“Lorsch Abbey” in Southern Hesse was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1991. The first monastery on the site was the Altenmünster which dates from the reign of Pippin the Short. As the monastery gained spiritual and economic influence an abbey was built nearby on a huge glacial dune. The complex became an important centre for restoring the cultural memory/inheritance of antiquity.
Parts of the area are the fragments of Lorsch Abbey’s complex with the famous Carolingian gate hall, the church ruins, and the traces of the preceding Altenmünster, which is mainly a large green space with very few remains. In 2009 an interdisciplinary competition aimed at redesigning the area by connecting landscape and architecture while strictly following the regulations of monument preservation.
Our central idea was to render history visible as a landscape. Unlike former, often historicising visualisations, our design approach focused on the ground plane. With the help of careful and subtle topographic interventions, the spare remains were accentuated. Thus, we mainly provided a “stage” for the site to present itself. – The glacial sand dune where the Abbey was built, was remodelled.
Lines of sight from the visitors’ different points of view were established as well as new paths and walkways to stroll between the Abbey and the Altenmünster. The footprint of the monastic building structures has been reshaped and covered with a lawn-like protective carpet. With these means, we succeeded in making the absence of the ancient monastery felt. The design has resulted in an unobtrusive layout that respects topography, architecture, and archaeological findings at the same time.