Bourse - Esplanade - Krutenau

A district with mediaeval origins, which underwent rapid development in the early 20th century and in the 1960s, and is now a thriving, lively quarter of the city

The Bourse - Esplanade - Krutenau district still contains remnants of its distant past. Located just outside the old Roman camp, the district grew with the Neustadt and the Swiss quarter in the early 1900s and, since the 1950s, with the demolition of the Esplanade barracks (following the Franco German reconciliation) and the construction of the eponymous district.

The Krutenau, linked to the historical centre of Strasbourg

The Krutenau used to be marshland and it was not until the land was drained with the building of canals that it became suitable, firstly for market gardening and then for urbanisation. The winding streets reflect the layout of the old quarter, while remnants of the last mediaeval wall of Strasbourg can still be found along rue du Fossé des Orphelins.

A number of the guilds that were a vital cog in the life of the city were established within the city's 13th century boundaries, along the quai des Bateliers, rue d’Or and rue des Bouchers. The district gradually changed over the years and was mainly inhabited at the time by townspeople looking to tend their own vegetable or fruit patch, market gardeners and monastic communities (Sainte-Catherine, Saint-Jean-aux-Ondes, Saint-Nicolas-aux-Ondes and Saint Guillaume). The architecture includes Renaissance buildings and others dating from the German annexation (1871 to 1918), as can be seen in place des Orphelins and place de Sainte-Madeleine. The latter contains a mix of buildings from various periods, such as the old 17th-century public granary, the old orphanage, which is now a kindergarten, and a primary school (still open today), built in 1869 by city architect Jean-Geoffroy Conrath. When the monastery burned down in 1904, it was decided to replace it by a business school, construction of which began in 1913 but only finished after the First World War. It is now the Jean Geiler de Kaysersberg lycée. The Gothic Sainte-Madeleine church was built in 1478 and was also damaged by the same fire in 1904, to be restored by city architect Fritz Beblo in 1912. After suffering damage in the 1944 bombardments, the church was again restored after the war.

During the German annexation, a number of waterways were closed, including the Rhine Canal, or Rheingiessen, which was filled in in 1872 to allow the construction of what is now rue de Zurich.

The Krutenau was one of the first districts to benefit from a government-sponsored programmed operation for the improvement of the housing environment (OPAH) in 1978, which resulted in 170 units of social housing, including 100 new units following the renovation of the cour du Brochet and rue du Renard Prêchant. Similar programs followed, such as the renovation of the cour des Zouaves by the CUS Habitat social housing organisation.

One of the main focal points of the district, for over a century, was the tobacco factory, which was transferred to a new plant in the Krutenau, built between 1849 and 1860, following the return to the clergy of its previous premises in the Saint-Étienne church. The factory remained in operation until 2010, and is now part of a socially bonding urban development project designed to provide a focal point for the life of the district.

Innovative projects and the Neustadt extension

The north-east part of the Krutenau saw substantial changes with the Neustadt extension, after the outer wall was demolished.

Although the Esplanade was still home to many military buildings, there was ample space for the School of Applied Arts, designed by architects Johann-Carl Ott and Édouard Roederer, which was completed in 1892 on the site of the old botanical Gardens. 16 years later, one of the barracks was replaced by the municipal baths, designed by city architect Fritz Beblo.

The south-west part of the Krutenau saw the creation of the "Swiss" quarter, so called because of the names of its roads. Planning for the district was set out in the Bebauungsplan urban plan, drawn up in 1912, following the demolition of the 17th century fortifications and the artillery barracks in 1909. Only a few buildings were completed before 1914. Work on the Bourse (stock market) building in place du Maréchal De Lattre de Tassigny started in 1914 and finished in 1923. Most of the sector was built in the 1930s, on the basis of the original urban planning scheme. A number of low-cost housing units for blue-collar workers and office employees were built in the district, upon the behest of the then mayor, Jacques Peirotes (1919-1929).

The Esplanade, a child of the 60s and still growing

Strasbourg's military importance changed following the end of the Second World War and the subsequent Franco German reconciliation. In 1958, the City purchased the 170 hectares of land occupied by the Army in the Esplanade, including its many barracks and training grounds. 75 hectares were earmarked for housing, shops and offices, 17 hectares for the University and 13 for the Citadelle Park, which was opened up to the public. The urbanisation of the new district was managed by urban architect Charles-Gustave Stoskopf and was based on the north-south running avenue du Général de Gaulle which linked the Neustadt to Neudorf, and the west-east rue René-Descartes and rue de Londres. The new university campus covered an area stretching from the Neustadt to the Krutenau and was symbolised by two flagship buildings – the law faculty (built in 1962 and designed by architects Roger Hummel and Alfred Kronenberger) and the chemistry building (built in 1962 and also designed by Roger Hummel). The law faculty takes the shape of a semicircle facing towards the Cathedral, and provides the junction between the end of the rue René Descartes and the beginning of the old town. The 15-story chemistry building stands 69.9 m high and marks the boundary between the "old" Neustadt University and the campus and is the second highest building in Strasbourg, after the Cathedral (142 m). The new tramway system was extended to the Esplanade in 2000 (lines C, E and F).

In 2008, the newly merged University of Strasbourg was designated as one of the first French universities to come under the government-sponsored 10-year Opération campus scheme, which sets out to drive the development and reputation of the University.