Cologne’s City Archive

There’s been quite a bit of news from Germany that has made in into the UK headlines recently.  One of the items closest to use, geographically speaking, was the collapse of the Cologne City Archive.

The city archive in Cologne was the largest archive of its kind in Germany, containing not only important documents such as the building plans of Cologne Cathedral, but also the personal documents of a number of well-known German citizens such as Heinrich Böll and Konrad Adenauer.

Just over 2 weeks ago, the building collapsed burying about 90% of the archived material and tearing away parts of the adjacent residential buildings which lead to the death of two people.  Since then, the media have been reporting almost daily on the progress of the hunt for the bodies, the rescuing of the archive material, and trying to find out who is to blame.

The building was opened in 1971 with modern methods such as controlled air-flow and lightling to protect the documents contained within its think walls.

Almost immediately, the media attention turned to the unterground rail line that we being built under the road in front of the archive, when it was suggested that part of the ground under the archive may have collapsed into the tunnel and caused a whole for the building to fall into.  After much speculation, this week information surfaced that there had indeed been problems with water in the tunnel in September of last year, which in the eyes of many confirms their opinion that this was indeed the cause and, had the problem last year been investigated, may well have avoided the collaspe and the subsequent deaths.

Of course, what do you do when you are building an underground railway and suddenly found out that you cannot go the way you wanted to, because the water table is too high?  Cologne is similar to London, in that it is divided by a large river, in Cologne’s case the Rhine.  Unlike London, there have not, until now, been many attempts to tunnel under the river.  Most tram and rail lines cross the Rhine on bridges, and new tunnel in question was not actually going under the river, but running parallel to it.

Surely the unexpected water in the tunnel last year should have made someone sit up and take a look at the plans, to see if they needed changing.  I’m no architect, but perhaps they should have gone deeper, or maybe the ground is just unsuitable for tunneling?

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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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