The IZS is orientating its research on the knowledge requirements of the practical field.  With the embedding into a theoretical and methodical frame, those requirements become research issues and research projects with a regional, national and continental scope.

[Translate to Englisch:] Skizze Haus, schwarz
[Translate to Englisch:] Skizze vom Umbau des Hauses in schwarz mit roten Änderungen
[Translate to Englisch:] Skizze von Haus in schwarz, Skitte der Gestaltung des Freiraums zwischen den Häusern in rot,

(source: Stadt Görlitz)

Lausitz Project - Scientific support of the transformation process in the Lausitz region

Problem background

As part of a shift to renewable energies to counter global warming, Germany intends to achieve its climate policy goals by reducing the country’s share of global CO2 emissions. For Lusatia, a region with decades of experience in the extraction and use of lignite, this means that extraction activities and power generation using lignite will be phased out in the foreseeable future, leading to a range of repercussions. Thereby, the region will once again face the challenge of wide-ranging socio-economic, ecological and cultural change at a structural level. Yet alongside these numerous difficulties, Lusatia also has an opportunity to realize a comprehensive process of transformation towards sustainable lifestyles and economic forms.

Goal | Research question

The aim of the project implemented by the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is to identify and promote the potential for transformation in Lusatia on the basis of the institute’s many years of experience in studying sustainable transformation and processes of structural change in cities as well as post-mining and former industrial regions. The project’s main research focus is thus to determine which stepping stones already exist to foster a smaller-scale, diversified and more attractive economic and social structure as well as to ensure the region’s sustainable and environmentally-friendly development. Further, the project will investigate those paths which seems feasible for further development, testing and implementation. In addition to existing knowledge and local initiatives, external expertise from business and science will be integrated in order to take account of the national as well as international perspective.

Based on this research focus, we can derive the following questions to guide the project work:

  • Which ideas or visions can help support a transformation process in Lusatia (also socio-political in nature) geared towards sustainability?

  • How can these ideas (discursive/political/procedural, etc.) serve to steer action in the course of structural change?

  • How are such processes of regional development managed both politically and socially from a governance perspective, and what are the likely changes to these control mechanisms against the background of the investigated challenges?

Approach | Methodology

The project approach will obey the guiding principle of the IOER, namely to undertake applied research for the benefit of the region and to transfer the knowledge gained back into social practice. This means taking into account the existing contradictions and conflicting goals in the various ideas of the local Lusatian population as to how the region should develop as well as to consciously consider and reflect this regional heterogeneity in the research work. With regard to the practical approach to research, the work programme is divided into three steps:

  • (1) Identification of regional/local innovations, ideas and strategies for sustainable development in Lusatia.

  • (2) Reflection, testing and refinement of these ideas by integrating local initiatives and external expertise.

  • (3) Transferal of findings into political decision-making bodies at federal, state and municipal level.

The project work – which encompasses those parts of Lusatia lying in Saxony and Brandenburg – will initially concentrate on gathering regional/local ideas. Regarding methodology, participant observation, surveys/interviews as well as media and expert analyses will be conducted in order to create a precise picture of the Lusatian landscape of ideas and actors. This will be followed by reflection, testing and refinement of these ideas. The intention is also to conduct in-depth analysis, to organize study trips, to establish thematically and spatially defined experimental fields as well as to set up an expert scientific committee. In addition, further external experts will be involved when needed in order to incorporate national and international experience in processes of structural change and regional development concepts outside Lusatia into the project work. Parallel to the research process, the knowledge gained will be disseminated to political decision-making bodies, whereby existing and newly developed contacts will ensure knowledge transfer at the federal, state and local political levels.

Duration | Financing | Cooperation

The project, which will run from Oct 2018 to Sep 2021, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The project work is designed in cooperation with the Zukunftswerkstatt Lausitz (ZWL) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, whereby each of the cooperation partners designs, carries out and is responsible for its own research work in close cooperation with the other partners.

Contact persons

Prof. Dr. Robert Knippschild (r.knippschild[...]
Dr. Sebastian Heer (s.heer[...]
Dr. Antje Matern (a.matern[...]   

REVIVAL! – The revitalization of historic towns in Lower Silesia and Saxony

Current situation
Southwestern Poland and Eastern Saxony contain a multitude of small and medium-sized towns of special architectural value. At the same time, these towns are particularly affected by demographic and socio-economic change. New construction is often located on the urban outskirts, while historic town centres are losing many of their traditional forms of use despite enormous success in modernizing infrastructure and existing buildings. Vacant residential and commercial buildings pose a threat to the historic fabric of these centres, while also leading to a loss of important urban functions traditionally provided by the town centre as a place of culture and trade as well as a vital meeting-point. In view of the increasing relevance of soft location factors (e.g. recreational value, range of cultural activities, image) in encouraging new residents as well as businesses to settle, these two factors are threatening to reduce the attractiveness of towns and aggravate the disadvantages of these regional centres. However, the increasing pressures afflicting the conurbations of Wrocław and Dresden (e.g. a lack of affordable housing, rising environmental and traffic problems) represent an opportunity for the small and medium-sized towns of this German-Polish border region, and are fostering a renewed interest in such towns. In particular, the historic small and medium-sized towns in the target area have all the necessary prerequisites for a renaissance: With attractive buildings and compact historic urban structures in the urban core, they offer ideal framework conditions for structural and social revitalization at a time of increased European-wide processes of (re)urbanization.

Project objective

People on a guided city tour, view of the board with information on the renovation of the old town in Görlitz
Guided walk of all project partners in Görlitz in December 2018
(Photo: IZS Görlitz)

Towns in this border region show similar potentials and challenges in terms of their historical development, their urban structures, demographic and socio-economic development, traditions of building and tourism potentials, but also regarding their structural weaknesses in the local economy and the threat of functional loss. The project “REVIVAL! – The revitalization of historic towns in Lower Silesia and Saxony” aims to overcome these challenges and make better use of the development opportunities of small and medium-sized towns by preserving their cultural heritage and enhancing the town centres. This should serve to increase the attractiveness of the target area for the local population, for newcomers and tourists as well as to attract new businesses and skilled workers. By invigorating the historic town centres, the project will help limit land consumption for commercial purposes and housing construction on the urban periphery and thereby protect the natural heritage in the target area.

Project measures
An action day entitled “Lebendige Innenstadt” (“Lively Town Centre”) in all of the project’s ten partner towns on the German and Polish sides of the river Neisse will enliven the historic centres, raise awareness of the issues as well as identify new development perspectives. Ten pilot measures, planned and implemented by each town individually and adapted to its needs, are intended to preserve, develop and improve the accessibility of the cultural heritage, increase the sensitivity of the local population to this heritage and make it attractive for tourists. A travelling exhibition will highlight the history and current potential of the town centres as well as successful examples of revitalization. A geocaching game will encourage locals and tourists to explore various aspects of the cultural heritage of this border region. An autumn school for students will bring new and creative ideas to the region.

Research questions and methodology
Approaches to enhancing historic towns centres are to be empirically tested within the project “REVIVAL! – The revitalization of historic towns in Lower Silesia and Saxony”. In addition, the project will address the methodological-theoretical improvement of existing scientific methods used to assess the features and quality of urban living in historic small and medium-sized towns. These are viewed as increasingly important soft location factors to encourage new residents or businesses to settle in towns. Here the ideas and experiences of the partner towns, especially with regard to the significance of their cultural heritage as a soft location factor, should also be taken into account. In this context, the question arises as to current quality of life and urban characteristics in the partner towns. What are the inherent advantages in comparison with the nearby and increasingly overburdened cities? What are the current challenges and development potentials? On the basis of these overarching questions, ten individual municipal strategies will be developed for the partner towns as well as an overall strategy for the target area aimed at preserving the cultural heritage and increasing the level of attractiveness and vitality of the town centres, which can then be used as an aid to action in future political decisions.

Log Interreg_Poland-Saxony_ENThe project with a budget of 1 032 906 Euro is funded at a rate of 85% by the European Regional Development Fund within the framework of the EU cooperation programme INTERREG Poland – Saxony 2014-2020.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER), represented by the Görlitz-based Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalizing Urban Redevelopment (IZS), is the project’s lead partner. The scientific partners include the TU Dresden (IHI Zittau), also represented by the IZS in Görlitz, and the Voivodeship of Lower Silesia, represented by the Instytut Rozwoju Terytorialnego (IRT) in Wrocław. Four German towns are involved in the project, namely Bautzen, Görlitz (represented by the Europastadt Görlitz/Zgorzelec GmbH), Reichenbach and Zittau, along with six Polish six towns and municipalities, namely Bolesławiec, Gryfów Śląski, Kamienna Góra, Lubawka, Lubomierz and Żary.

Group photo of the project partners (Photo: IZS)

Project duration: October 2018 – September 2020

Further information on the German-Polish project website:

Testing the City – Living and Working in Görlitz
Photo: R. Knippschild, IOER-Media

The city of Görlitz offers a large and diverse range of living and working space at moderate prices, beautiful surroundings with many cultural attractions, a historic city centre, existing networks of creative industries, an international environment located near to a national border as well as a positive image (“Görliwood”, “Germany’s most beautiful city”, “European city”). At the same time, it is affected by the repercussions of demographic change as well as a changing economic structures. For these reasons Görlitz is seeking new strategies to ensure long-term stabilisation and revitalisation, especially of the historic centre as well as numerous industrial and commercial wastelands

It is thus representative of the challenges facing numerous medium-sized cities in Germany which, over past years, have suffered massive population loss in the wake of major transformative forces. At the same time large cities and metropolitan regions have – at least since the mid-2000s – attracted an influx of people. Here the effects of congestion are becoming more pronounced: The growing populations of large cities are causing overheated residential and commercial property markets as well as higher traffic loads and increased environmental pollution.

The project “Testing the City – Living and Working in Görlitz” aims to analyse how the potentials of a medium-sized city can be exploited and promoted, thereby pinpointing ways of combating the trends of population loss, higher vacancies and a generally decreasing importance. It is vital to investigate the potential for revitalisation, particularly in medium-sized towns located in the periphery which, however, possess favourable soft location factors. Under what conditions can the above-mentioned urban trends in Germany lead to a renaissance of medium-sized towns? Which approaches can be taken in national urban development policy to strengthen and exploit this potential?

Within the framework of the project, a free trial period of living and working is offered in the city of Görlitz. The project targets a group of people who are not tied to a particular location, e.g. those who are freelance and possibly work in the creative industries. The aim is to spark their enthusiasm for the city of Görlitz as a place to live and work. At the same time, the project can strengthen existing networks within the city’s creative industries. Interested persons from the above-mentioned target group receive a free trial flat and a workplace for a period of four weeks in order to be able to pursue their freelance activities. The accompanying scientific research will analyse the wishes and experiences of this target group with a view to deriving recommendations for the future development of Görlitz.

The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) / Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) as part of their National Urban Development Policy. The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER), represented by the Görlitz-based Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalising Urban Transformation (IZS), is implementing the project together with its partners KommWohnen Service GmbH, the Office for Urban Development of the City of Görlitz and the local initiatives KoLABORacja e. V., Kühlhaus e. V. and Wildwuchs e. V. The project is also supported by other local initiatives and networks

Your are interested in our project but not too familiar with the German language? Don’t hesitate to contact us, we will provide further information and support for your application.

Phone: +45 3581 7924790
Email: stadtaufprobe[...]


Project duration: July 2018 to Dec 2020

Urban Transformation in the field of tension in between revitalization and protection of historical monuments: "Urban transformation- Matrix Görlitz"

street in Görlitz
Photo: Robert Knippschild / IÖR

During the last 25 years, more than three-quarters of the valuable protected historical monument buildings in Görlitz have been refurbished. However, massive losses of the population have led to vacancies, that can't be compensated, even by the predicted population growth.

In some districts grievances in the urban development and social segregation are still continuing. This is why a new and more valuable use in the areas of living, trading, services and commerces is necessary, for which certainly a demand exists.
However, the realisation of those renewals can hardly be realised within the old floor plans of the buildings without substantial changes. Thereby is the main goal of the urban development to keep the town in its size and structure.

By using an "urban development- matrix", easily applicable guidelines have been prepared, to create a balance between the housing- and building stock and the protected historic monuments. New tenant clientele and new usages will be attracted by allowing otherwise usages.  
Due to the "Matrix", decisions shall be supported and more transparent, concerning questions like to what extent the structure of buildings can be changed and what kind of usages can be possible in protected historic monuments.

The aim of the project is to support the trial phase of the "urban development - Matrix" by evaluating the methods and usages during the decision making process. Thereby the question shall be answered, if the "urban development - Matrix" is a suitable tool to handle potential conflicts between the revitalization of city centres and the protection of historical monuments.

The following steps are planned for the project:

  • gathering of the "urban development - Matrix" as the tool for the evaluation of buildings, to create transparency during the rural development process as support for decisions concerning the conflict between revitalization and protection of historical monuments
  • Evaluation/ assessment of the "urban development - Matrix" with regards to its methodical and content -functionality as institutional and process- like implementation
  • Derivation of suggestions for improvement for the City Görlitz

Period: 02/2017 – 06/2018