Ten years of Schloss-Arkaden – have the opponents of that time made their peace with it in the meantime? No, says Dr. Uwe Meier, one of the spokesmen of the castle opponents. The agricultural scientist has been working with plants for 52 years, including 33 years at the Julius Kuhn Institute. Focal points were u.a. Plant protection, public/urban green, agricultural ethics. Uwe Meier is a founding member of "Fair in Braunschweig," worked for many years as a volunteer for the U.S. organization Rainforest Alliance. We spoke with him.
Ten years ago they were among the opponents of the Schloss-Arkaden, five years ago also. Has something changed today?
I note that the castle of this city is well received, especially the castle arcades. Yes, a new focal point has been formed in the city.
Presumably you will not say that you were wrong back then.
I cannot say that I was mistaken. Not because I am opinionated, but because I have my reasons. I criticize massively and until today the enforcement of the decision at that time, also by the mayor at that time. There was no playing with open cards back then when the construction of the Schloss-Arkaden was pushed through. One promised the rebuilding of the castle, and out came a castle facade. I also criticize the associated devaluation of the rest of the city center to this day.
At that time, you would have agreed to the complete reconstruction of the palace?
No, mainly for the following reason: From an ecological point of view and for the city climate, it was wrong for the castle park to be destroyed. At the time, I wrote a counter-assessment and spent 15 years intensively researching questions of inner-city greenery and climate. From this perspective, the decision was wrong.
You are considered one of the pioneers of fair, ecologically oriented trade. Globally, you are looking for products and possible fair, sustainable trade links. It is clear that you are not a friend of a shopping mall.
Internationally, the signs are already that these shopping malls are on the decline. Many are closed again, have difficulties. In the USA one sees this clearly. And mostly you can see there well, how the development in Europe will be. My downtown, to put it bluntly, is diverse! In my city center there are interesting, viable owner-operated stores with a great variety. My downtown has a lot of beautiful, really distinctive places. Braunschweig has it. This must be emphasized, this must not be weakened. These are the true strengths of this city. This is more important than a shopping center where you can't tell which city you are in.
Have the Schloss-Arkaden really damaged the city center?? There are voices and figures that suggest the opposite.
I am not a retail expert, I am an agronomist. But after talking to owners and shopkeepers, I can say that the development of rents is problematic. It is also noticeable that a lot of cheap stores are opening. The character of the city center, the individual, suffers, is very much lost. It has suffered. The problems of some arcades and the City-Point can be seen by everyone.
The high attractiveness and the magnetic effect of the Braunschweig city center speak against it. Brunswick's neighbors would be happy if you were right.
The city center is not as successful as we were led to believe ten years ago. Yes, it is still attractive. But we must preserve it and fight for it. Every individual citizen can and must do. And our city remains attractive, if not only commerce is thought of. Art historian Dr. Arnold Bartetzki and architectural historian Professor Alexander von Kienlin say: The ECE Center in Braunschweig is a document of the ongoing self-humiliation of a city. Does no one realize that? I am such a Braunschweig fan that I feel sorry for the city.
But the city does not suffer bitterly from the Schloss-Arkaden at all. She goes there and feels good.
You must mean the consumers. Yes, the department store has a beautiful facade, even if it's not original – and that's why we got the new center. But the city also needs originals, not everything must be fake. Everywhere only packaging is produced. And this is a packaged shopping center. Braunschweig deserves more and better.
I go to the castle. You go there. Catastrophic scenarios have not occurred for ten years. Where is the problem?
A catastrophe has indeed not occurred. But the development that has occurred towards a shopping center is a disaster for the city center, both ecologically and in terms of cultural history.
How will we talk about this in ten years??
I expect that the Schloss-Arkaden will become much less important. With this loss, the city center will – hopefully – be strengthened again.
And then, with your support, we are also rebuilding the rest of the Residenzschloss?
It will be difficult. Almost everything will probably have to be torn down again and then reconstructed as it was originally promised. Whether this is desirable – and financially feasible – will have to be discussed again.