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Culture

Alternative Bridge Plans Won't Save Dresden's UNESCO Title

UNESCO has rejected all of Dresden's alternative Elbe River bridge plans, concluding that even a more streamlined model would destroy the city's world-class skyline. Instead, only a tunnel could spare its UNESCO title.

Dresden skyline

A modern bridge would be an eyesore, decided UNESCO

If Dresden builds a bridge across the Elbe River, its World Heritage title will be revoked, said UNESCO. All of the structures the city has proposed to ease traffic would disrupt the view of Dresden's most significant landmarks: the Church of our Lady, the city's cathedral and the Semper Opera.

"A tunnel would mean a much smaller encroachment," a UNESCO spokesman told the Thursday, March 6, edition of the Sächsische Zeitung. "None of the alternative bridges can preserve the landscape."

On Wednesday, a four-person committee -- made up of German federal and state politicians as well as a university professor -- met in Paris with the director of UNESCO's World Heritage Center, Francesco Bandarin, to discuss the situation.

Dresden had presented a new draft of a less bulky bridge in January and UNESCO representatives traveled to the Saxon capital last month to inspect the scene.

Support for tunnel grows

Computer simulation of a proposed Dresden bridge

The most recent bridge plan was meant to harmonize with the surroundings

"Now we have clarity," state politician Martin Dulig told news agency DPA after Wednesday's meeting, referring to the UN body's rejection of all of the bridge drafts. "The question of what to do now has to be resolved in Dresden -- and fast."

Dresden's city council will meet on March 13 to decide whether to proceed with a bridge in spite of the UNESCO decision -- construction on a bridge has been underway since November -- or to build a tunnel beneath the Elbe River. The project was initiated as a way to alleviate traffic into the city.

Some 40,000 signatures have been collected in Dresden as part of a petition supporting a tunnel. Demonstrations against the bridge are planned for this Saturday.

Currently, 32 of UNESCO's 851 World Cultural Heritage sites are located in Germany. Due to the bridge project, Dresden has been on the list of endangered sites since 2006. An official UNESCO verdict on the city's future status is anticipated at a conference in early July.

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