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Winter 2019, 49.5, pages 495–516

Deliberative Topoi and the Pull of the Future: Bridging Disparate Visions of Dresden Elbe Valley

Abstract: When representatives from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage program approved Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley for inclusion on its list of World Heritage sites in 2004, they did not anticipate that the area—selected as a model of sustainable development—would be delisted five years later. Plans for construction of Waldschlösschen Bridge (Waldschlößchenbrücke) on the site sparked a debate between the World Heritage Committee and Dresden’s city council over the best possible future for the site. This controversy is indicative of the challenges involved in maintaining international conservation efforts. I analyze how urban planners, Dresden’s city council, World Heritage representatives, and citizens navigated competing visions of Dresden’s past and future during the bridge controversy. Each party’s reliance on memories of Dresden’s past at the expense of other possibilities for invention reveals the limits of the topos of historical legitimacy as a determining factor for the future of a space.

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