Kunsthofpassage, Neustadt, Dresden, 1999, Arch. Heike Böttcher.

The district of Neustadt, on the north bank of the Elbe, is home to an emblematic piece of architectural heritage dating from the late 19th century. Behind the facades of the tenement buildings lie the courtyards that were once home to Dresden’s factories. The district, which partially survived the bombings, suffered from a lack of maintenance and investment during the GDR era. It became insalubrious and unsafe.

In 1999 a rehabilitation campaign started the process of transforming the somewhat unsavoury image of Neustadt. Thanks to a very inventive approach which combined artistic sensitivity and urban planning, these previously unattractive places became surprising oases with cafés, fashionable shops and well-tended vegetation. The block of buildings known as the Kunsthofpassage (art courtyard passage) is the most emblematic of this metamorphosis. The facades of its buildings were redesigned in a very playful way. One example of this is the turquoise blue Water Court, where the rain makes musical compositions thanks to the funnel gutters.

This neighbourhood is now included in all guidebooks as an atypical part of Dresden. It is a shining example of how to reconstruct a city with sensitivity and originality, without betraying the spirit and history of the area.

Sonia de Puineuf