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)

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

Current situation
The region of Upper Lusatia, which cuts across both Saxony and the Polish Voivodeship of Lower Silesia, as well as the Sudetenvorland (Sudeten foothills) 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, Dresden and Leipzig (e.g. a lack of affordable housing, rising environmental and traffic problems) represent an opportunity for the small and medium-sized towns of Upper Lusatia and the Sudetenvorland, 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
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.

The project is funded 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.
Project duration: October 2018 – September 2020

Testing the City – Living and Working in Görlitz
Foto: R. Knippschild, IÖR

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

Biological diversity and conservation within the support programme urban development

Blick auf Wohngebiet Halle-Silberhoehe, vorn Grünflächen, hinten Platennbauten
Photo: S. Rößler

It has been proven, that green spaces and therefore urban biological diversity are important for a successfully integrated urban development with the aim of a sustainable, attractive city worth living in. At the same time, there are special preconditions for the biological diversity, concerning their characteristics as well as their conservation and development needs. The urban development stock represents concerning those aspects a special challenge. The tools of urban development,- legal, regarding the special urban planning legislation, as well as fiscal, regarding urban development assistance and planning, regarding integrated urban development concepts are building the frame to implement aspects of open space and conservation.  The urban development programme (Stadtumbau Ost" and "Stadtumbau West") plays an important role in the development of open spaces.  In the administrative agreement:  "urban development assistance" for the year 2015, the implementation of green and open spaces had been explicit embedded as a part of all programmes.

The aim of the report for the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation is the evaluation of the potentials and the borders for the integration of goals and actions to support the biological diversity and the conservation in the city as part of the urban development assistance programme east and west.

Considering the professional and now explicit (funding-) policy relevant anchoring of the subject "green spaces" within the urban renewal, questions about how interests of open space planning, nature conservation in towns and support of the biodiversity can be addressed  in terms of the urban development are coming up:

  • What kind of framework conditions are offered by the federal- and regional political strategy, planning and conservational regulations, funding programmes and regulations for the integration and implementation of goals and measures to support the biodiversity and conservation of the terms of urban development within the stock?
  • What kind of opportunities are offered by the integrated urban development concept considering the interests of nature conservation in towns and the support of the biodiversity?
  • How to implement the goals of nature conservation in towns and the support of biodiversity into concrete projects of the urban development? 

The processing takes place in several work packages:


At first, frame building programmes, laws and strategies are examined concerning their management- and incentive potentials to anchor the interest of supporting biodiversity and the nature conservation within urban renewal.
On this basis, interfaces between requirements and approaches of urban development and the implementation of the goals of national biodiversity strategies can be worked out. In particular, a legal evaluation of the nature conservation in towns and the biodiversity in terms of urban development takes place.


To make a state concerning the role and suitability of integrated urban development concepts to take into account the interests of nature conservation in towns and the support of biodiversity, selected concepts will be analysed through document analysis and expert interviews.


With criteria to anchor the interests of biodiversity and nature conservation, already implemented projects or projects in a concrete planning phase are researched and evaluated concerning their impact on the nature conservation in towns and the support of biodiversity (especially programmes as "Stadtumbau Ost" and "Stadtumbau West").

As result of the project, chances and borders of the planned integration and concrete implementation of goals and measures to support the biodiversity and the nature conservation in terms of urban development of the stock are summarised. References to interfaces and recommendations in term of urban development will be formulated.

Period: 10/2015 – 03/2017

Funding: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).

"Probewohnen Altstadt" in Görlitz

Blick auf die Altstadt von Görlitz
Photo: Benno Brandstetter

More than 200 people have lived for a trial, one-week rental free in the Görlitz "Altstadt" (historical centre)  in the period of September 2015 till October 2016. They just had to pay the operating costs. This trial living had the purpose of answering the question if a move to Görlitz would be an option and to make the City known as an attractive place to live.
This trial also offered people from different districts of Görlitz to taste the living in the Görlitz "Altstadt".
This project had been led by the city housing association  "KommWohnen Görlitz GmbH". They provided three furnished flats for this trial. The City of Görlitz supported this project and the IZS performed scientific studies.

The relaunch of the project from 2008 and 2010 found great approval.  At the end of the deadline of application in January 2016, more than 300 applications from all over Germany and aborad have been received. Especially people from  North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Berlin and Baden-Wuerttemberg were interested in trying a "living" in the Görlitzer "Altstadt". Also, the offer seemed to be more interesting for older people, that are already retired and were looking for a new centre of life, or for people who are about to retire and already spend thoughts about how to spend the next stage of life. But also young families with children showed great interest in living in the Görlitzer "Altstadt". The project addressed people who have already a connection to the city and the region as well as people who until then just heard or read about the "Altstadt" with all its historical buildings and wanted to gain some first-hand impressions.

All participants of the project had been declared as experts in evaluating the housing conditions in the Görlitzer "Altstadt".  They received questionnaires before, during and after their stay which included questions about their current housing conditions, but also different aspects of the residential location  Görlitzer Altstadt.  

From the perspective of the project partners, the results are very pleasing:  The respondents give the city already a good testimony in many areas.  Almost 80 percent find Görlitz attractive and could see themselves moving to this city on the River Neisse.  But the results of the survey also shows areas with a need for action.

The results of the accompanying study had been presented to interested media representatives on the 2nd of February 2017.
Furthermore, they are made available for the "KommWohnen Görlitz GmbH" and the city of Görlitz, to take into account the residential desires and housing needs in the urban development for the future.

Protection and development of biological diversity as part of the integrated urban development by considering the option of the German urban development funding
Photo: S. Rößler

The integration of protection and development of biological diversity within the urban development became an important topic of the national, local and organisational conservation.  Especially the creation and revalue of green spaces - as part of the biodiversity- is an important step stone for the improvement of the attractivity of towns and communities as living and economic sites. Although fundamental diverse synergies exist between the goals of conservation and landscaping on the one hand and the urban development on the other hand and even though there are a lot of good attempts in practice, protection and development of biodiversity are still not extensively integrated into urban development.

According to the great value of the instruments of urban development for the development of green spaces- especially within the urban development stock- the integration of "green- and free spaces" are an explicit part of the fundings in all programmes of the urban development since 2015.

Next to the further development of the framework through the Federation and states, conservation and landscaping find a need for action by the communities to create suitable concepts and to enrol projects on site. Urban development projects, that use urban green to remedy urban development grievances, are rarely seen in a conceptional connection to city-wide green space plannings and to the goals of conservation and landscaping. Possibilities of urban development fundings, for the protection and further development of biodiversity in populated areas, will be analysed and evaluated within the project and recommendations for action will be provided for the communities.

  • What kind of framework conditions are offered by the current legal requirements for the implementation of urban development fundings to integrate the interests of biodiversity in cities?
  • Which potentials and obstacles are communities facing by the integration of the interests of biodiversity as part of the urban development funding?  
  • How can communities promote the integration of interests of the biodiversity as part of the urban development funding?

Basing on an operationalisation of the interests of the biodiversity in cities and the analysation of the framework for the implementation of urban development funding, interfaces between both subjects will be identified. An analytic framework for the empiric work in the project will be based on this foundation.

Five communities have been chosen after a nationwide selection. Currently, those communities are striving to implement various conceptual strategies to meet the goals of national biodiversity.  They are receiving funds on a project basis for urban development funding or are planning to.  Those communities are scientifical attended and receive support through workshop meetings with the development and update of concepts for urban development, that are mandatory for urban development funding.

Therefore, successful process sequences which lead to a conservation orientated urban development- urban renewal- need to be discussed.

The outcome of the evaluation and the workshop meetings offer the foundation for the recommendation for work. The communities integrate the interests of biodiversity into the urban development funding on this basis.

The project will be managed by the Institute for housing and environment (IWU), Darmstadt in cooperation with "NH ProjektStadt" – a brand of the group of companies  "Nassauische Heimstätte/Wohnstadt", Frankfurt/M.

Periode: 09/2016 – 01/2018

Funding:  Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, research and development projects (FKZ 3516 82 1900)

Simulation Game: "adjustment of peripheral settlement structures" (MORO preliminary study)

Feldweg führt zu einem alten Gehöft
Photo: S. Rößler

In the course of adjustment to the consequences of demographic change in rural, peripheral settlements, discussions about the political acceptance of the possible local planning option "strategic retreat" from splinter settlements and smaller districts may be necessary.
The considerations about "strategic retreat" come with uncertainties by the actors about the legal and financial consequences of such a tool.  Much greater are the uncertainties regarding the local- and regional political dynamics and reactions, that would be caused by considerations like this. 

Spatial Development  (BBSR), with a focus on content related and organisational aspects.

In preparation for the simulation game regarding those questions, a preliminary study will be implemented for the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) and the Federal Institute for Research and Building, Urban Affairs and The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR) compiles the scientific foundations for the options for action in the areas of building stock, technical, traffic-, social and cultural infrastructure and evaluate the legal practicability.

Scientists from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalising Urban Transformation (IZS) are working on that project (Dr Stefanie Rößler, Christian Schneider) as well as the research fields "resource efficiency of settlement structures"  (Dr Georg Schiller) and "strategic questions and perspectives" (Prof. Dr Gerold Janssen).

The project will be implemented under the leadership of Gertz Gutsche Rümenapp from the urban development and mobility GbR, Hamburg in cooperation with proloco, Bremen.

Period: 02/2015 – 01/2016

Funding: Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) through the Federal Institute for Research and Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development  (BBSR)