Conseil des XV - Rotterdam

The Conseil des XV district forms the eastern part of the Neustadt. It contains the European institutions, which have given Strasbourg an important role on the international political stage.

History

The Conseil des XV (or Council of XV) was Strasbourg's governing body from 1433 right up to the Revolution. The Council owned a substantial amount of land in what is today the eponymous quarter. It was given its name in the 17th century, at which point it mainly comprised farmland and the area remained outside the city walls until the 1880s.

The district is bordered to the east by the bassin des Remparts (1927) and its port zone (1892 - 1901), to the north by the Marne-Rhine Canal (1838 to 1853) and to the west by the river Ill. The boulevard de la Victoire and rue Vauban represent the southern boundary of the district, the same as for the Neustadt. Urbanisation came to the Conseil des XV following the demolition of the 15th century ramparts and Vauban's citadel, built in 1681.

Urban extension and the Neustadt

Strasbourg underwent substantial expansion after 1871, which tripled its total area. The Conseil des XV district was included in the Neustadt Project drawn up by city architect, Jean-Geoffroy Conrath, in 1880

The expansion plan was strongly influenced by neoclassical principles, in which can be seen more than a hint of Haussmann, and also by the new town-planning theories of Reinhard Baumeister. The Neustadt Project, with its detailed planning and rules, is an excellent example of what was then considered as the essence of German modernity.

The University was a focal point of the expansion plan and set the shape for what the Neustadt hoped to achieve. In 1871, Berlin decided that Strasbourg would be home to the German Empire's largest university, a place of learning which was also intended to accelerate the Germanisation of Alsace-Moselle. The university was built on an old glacis, thereby avoiding the need to wait for the old outer walls to be demolished, which explains its oblong design. The university complex comprises several buildings within its botanical gardens, which also house the Observatory. The western side of the park contains the main building, which has an unrestricted view down a monumental avenue of the old Kaiserplatz, now the place de la République.

The avenue de la Forêt-Noire forms part of a structural route (avenue des Vosges, avenue d'Alsace, avenue de la Forêt-Noir) that runs parallel to the monumental avenue linking place de la République and place de l’Université, and links place de Haguenau to place de Kehl. It was designed as a through-road allowing travellers to avoid the old centre of town. As the largest of the roadways set out in the urban development plan, it formed a key element of the planned expansion and marked the first part of the Neustadt urbanization.

Just about the only changes made to the plan before its completion were those influenced by Camillo Sitte, whereby the road layout was made more irregular and more attractive. Sitte's ideas can be seen in rue Massenet, rue Richard Wagner and the boulevard d’Anvers and also in rue François-Xavier Richter and rue du Conseil des XV. Most of the urbanisation in the sector took place after the First World War, with only a few villas built before 1914.

Low-cost housing: a solution to the 20th-century housing crisis

The cité Spach development is a prime example of municipal policy during the annexation and after 1918, aimed at improving living conditions of the city's poorer inhabitants. Cité Spach contains about 100 dwellings and was designed by architect Albert Nadler in accordance with the prevailing hygiene principles. Completed in 1903 and expanded in 1910, the units are designed to be roomy and well ventilated, with high ceilings and fitted with gas heating and lighting. The Léon Blum development, designed on the same principles as the cité Spach, was built in 1920. Other low-cost housing developments were built on unoccupied land around the avenue de la Forêt-Noire, boulevard Leblois and rue Vauban. The developments were all within easy reach of municipal facilities, such as public baths, a laundry, drying rooms, a library, pharmacy and a nursery.

The city maintained its social housing policy after the Second World War, with the construction of the Cité Rotterdam in 1951, which was the first building of its kind in France to use prefabricated sections. The development was designed by architect Eugène Beaudoin, who won the competition organised by the French Ministry for Reconstruction and Urbanism. The 800 apartments were built to rehouse inhabitants who were having to live in Kehl after their own homes had been destroyed, and having to move back to the city as their temporary homes needed to be returned to the Germans. Cité Rotterdam comprises blocks of between 2 and 13 floors, opening onto a park and the local school. Although somewhat austere-looking from the street, the apartment interiors are of high quality, with living rooms, balconies and loggias.

Military buildings, the memory of the past, put to new use

The military past of Strasbourg is reflected in the local urban landscape, in particular redbrick buildings such as the Strasbourg Faculty of Economics and Management (PEGE) and the Lecourbe quarter.

The PEGE building was completed in 1892 and was used originally as a centre for the supply of military provisions. The site was completely renovated in 1999 by architects Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Jean Mérat and Michel Gomez, who kept most of the existing facade intact.

In the south-eastern part of the Neustadt, the Lecourbe barracks, built in 1892 are still used as such. A city development project plans to use part of the complex for housing development.

The Orangerie Park

The Conseil des XV district has two lungs, the University Gardens and the impressively large Orangerie Park. Built originally as the promenade Lenôtre in 1692 (and named after its eponymous designer), it became a park and took on its present name when city architect Pierre-Valentin Boudhors chose it in 1807 for the pavillon Joséphine, named after the Empress and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The building originally housed 140 orange trees confiscated during the Revolution from the chateau of the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, in Bouxwiller and offered to the City by the French state. The pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1972 and was restored to its original condition.

The Orangerie Park was designed in the style of an English garden after 1832 and enlarged to host the universal and crafts exhibition of 1895. A number of temporary buildings were constructed, only one of which, an old farmhouse, now a restaurant, has survived. The Au Nid de Cigognes restaurant was built for the exhibition and then dismantled and relocated to the Montagne-Verte, 102 route de Schirmeck.

The European institutions

The European institutions are located just over from the Orangerie Park, along the street linking the city centre to the Robertsau. The first to be built was the Council of Europe, which was created on 5 May 1949, by its 10 founder states. The Council seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals. Its seat is in the Palais de l’Europe (designed by architect Henry Bernard), which was built in 1977 to replace the old buildings which dated from the 1950s. The first Human Rights building proved too small for its purpose and the organization moved into a new building in 1995, designed by Richard Rogers & Partners. The two cylinders on either side of the entrance represent the balance of justice.

The European district stretches across both sides of the river Ill, to include the four buildings of the European Parliament, the seat of which is in Strasbourg. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the progressive enlargement of the European Union, a new building had to be constructed to house the expanded membership. The Louise Weiss building (completed in 1998 and designed by Architecture Studio Europe) is linked to the Parliament's office buildings via a walkway over the River.