth century. The Wilke factory still existed a century later – when the city became additionally known as »Wilhelm Pieck city« because it was the birthplace of the SED’s co-founder. The »Gubener Wolle, Werk I« factory had a decisive impact on the region’s industrial history. But since 1996, all the machinery on the 17,000-squaremetre site has been shut down and removed. Since then, the huge halls have been empty.

The Island in the Neisse lies directly opposite »Gubener Wolle«. It has belonged to Poland since 1945. Up until the war, a fine theatre dating from 1874 stood here, where Will Quadflieg and Heinrich George once performed. In front of the theatre was a memorial to the singer Corona Schröter. All that is left of the theatre are its foundations and the monument’s pedestal. Over the years, the surrounding park has become overgrown.

Above the island, on the Neisse slope, a few fragments of wall bear witness to an architectonically significant building. In 1927, future Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe built his first modernist work – »Haus Wolf« – for Guben textiles manufacturer Erich Wolf. »Haus Wolf« was also badly damaged during the war, and the ruins were subsequently removed. Since the fall of the Wall, the German city of Guben has been declining in population. Numbers have sunk from 30,000 inhabitants in 1990 to 25,000 in 2000. The city’s population is now less than 20,000 – approaching the same population level as Gubin, which is stable at about 18,000.


»Gubener Wolle«, the Theaterinsel (theatre island), and »Haus Wolf« – the history and substance of these three locations in the centre of the twin cities of Guben and Gubin give this IBA project its uniqueness and its potential.

To stop »Gubener Wolle,« an industrial and cultural icon of textile production, from being forgotten – and to display its outstanding quality as an industrial complex – the IBA organised cultural events in »Gubener Wolle«. In design seminars and workshops, German and Polish planners came together with representatives from Guben and Gubin to create concrete strategies for dealing with the »Wolle.« Careful removal of certain buildings restored lines of sight between the historic old town on the Polish side and the Klostervorstadt on the German side. The open space created by these targeted demolitions became the Neisseterrassen (the Neisse Terraces). The remaining buildings are to be reserved for various types of encounters – from German-Polish educational opportunities to culture and cultural-leisure facilities.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to build on the IBA’s cultural transitional uses for the site or to implement its plans for the site’s future use, mainly because of the continuing exodus from the German side, which reduces the interest from investors.
As a result, large parts of »Gubener Wolle« were demolished, as per the original plan. But the IBA saved the so-called Building B, together with a storage hall and a factory villa. The Neisseterrassen, a park-like open space opposite the Polish Neisse Island, was enlarged, with the new wooden pedestrian bridge built in 2007 allowing the river island to be shared between Germany and Poland.

In 2003, the IBA and the cities of Guben and Gubin commissioned a planning study for the Polish Neisse island itself. The design by planning firm Coqui Malachowska-Coqui made it to the architecture biennale in Venice – but was never actually implemented. Today, however, both cities are pursuing the »Grüne Pfad« (Greenpath) plan, which unites attractions in both cities. The needed careful conversion has already started, with the grounds of »Haus Wolf« included in the plan. The IBA believes the potential of this destroyed building by the German-American architect can still be tapped, and in 2001 the IBA persuaded the New York Museum of Modern Art to survey the site. The dig found several items. The subsequent German-Polish design workshop on how to develop the site was documented by the IBA in an English-language publication in 2002. In 2006 – the IBA’s Europe-themed year – the IBA presented the »Mies Memory Box« – a mobile exhibition box in German and Polish, which educated people about the history of the house and presented some of the artefacts found in the dig. A year later, a permanent information board was unveiled.


The city of Guben’s plan is to site high-quality restaurants, retail stores, or medical practices in the ground storey of Haus D and convert the upper storeys into attic flats. As part of the »Grüner Pfad« project, selected green spaces within the city are being improved. Among other things, this involves erecting a symbolic gateway to the island in the Neisse based on a design by Jürgen Mayer – a reference to the departed theatre’s entrance. On the site of »Haus Wolf«, the »Villa Wolf viewing platform« is planned, incorporating parts of »Haus Wolf’s« foundations and with information board displays.


Go by car to Gubener Wolle – Island in the Neisse River – Haus Wolf or by public transportation:

VBB fahrinfo - Link (mit Vorbelegung)
go back

last update: 1/26/2017 13:13