Master's thesis examines consequences of the Corona pandemic for historic city centres

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave its mark on many historic city centres. Consequences for the urban space can already be assessed and solution strategies developed. Using the example of the Historic Towns Working Group, Erik Mann, a graduate of the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), has investigated in his Master's thesis what influence the Corona pandemic could have on the inner cities and their further development. The most important results are summarised in a policy paper. The work was supervised by Prof. Dr. Robert Knippschild from the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER).

In many places, old town districts form the cultural, economic and political centre of cities. They often also fulfil important functions for the surrounding region and are places of work, education and supply. Time and again, however, historic city centres have to deal with crises such as climate change. For more than a year now, the Corona pandemic has added further challenges. How will the pandemic affect the historic city centres? Will it lead to urban development changes and how can cities react? Erik Mann, a graduate of the TUD, investigated these questions in his Master's thesis. In the policy paper "The Corona pandemic and possible consequences for the spatial development of historic city centres", he summarised central contents.

Erik Mann's research focuses on the six members of the Historic Cities Working Group: Bamberg, Görlitz, Lübeck, Meißen, Regensburg and Stralsund. They represent many cities in Germany that have valuable historic building stock in their old town, but some of which had to worry about how to keep their inner city alive even before the Corona outbreak.

In his work, Erik Mann examined the period from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany to 30 September 2020. This means that the first lockdown with partly drastic measures as well as the period of relaxation in the summer months of 2020 fall within the period of study. Based on extensive research, he generates key factors for the topics of urban development and Corona. In an impact analysis, he compares these and determines what influence the Corona pandemic could have on the development of the historic city centres. In doing so, Mann concentrates on the areas of housing, tourism, open space, retail, culture and the process of urban development planning in general, which are particularly relevant in the old towns. For each area, he formulates different future scenarios and asks experts from the cities studied to assess which of the scenarios can be considered realistic. The results of the material research and interviews provide a detailed insight into the situation on the ground and also allow a look at possible future developments.

"In his Master's thesis, Erik Mann has taken up a highly topical issue. The work shows how important it is to develop solutions now for the already visible consequences of the pandemic. It also becomes clear that the cities have to deal with different challenges depending on the local conditions. The provisional solutions they developed during the pandemic should now be tested for their effectiveness and replaced by permanent strategies that work both in the phase of an acute wave of infection and after the pandemic," is how supervisor Prof. Robert Knippschild explains the quintessence of the work.


The thesis "Challenges of urban development in historic city centres as a result of the Corona crisis - An assessment based on the Historic Towns Working Group" (deutsch: Städtebauliche Herausforderungen in historischen Altstadtquartieren infolge der Corona-Krise – Eine Einschätzung anhand der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Historische Städte) was written in the Master's programme "Spatial Development and Natural Resource Management" at the Technische Universität Dresden. The thesis was supervised by Dr. Robert Knippschild, Professor for Ecological and Revitalizing Urban Transformation at the International University Institute (IHI) Zittau of the Technische Universität Dresden and Senior Scientist at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) Dresden, as well as by Hartmut Wilke, Head of the Office for Urban Development at the City of Görlitz.

Policy paper "The Corona pandemic and possible consequences for the spatial development of historic city centres" (in German) as PDF

Contact at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER)
Prof. Dr. Robert Knippschild (IÖR), e-mail:

Contact to Erik Mann via the press and public relations department of the IOER
Heike Hensel, Telefon: (0351) 46 79-241, e-mail:


The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.