Berlin 2050 Concrete Density
The first exhibition of the trilogy “Berlin 2050” with works by:
The University of Texas at Austin: Barbara Hoidn, Wilfried Wang
Potsdam School of Architecture: Bernd Albers, Jan Kleihues, Silvia Malcovati
Universidad de Navarra: Barbara Hoidn
What might Berlin look like in 2050? The first of three exhibitions on Berlin’s future presents the possibilities for internal growth, of densifying existing parts of the city in concrete terms. Three schools of architecture are showing different urban design proposals for Berlin 2050:
BERLIN 2050: Foundations for a concrete density
Berlin’s population is growing steadily: between 40,000 to 60,000 per year. By 2050 well over 4 million people could be living in Berlin. Where and how should this growth be designed? Which socio-political and cultural aims should be defined and how should the urban development be conceived with these goals in mind?
To avoid the suburban sprawl as far as possible, the first of the three exhibitions is devoted to the topic of urban density and the densification of existing urban structures.
Urban density cannot be reduced to the simple numerical ratio of population to area. Urban density is much more. Urban density comes about first and foremost as a result of social and cultural diversity of its inhabitants; it includes the supply and distribution of residential spaces, educational facilities, health services, public transport, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities.
Berlin has paradigmatic living conditions that should be developed and strengthened. As such, Berlin is both a model for the future as well as a laboratory for new developments. Short travel times to the wide range of services, mixed uses, cultural and social diversity are the hallmarks of popular urban districts. In these districts, the public space is clearly understandable, the ground floors are often use by public and commercial functions. People feel at ease here, but above all, people feel safe here. In these districts, there are buildings with a range of floor layouts: from small residential units to large commercial facilities.
Post-war housing estates are surrounded by generous public space, which, however, are, more often than not, also occupied by parking lots. These housing estates were designed for the car-based city. The urban design projects for the densification of these housing estates (Straussberger Platz, Charlottenburg-Nord, Otto-Suhr-Siedlung) on the hand try to maintain the respective existing characters while on the other hand developing both building and unit types in order to give each housing estate an appropriate, contemporaneous urbanity.
Since the first period of industrialization in the second half of the 19th century, Berlin is experiencing a third wave of entrepreneurial start-ups, a quarter century after German reunification. However, no longer are factories sought, but the small-scale start-ups need flexible as well as generous spaces, so that they could expand in the immediate future. However, it is highly likely that people will have numerous jobs for which they will both need the traditional workspace as well as the home office. The plan typology of the late 19th century buildings are ideally suited for the latter use. Compared with these, the residential typologies of the modernist period, however, are rigid. What will the future spaces for the parallel living and working environments look like?
Given their central location, inner city commercial zones such as the Westhafen or infrastructural interstitial spaces such as the Westkreuz are predestined to be integrated into the overall structure of the city. Historical breaks can thus be closed in the interest of the city as a whole. But also, peripheral, disused industrial sites such as the one in Niederschöneweide, or areas that are currently experiencing indistinct transformations, such as those in Reinickendorf, will become inner city development areas due to the continuous internal urban growth.
By 2050, Berlin as a public body will once again be intensively investing in housing and will be passing planning regulations for socially mixed residential construction within individual buildings. Thus, in future there will be less pure social housing estates but rather residences for all rental groups, and that for all new buildings and spread across the entire city.
What will mobility look like in 2050? We are assuming that self-driving vehicles will have become firmly established by then. The number of owners of fossil fuel cars will have dropped to a few collectors. Thus, all streets and housing estates will be liberated from car parking spaces, making space for cycle paths, urban green/urban farming, or, in the case of the housing estates, for the construction of new buildings.
The exhibition posits the thesis that, as a result of inner city densification, a concrete density – and not merely in statistical terms, but socio-culturally – can be achieved. There is much potential in the city itself. However, Berlin can only benefit from this treasure together with its inhabitants if it becomes evident to everyone that inner city densification protects land on the periphery and thus keeps transport distance short, the city and its housing associations once again gain control over the fundamental development principles thereby allowing the city to once again be the steward for the general public, including those in need.
It is in this sense that this series of exhibitions on Berlin 2050 would like to contribute to the public debate.
Bernd Albers, Barbara Hoidn, Jan Kleihues, Silvia Malcovati, Wilfried Wang
Berlin, August 2017