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Strasbourg’s Neustadt (New Town) is a new area of the city built by the Germans during the Reichsland period (late 19th century). Construction work began in the 1880s and continued until the 1950s – a vast project that, in total, created 10,000 new buildings and tripled the size of the city.
The History of the Neustadt
The Reichsland period saw large-scale German immigration into the city. Its population more than doubled in just 45 years, from 80,000 in 1870 to 180,000 in 1915. The German rulers quickly introduced a vast building programme to cope with this influx of people.
Yet the programme was not simply about building homes for the new residents. It was much more than that – a vast urban planning project that aimed to showcase the German empire’s power, prestige and modernity in what had become the capital of the Alsace-Lorraine Reichsland. First and foremost, it was a physical manifestation of regime change and the dawn of a new power – the ambition to create a vast new city in which engineering, architecture and planning came together to form a stunning landscape and offer a standard of living that was exceptional by contemporary standards..
The new homes had running water and were connected to sewers and mains gas supplies – something that was almost unheard-of at the time. And the political and administrative buildings were just as imposing. Particular attention was paid to the university, reflecting the latest innovations in teaching and research.
This urban planning project – based on drawings by local architect Jean-Geoffroy Conrath and Berlin-based contemporary Auguste Orth – covered the areas that now surround the historic centre, including the train station, the Hôpital Civil, Place de Haguenau, Place de la République, the Contades quarter, the Parc de l'Orangerie and the university.
Strasbourg’s Neustadt is a spacious area, with long, wide avenues, vast squares, parks and gardens, and huge thoroughfares like Avenues des Vosges, Avenue d’Alsace and Avenue de la Forêt-Noire. These vast proportions brought Strasbourg firmly into the modern era, carefully connecting the city’s two parts – the old and the new.
A walk in the Neustadt
Must-see highlights include Place de la République – an extension of Place Broglie and the city’s new political and administrative centre with its Renaissance Revival architecture such as the Palais du Rhin, the National Theatre of Strasbourg and the National University Library. The square is also the point at which all the major roads in the new extension meet, including Avenue de la Liberté, the imperial avenue, which is 30 metres wide and lined with trees. Formerly known as Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse, it leads directly to the Palais du Rhine – the seat of political power and the university. The avenue was designed as the backbone of the city’s political and administrative centre, serving a largely ceremonial purpose – hosting parades and military displays.
A masterpieces of urban planning
These unique masterpieces of urban planning and design recently gained recognition on the international stage as UNESCO extended its World Heritage Site – encompassing the Grande-Île since 1988 – to include part of Neustadt. This recognition stands testament to the area’s extraordinary qualities and recognises the importance of mutual influence between France and Germany across the Rhine – something that has made Strasbourg such an important city on the local and European stages.
Since the 2000s, institutions and associations alike have taken a keen interest in examining and promoting the area to a wider audience. There are several such projects under way at the moment, including the Neustadt heritage inventory project, which encompasses the area’s buildings, décor and urban planning, and the safeguarding and presentation plan – a comprehensive conservation programme that recognises the urban area’s heritage value.