Once Rather Contentious Debate

The focus was actually on a book – “Wir bauen Deutschland” (We are building Germany), published by Deutsche Reihenhaus AG – but the discussion very quickly took a turn that was only tangentially to do with the book. And it was one of the liveliest and most exciting discussions on the subject of urban development I have witnessed at EXPO REAL.

Once Rather Contentious Debate

This was due not least to the protagonists. In the persons of Christiane Thalgott, Head of Munich’s Urban Planning and Building Regulation Department from 1992 to 2007, who had stepped in at short notice for her successor, Elisabeth Merk, probably because the latter was stranded at some airport, and Peter Conradi, architect and former member of the Bundestag, there were on the podium two – pardon me – “old war horses”, flanked by Bremen’s Senator for the Environment, Building and Transport, Dr. Joachim Lohse, another person not exactly of the view that the market will take care of everything.

In Peter Conradi’s estimation, the long-held notion in urban development circles that PPP is the only solution capable of conferring happiness is currently changing, with a balance being sought between the interests of investors and private companies on the one hand and those of the municipality and its citizens on the other. And as Christiane Thalgott added, the colleagues in our towns and cities know best where the shoe is pinching, economically, socially and politically. A big danger is that a town’s own citizens “no longer feel at home” – and she described in somewhat different terms what Hamburg’s building director Jörn Walter referred to at another event as the anonymity of the investors and project developers, who in this era of globalization, and that’s precisely the point, no longer hale from the particular area, but come from all over the world and are unknown to those not involved in the property business. Christiane Thalgott sees the greatest challenge in “the social problems, in building terms it’s ok, and the environmental aspect is still completely unclear”.

Especially in view of environmental change, joined-up solutions are required she said because, as Peter Conradi added, the clean energy revolution must be more than the new energy savings decree; it should actually include the transport and mobility issue as well. Admittedly, cutting car traffic is a politically fraught undertaking, Bremen’s building senator confirmed, even if both Bremen and Munich are bringing a certain amount of pressure to bear on changing attitudes by reducing parking spaces.

All three were agreed on one point: accommodation must be affordable – an issue that Bremen has to grapple with as much as Munich – and districts must have a guaranteed “social mix”. Bremen has the advantage here of having room for greater inner city density with the Überseestadt district being larger than Hamburg’s Hafencity quarter, with only one third of Hamburg’s population. In Munich on the other hand space is scarce, sufficient for perhaps only another ten years given the current building programs. Attempts are indeed being made to cooperate with neighboring municipalities but communal sovereignty imposes certain limits here.

At this point I thought of Moscow, which from on high so to speak decreed an expansion of its territory by 1,480 square kilometers at the expense of the surrounding region and thus more than doubling it. In addition Moscow – unlike Munich – still has an abundance of former industrial areas available within the city for a change of use, enabling growth from the inside out. Then again, in another respect, Munich and Moscow exhibit similarities: one third of apartments have to be set aside for social housing in new construction areas designated by the City of Munich, one third must be offered in the middle price bracket and one third may be sold on the open market.

In Bremen on the other hand the social housing quota is 25%. Similar rules also apply in Moscow when housing estates are built on municipal plots. However, unlike Munich and Bremen, the difference between social housing and properties or sale on the open market are immediately obvious, and from the outside.

Christiane Thalgott’s comment that terraced housing areas are urban development areas both now and in future on the grounds that these houses are not suitable for senior citizens will not necessarily have been music to the ears of Dr. Daniel Arnold, CEO of Deutsche Reihenhaus AG (company building terraced housings). Generally speaking, demographic and social change is accompanied by neighborly relationships increasingly taking over from family relationships, with towns and cities having to become more community-capable as a consequence.

Asked about what they would like to see, in addition to concrete targets such as a greater use of bicycles and local public transport, Dr. Joachim Lohse’s wish list also included greater understanding for the fact that many processes take time. Christiane Thalgott on the other hand would like the economy to permit greater democracy but conversely with architects and urban planners developing greater economic understanding.

And whereas Peter Conradi advocated more direct democracy, especially for major projects, Bremen’s building senator, while wanting broad-based public participation, was of the opinion, as Hamburg’s building director had been the day before, that ultimately a political decision has to be made, also because nobody can accommodate every wish and objection.

Perhaps it was the liveliness of the discussion but for me it was far and away the most entertaining event on the subject of urban development despite lasting two hours, namely taking up a comparatively long period of time at a trade fair such as EXPO REAL.

Source : blog.exporeal.net

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