• Germany's news in English

Stuttgart station revamp raises hopes, hackles

David Wroe · 4 Dec 2009, 17:10

Published: 04 Dec 2009 17:10 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

When the bulldozers come for Stuttgart’s historic central station, Klaus Gebhard will be there.

The 52-year-old writer and photographer has even set up a website to rally opposition to the planned redevelopment of city’s main rail hub. Seventy-nine people including Gebhard have so far committed themselves to stopping the mammoth project by blocking the wrecking crews with their bodies if need be.

“I’ve lived 20 years in the city centre,” Gebhard said. “It makes me very angry and there are a lot of people like me who are going to keep fighting.”

Click here for photos of the controversial new project.

Stuttgart 21, as the redevelopment is called, is no mere architectural facelift. If it goes ahead next year as planned, it will be one of Europe’s biggest construction projects, transforming 100 hectares of central Stuttgart, digging 57 kilometres of tunnels and consolidating the capital of Baden-Württemberg as an important rail link between Western and Eastern Europe.

To advocates, that means economic growth, investment and thousands of jobs.

To critics, it is a white elephant that will cost at least €4.5 billion, take 11 excruciating years and fundamentally change central Stuttgart’s character. But it is the partial destruction of the original train station that is turning the project into a debate about Germany’s cultural history as well.

Campaigners made headlines last week when six members of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which advises the UN’s cultural arm UNESCO, signed a letter to German politicians calling for Stuttgart station to be considered for world heritage status, which would put it alongside the Cologne Cathedral, Egypt’s pyramids and the Great Wall of China.

But the man behind that letter, historian and campaigner Matthias Roser, admitted the move was more about raising awareness than a serious proposal.

“We did it to make sure certain politicians know how important this building is in the estimation of architects and historians,” he said.

The odds of getting a world heritage listing are long. Yet there is little dispute that the building is worth preserving, even from supporters of the redevelopment. They argue the important parts of the old station – the main halls and clock tower – would be kept and incorporated into the new design.

The destruction of the side walls or “wings” is a small price to pay, according to Reinhard Löffler, a state parliamentarian in Baden-Württemberg for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

“We don’t just live in Stuttgart or even Germany anymore,” he said. “We live in Europe. No city in Germany has such an opportunity as we have to link Europe and benefit from it. With better transport comes economic growth. It always has.”

This doesn’t wash with campaigners. Architect Roland Ostertag, who offered his own design as an alternative, branded Stuttgart 21 “cultural barbarism” and compared the destruction of the station’s wings to “amputation – like cutting a person’s arms off.”

Modernising classic Modernism

The station, designed by the controversial German architect Paul Bonatz and built between 1914 and 1928, has importance as one of the first true Modernist buildings in Germany.

“It’s our best example of traditional Modernism,” Roser said. “It was very innovative because it used a cubist style to create three separate facades. It’s important not just for Germany but for Europe.”

The new design, by Düsseldorf architect Christoph Ingenhoven, who was unavailable for an interview, would put the station platforms underground and create a sleek, futuristic plaza at ground level, covered by an undulating roof with eye-shaped light wells.

The network of tunnels would improve the flow of trains through the station and create a high-speed link stretching from Paris to Budapest. It would also connect the centre of Stuttgart to the airport, sharply cutting the travel time.

Campaigners admit that saving the Bonatz Hauptbahnhof hasn’t exactly stirred the Stuttgart public into a frenzy, partly because Deutsche Bahn has allowed the station to become scruffy.

Story continues below…

Instead, the future of the project is likely to come down the cost, they acknowledge. The official upper limit is €4.5 billion, and Deutsche Bahn boss Rüdiger Gruber has said the project will have to be scrapped if a current cost review – due to be released by the end of the year – comes in above that figure.

And ballooning costs seem altogether possible, given Germany’s impartial Federal Audit Office has estimated the price tag at €5.3 billion.

But would it really be scrapped? The CDU’s Löffler said the project would be “dead” if the review indicated it would blow the budget. But he quickly added he personally wouldn’t abandon his support and said Gruber had personally assured CDU politicians it could be done for €4 billion.

Certainly, priceless political capital has already been invested in the project.

But that hasn’t discouraged the conservationist campaigners, who are watching keenly for the results of the cost review while continuing with their regular Monday protests at the station.

“I think it will be cancelled,” Roser said. “I’m convinced of it.”

Related links:

David Wroe (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

04:17 December 9, 2009 by BlackCap
Honestly ! . . Articles like this amaze me, didn't Germany (lose) enough of their buildings during the 2ndWW & now the powers that be want to tear down another . . & for what? . . advancement.

This building is (thankfully) a piece of Germany that . . didn't . . get bombed during that dreadfull time.

Leave this beautiful piece of architecture alone, leave it for the future generations of German young to admire & reflect upon it's history.

And think about this for a moment, if that building somehow managed to survive the allied bombing attacks, it did so for a reason, perhaps it was mean't to . . perhaps it was merely luck . . I don't know & neither do you, so leave it be.

BlackCap !
04:33 December 9, 2009 by CalBill
I can't imagine any reason you would replace the current historically significant train station with the abomination that is being proposed.
20:20 December 13, 2009 by Annika669
...somebody, remember Dresden? Now and then. If germans don't care, others actually do - though, I wouldn't call the Stuttgart Station a world heritage.
Today's headlines
Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd