Try out the good life of the future.

“District Future – Urban Lab” is a research and development project of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) that wants to make a whole district of the city and its people fit for the future. The question is: How can we live a good life in the city today and tomorrow – and at the same time respect the world we are part of, the world that surrounds us, and the world to come? In doing so, we will not extensively remodel what we already have, but change it gently – in a joint effort between citizens, science, politics, and the private sector.

Bring pioneer ideas into play.

Sustainable urban development, one of the most urgent challenges of the 21st century, is thus promoted with creative strategies: Pioneering ideas are investigated, further developed, and tested, alternative ways of life are closely examined, technological and societal innovations are brought into play.

A vivid culture of sustainability.

While many people only think of renouncement or efficiency when it comes to sustainability, District Future – Urban Lab is about creating new qualities of life for the people in the quarter: The city is nudged and encouraged to a culture of sustainability which enters the life of the people through their feelings, thoughts, and actions. This is based on an understanding of sustainability which focuses its actions on a global, intergenerational justice.

The driving forces? All of us.

The future has to do with us and concerns all of us. Therefore everyone can join in the urban development of Karlsruhe’s Oststadt, where participation of the urban society is the driving force. District Future – Urban Lab serves as creative platform here, is an experimental space, and springboard for a large number of projects with a sustainability aspect. The real driving forces behind the change are Karlsruhe’s citizens themselves, their clubs, companies, schools, and initiatives with their very own project ideas. Everyone is invited to join in!

Urban society meets KIT meets urban society.

The co-operation of science and urban society, of scientific and practical knowledge enlarges the people’s scope of action: KIT opens up to the region, its knowledge becoming a useful and concrete contribution to the neighborhood. Vice versa, the citizens as team of experts for the local challenges ahead also contribute to the institution with crucial impulses from their everyday lives.

Everything is related.

The District Future’s scientific team co-ordinates and moderates the sustainability work in the quarter and accompanies the process with its research work. The focus is on city life as a whole, the way in which the people in the district encounter it every day: Fields like economy and consumption, work, education, or nutrition are considered as an interwoven web and integratively analyzed. Everything is related, everything is important. They do not think in subjects any more, but focus on transdisciplinary methods: Environmental scientists confer with people from the Oststadt, experts in urban development and migration researchers sit at the same table, sociologists discuss with experts in mobility. In this way, new and potentially sustainable ideas for different fields of life are brought into contact at one place. And while sustainability in the district is woven tighter and tighter, threads can be handed on, conflicting aims can be identified, and solutions can be found.

District Future – a European sustainability model to copy.

We can assume that almost two thirds of the world population will be living in cities in 2050. Therefore it makes sense to try and test sustainability right there, in the urban space. Karlsruhe’s Oststadt, a typical European district which has developed over time, can be used as a model for other urban living environments in Europe. The diversity and complexity of communal life in the district is the real ace up the sleeve here: Regarding urban and spatial development, there are quite different structures; people with different backgrounds and life plans come together and form a society. Karlsruhe’s Oststadt becomes a dense microcosm which provides a platform to work on complex interrelations and big questions on the small scale.

An integrative concept of sustainable development made in Karlsruhe.

District Future – Urban Lab takes sustainable development, one of the mission statements of the United Nations, seriously. Starting point for the project is the Integrative Concept of Sustainable Development, a scientific and ethical concept which has been developed by the Helmholtz Association at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) in Karlsruhe. It respects both today’s and future generations and combines thinking in global contexts with local actions. The main goals are to ensure human existence and provide basic services for all people, to maintain the social potential to produce goods and services, and retain the possibilities for development and actions of people and societies. However, every society has to decide for itself how it wants to shape sustainable development.

Urban space is diverse. The topics of District Future – Urban Lab too.

Illustration Quartier Zukunft
click for detailled view
Cities and climate change

Cities are the main cause of and principal sufferer from climate change. We have to deal with extreme weather conditions like heat and heavy rainfall and at same time we have to change our actions to make them more climate-friendly.

Urban energy landscapes

Cities are resource-hungry and produce too much CO2. We can change this: by using innovative technologies and renewable energies and trying out a new way of life that works without the excessive waste of goods and resources.

Mobile city

Mobility in the city is too often harmful to the environment and nerve-racking. We think about a mobility concept which relies on bicycles, smart traffic management systems, and collective means of transport.

Recycle city

Today’s cities produce a vast quantity of waste. We want to approach tomorrow’s recycle city, where waste becomes a resource and the raw material for new products.

Consumption in the city

Consumption has an effect – on the world we are part of, the world that surrounds us, the world to come, and ourselves. We want to contribute to a conscious, sustainable, and regional consumption and revive cultural skills like barter and repair.

Post-growth city

Since the resources of our planet are finite, a growth-oriented economic system cannot work in the long run. We contemplate how the good life in an urban post-growth society could look like.

The built city

Karlsruhe’s Oststadt exists already, it does not have to be built. Urban development should therefore be based on the existing local community – to continue together what is already there.

Living in the city

Living in the city raises its very own questions, for example regarding gentrification or the lack of social solidarity. In the district, we re-consider urban neighborhoods and put future-oriented forms of living and community to a test. We are also looking for solutions to the conflicting priorities of energetic redevelopment and listed buildings.

Change of values in sustainability

First of all, sustainability is just a word. Here in the district, we want to fill it with life, make it suitable for everyday use, imaginable, and “usable”. Our goal: A vivid culture of sustainability.

Urban technology

Our idea: Bring the urban society closer to the “knowledge factory” KIT. Like this, the district can immediately benefit from smart innovations on topics like sustainable mobility or renewable energy.

Healthy city

From the sustainable perspective, the healthy city is a place which provides room for physical activities, rest, and participation. It has to be possible to breath and eat there without endangering your health – in an environment that is also good for your soul.

Economic activities in the city

We are also concerned about sustainable economic activities in the city. We do not only examine local effects of a globalized, growth-based way of doing business, we also search for alternative ideas, research them, and take them seriously.

Designing the city

We are convinced that the possibility of contributing to the future of our own city is an essential aspect of the urban concept of good life. We want to create and preserve an opportunity for co-creation. For us, this also includes specific venues and locations in the quarter.

Socially fair city

Who is entitled to participate in an urban future? Who is not and why? We take a closer look at the obstacles and barriers that exclude people from decisions and design process in the district. And try to find solutions.



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