Project 23: Water-Realm Spree

Mystic flowing labyrinth

The plan was to build a new information and visitor centre in the Spree Forest to attract visitors from outside the region. An exhibition entitled »Water-Realm Spree« will showcase the conditions along the Spree, focusing on the themes of natural space, the water balance and climate change. The visitor centre will help to connect the Spree Forest with the new Lusatian Lake Land and the federal capital Berlin – in conceptional and tourism terms.


About halfway along its course – nearly 400 kilometres long from its source near the German-Czech border to where it ends in the Havilland – the Spree has an inland delta: the Spree Forest, with a dense structure of 300 channels that creates a 1,400-kilometer network of waterways. With its wealth of plant and animal species, the Spree Forest is one of the most beautiful and unique river landscapes in Europe. It is a habitat for several threatened species – otters, beavers, bats, black storks, cranes, and sea-eagles. All the Spree Forest’s species and ecosystems depend on its characteristic wet, river-meadow biotopes. In 1991, the area was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

What looks like the picture of unspoiled nature is in fact a cultural landscape created by human hands and specialised land management forms, with traditions of its own – and variable water levels. Between 1960 and 1990, lignite mining in Lusatia had a massive effect on the water balance in the whole of the Spree’s catchment area. The groundwater pumped out of the open-cast mines was channelled into the Spree and its tributaries. This meant that parts of the Spree were more than ten times fuller than they should have been, causing the waterway network to deepen and create new channels. When most open-cast mining was ended and the pumps stopped running, the additional Spree inflow stopped. Instead, the flooding lignite trenches began to take water from the Spree.
Reduced water availability endangers the valuable ecosystem and agriculture of the Spree Forest. Fens and flooded alder woods threaten to dry up (especially in summer), which would change their species balance. It could also destroy the Spree Forest’s attractiveness to tourists.


In 2006, the »Water-Realm« Spree became an IBA project, and was expanded to include a modern visitor and exhibition centre on the Lübbener Schlossinsel (Lübben castle island). This modern science centre, with its state-of-the-art equipment, numerous exhibits and interactive elements focuses on providing an experience for visitors and are a modern way of spreading knowledge, with the goal of uniting tourism and sustainable development. The idea is to add a world-class attraction to the decentralised information centres in Burg, Lübbenau and Schlepzig in the Spree Forest. As a new gateway to the Spree Forest, the centre will do justice to the importance of the region for tourism, while giving it a new charm to target new visitor groups.

The communication concept utilises modern media, sensory experiences and opportunities for experiments and excursions on a site approximately 2,300 squaremetres. The emphasis is on the themes of »the water balance and climate change« and »UNESCO Biosphere Reserves as model regions for sustainable development« as practically demonstrated by the course of the Spree from source to end. This is a unique concept for a large-scale German protected area.

In 2008, the IBA and its project partners conducted a competition to find an exhibition and operation concept for the centre. The best concept, in economic and science education terms, was created by the leisureworkgroup firm from Hamburg.


The Water-Realm Spree should be completed by 2013. The most important condition for achieving this goal is securing financing and drawing up a detailed operation model. Suitable implementation strategies are being developed based on the present exhibition, and operation concepts and preparations are being made for an architecture competition.

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last update: 1/26/2017 13:13