Baukultur Workshop, September 2015
Planning Culture and Process Quality
We live in the century of cities. That is the unanimous view. But in the case of Germany, at least, one might need to revise this judgement, according to Reiner Nagel, Chair of the Federal Foundation of Baukultur, speaking at the third Baukultur Workshop, entitled “Town and Country”, on 11 September 2015 in Frankfurt am Main. The space outside our major cities is itself characterised by hundreds of small and medium-sized towns that are often on equal standing with metropolitan areas in terms of economic and innovative power. Truly rural areas are hard to find. Despite tendencies for people to migrate to big cities, many of these regions have great charm and a power to attract, because as cities become fuller, the more people look to regain a sense of balance in the countryside – whether they are young families, professionals whose work is independent of where they live, or people looking to escape the grind of urban life. Concentrating on maintaining existing amenities and a lively town centre is important for our communities to remain attractive: an inn, a village shop, a community hall. But what is needed beyond these are models for further development, design regulations that prevent traditional townscapes from being disturbed, and an engaged town council that works alongside engaged citizens.
Many good examples were presented at the Baukultur Workshop “Planning Culture and Process Quality”, which took place in Frankfurt am Main on 10 and 11 September. Thanks to its relatively isolated location, the North Hessian town of Eschwege sees itself as a supply centre for the region. It boasts a freshly re-inaugurated railway station and, after renovation of a vacant Hertie store, it will also once again have a department store. The redesign of the marketplace as a shared space showed how easy citizen participation can be: the senior citizens’ advisory council had previously been given the opportunity to try out the pavement and the seating for the area with a test installation.
The community of Weyarn in the foothills of the Alps decided it wanted to retain its character as a rural community. New buildings are required to comply with this guiding principle, and incompatible building uses will be rejected. The municipality also operates an active land policy with its purchase of plots. These are allocated under leasehold to local families or tradespeople – and this is done not for the usual 99 years but for 149 years.
Despite population decline, Arnsberg in Sauerland is taking the initiative and focusing on local development. Traffic areas are being reduced, public facilities such as the town archive are being relocated to existing publicly-owned buildings, and empty storefront spaces are being used for dance classes and community dinners.
The project Regionale 2016 in western Münsterland shows that not only historical town centres but also the numerous neighbourhoods of detached houses from the post-war era have a future. Although these areas are currently characterised by an aging population, they offer numerous advantages compared to new housing developments: their proximity to town centres, existing neighbourhoods, generous plot sizes, and potential for subsequent building densification and adaptation to new living situations. The HausAufgaben (HomeWork) project creates motivational activities that get participants excited about their own immediate environment. At the same time, they convey knowledge, train perceptions, and stimulate community initiatives: choosing one’s favourite places and analysing them, playing a card game of quartets featuring local detached houses, viewing film screenings in private gardens, or pursuing the ‘granny’s hotel’ idea, which provides decentralised guest accommodations in private homes.
The example of Southern Styria, which markets itself as “wine country”, shows that Baukultur is an important draw for tourism. Once expectations of particular landscapes and regional Baukultur are established, new buildings must also fulfil these visual expectations. Using contemporary interpretations of regionally typical construction has therefore become a marketing concept and has also found its way into building legislation.
South Tyrol has, in addition to an urban development plan, a legal landscape plan that, for example, ignores municipal borders to establish zones where construction is prohibited. A Provincial Advisory Council functions as a mobile architectural advisory board, issuing expert reports, offering consultation, and developing project alternatives.
Until 2011, Deutsche Bahn had an advisory board to oversee the design of its bridges. However, this Bridge Advisory Council was involved too seldom and the guidelines it developed were too rarely observed. In many cases, standard designs were implemented rather than pursuing alternatives that would have been more valuable in artistic terms and perhaps even more cost-effective. The participants at the Baukultur Workshop argued for the reinstatement of the Advisory Council and, at the same time, for more consideration of design in engineered structures.
With his keynote speech on the “Countryside” research project, Stephan Petermann of Rem Koolhaas’ office AMO offered new perspectives on rural settings. According to Petermann, a ‘classic’ rural population hardly exists any more. Rural places are also home to yoga teachers, programmers, real estate agents, tourists, and immigrants. Additional settlements, energy production, and highly automated agriculture – which, in temperate zones, will be even more productive due to climate change – will increasingly come face to face with a deliberately staged country idyll with a wellness factor. This broad view of the diverse developments prevailing in rural areas, which clearly require design and direction, ended the series of the three Baukultur Workshops on “Town and Country”. The previous two workshops had taken place in Kassel and Regensburg.
In March 2016, the Federal Foundation of Baukultur, in cooperation with the Association of German Architects BDA Munich, turns to current developments in the areas of migration and housing at the “Flucht nach Vorne” symposium, and in April 2016, the Foundation hosts the Baukultur Workshop on “Living” in the Frankish town of Iphofen.
We thank our partner RINN as well as our media and cooperation partners.
Planning Culture and Process Quality
Federal Foundation of Baukultur