Project 17: Frankfurter Strasse

German-Polish border experience

Since Poland became a member of the EU and border controls were abandoned, the two halves of the German-Polish double city Guben-Gubin have come much closer together; the inhabitants of both cities routinely cross the Neisse to go to work, to shop, or to sit in a cafe. The city centre, along the Frankfurter Strasse, is slowly drawing together again. Germans and Poles are working to restore historic buildings and urban spaces for the future and to design new outdoor spaces. At the centre of this, symbolically speaking, is the rebuilding of Gubin’s main church, destroyed in the war.


Much of this city on the Neisse was destroyed during the Second World War, with the historic city centre to the right of the Neisse especially hard hit. After the war, Guben was divided by the Oder-Neisse border into a German half on the left bank and a Polish half on the right bank, with the Polish half of the city known as Gubin ever since. Wartime damage is still visible today. Guben’s former main church – today on the Polish side – was a ruin for decades. Only the neighbouring town hall was rebuilt. The town hall, the ruin, and a few panel construction buildings dominate the empty stretch of urban space adjacent to the border.
The change in the political status quo of both states and Poland’s entry into the EU have given the twin city on the German-Polish border a new importance. In 1998, a spatial structure concept was developed so that common urban planning goals could be pursued by both sides. The Frankfurter Strasse and its bridge over the Neisse were particularly important – as a shopping boulevard, as a border crossing, and as the connective element between Guben and Gubin.


The IBA »Gubiner Hauptkirche« (Gubin main church) project is closely linked with the structural concept for both cities. In Guben, the first construction phase of improvements to the Frankfurter Strasse was completed in 2003. The renovated building fronts and the new paving and seating – together with the cafes and shops – make the street a pleasant place to be. Next, the city turned its attention to the »Promenade am Dreieck« (the promenade at the triangle). Converting the old Wilke hat factory created a new town centre for Guben – which now includes the town hall, the library, and a museum of hats. As well as being a new town centre for Guben, the Promenade am Dreieck combines with the main church to form a spatial boundary to the Frankfurter Strasse on the Gubin side.

A lot has also happened on the Polish side. The restoration work on the Neisse bridge was completed in 2003, leaving the way to the main church clear once more. The church – of which only the nave’s outer walls and a damaged bell tower were left standing – is at the centre of this IBA project. The main priority is to secure the ruins and fill them with life once more. People on both sides of the Neisse were aware of the church’s importance to the twin city’s identity, and sought to find a shared approach to its ruins. In 2002, Polish and German students from the Technische Universität Breslau and the Fachhochschule Lausitz in Cottbus (Lusatia) discussed possible transitional uses and future uses and presented some preliminary drafts, supported by the IBA and the city of Guben. This led to the idea of a German-Polish/European exchange centre as a hub for ecumenical and cultural activities. The IBA also found other ways to help raise awareness of Gubin’s main church locally and internationally, and to drum up financial and political support. This included a symbolic sale of bricks for the rebuilding as part of the IBA’s »halfway point« celebrations in 2005, and an ambitious programme of cultural events on both sides of the border to mark 2006, the IBA’s »Europe«-themed year.

2005 saw the founding of a Polish foundation and a German registered association dedicated to (as a beginning) preserving the church’s ruins. The first tangible success came in 2007, when the (largely intact) bell tower’s steeple was restored. In 2008, the IBA and the city of Gubin held a consultation for all those interested in the project – to collect the ideas and requests of regional partners so they could be taken further. Based on this consultation, a German-Polish planning firm came up with a development and action plan that involved turning the church into a German-Polish/European culture and communication centre in three separate stages.


The main goal was to secure the ruins. In 2010, the regional universities of Zielona Góra, and Cottbus will come together to found a Bauhütte (the word for a medieval guild of master builders) to provide expert support for the securing of the building and to coordinate the construction plan. The first step will be to make the bell tower safe to enter. To show different possible approaches to the ruins, the IBA has had various visualisations created. These will be able to be used as a basis for the actual work in the next stage of the process.

Apart from the construction measures, the integration of the church into the everyday life of the city is very important. Activities staged by cultural associations and by the official churches of both countries are already taking place, and will be expanded on in the future.
The Bauhütte is to set up a trans-regional centre for culture and communication in the church. The plan is to make the church’s nave multifunctional and to use it for exhibitions, large-scale events, and summer school classes, as well as for tourist information purposes.


Go by public transportation or by car to Frankfurter Strasse.

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last update: 1/26/2017 13:13