Consequences of the flood disaster in Altenahr Copyright: © Yannick Ley  

Futur[AHR]. Resilience and Growth through Cultural Heritage

The disastrous and catastrophic flooding of parts of Western and Central Europe in 2021 has led to a pro-found transformation of Rhineland-Palatinate’s Ahr Valley, the survey, analysis and assessment of which requires decisive action from various disciplines. In addition to a river landscape that has changed in regard to its constituting elements and an infrastructure that has largely collapsed and so far only has been rebuilt provisionally, the towns and villages of the valley, often the embodiment of cultural traditions going back over many centuries and characterized by the immediate connection between local identity, street layout and formal relationship of its buildings to the river, have also suffered serious architectural losses. Against this background, a sustainable redesign of the cultural landscape of the Ahr valley can only succeed if it is grounded in a comprehensive study of its identity-forming features and in an assessment of their applicability within future interventions at the level of both landscape design and architecture.

Methodologically, the main tenet of the research project lies in its practice-based approach, which is characterized above all by the involvement of students via taught research courses and by a constant exchange with the responsible authorities within the Ahr Valley itself. In addition, a division into several interlinked project stages allows a step-by-step approximation both to the interventions into the landscape and to their consequences for future developments. In a first project phase, an inventory documentation and architectural-historical research was carried out, which showed the influence of the flood on the grown structures. Based on this, impulse-giving designs were developed in the second project phase, which serve as models for a culturally and historically sustainable reconstruction.

Ultimately, the reconstruction and redesign of the Ahr Valley thus represents a multi-layered challenge that requires cooperation on a trans-regional political level and interdisciplinary communication aimed at achieving concrete results. In this context, cultural heritage and architectural legacy on site with its longstanding and identity-defining features represent a valuable source of knowledge for the rediscovery of resilient building practices and for future growth that is sustainable both culturally and ecologically.



Yannick Ley, M. Sc. RWTH