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Following the traces of the Urban Transition Lab 131 – Part III Social Affairs & Spaces

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It has almost been three years since the real world lab project Urban Transition Lab 131 was launched under the umbrella of the framework project District Future – Urban Lab. Under the promotional initiative BaWÜ-Labs of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Culture and with the aim to prove new models for the cooperation between science and society, the Urban Transition Lab 131 started its journey towards a (more) sustainable urban development. In this blog series we are taking a look back at the last three years of the Urban Transition Lab 131.

An article by Vanessa Kügler & Helena Trenks. Translation by Sophie Dauenhauer

In the previous articles we already presented the topics “Sustainable Consumption” and “Mobility”. The third part of our blog series continues with the activities which were developed during the last years in the Oststadt under the umbrella term “Social Affairs & Spaces”. Starting as two individual projects (“Spaces” and “Social Affairs”), very soon the many links between the two topics became clear. That is why they were merged into one Urban Transition Lab 131-project.

Open spaces can have a significant impact on the interconnection with the quarter by fostering networks, creating places and occasions for community and communication and bringing people of all generations that are living in the neighbourhood together. Such a space is enormously important, especially for groups that strongly depend on the neighbourhood environment (e.g. elderly people, families). As areas for sports, playing, encounter and movement, they play an important role for health promotion. Especially in times of an accelerated society, resting areas are an important opposite pole to the constant mobility in our daily lives. Here, we can learn to leave the rush behind, come to rest and to relax. It follows, therefore, that spaces influence the social interaction, and vice versa.

In this sense, the overarching goal of “Social Affairs & Spaces” was to find publicly available spaces in the Oststadt and to investigate their importance and potential for encounter and movement in the quarter.

Oststadt as social and free space

Again, the results of the citizens’ forum were the starting point of this project of the Urban Transition Lab 131.Taking into consideration that the density and the size of our cities are constantly increasing, and the fact that our population is becoming older and more colourful, we asked the citizens:

What will be the importance of social networks in the future? What contribution can be made by the neighbourhood to increase the quality of life in the quarter? What is the role of the public spaces? In times of growing cities, how can we maintain the green qualities of the quarter?

Tranquillity, movement, health and social interaction are aspects that were emphasized as important qualities (of life) of open spaces in the neighbourhood. These topics were then taken up and deepened by the project group of the Urban Transition Lab 131. As a first step, the existing open spaces were examined during a space analysis:

  • What kind of open spaces exist?
  • How do the citizens experience, use and evaluate them?
  • What kind of potentials do open spaces offer for utilisations in the future (especially with respect to tranquillity, movement and encounters)?

Monitoring, walks, mapping, interviews with the residents and expert discussions helped obtaining an (atmospheric) picture of the current situation. In addition, an “emotional city map” was created. Important spots that crystallized in negative and positive ways were Gottesauer Platz, Durlacher Tor/ Bernhardusplatz; Otto-Dullenkopf Park and the axis Ludwig-Wilhelm Straße /Gerwigstraße – Georg-Friedrich Straße. Proceeding from these results, three main topics have arisen.

(More) space for encounter – exercise – easing

Make three out of one: The subprojects

A “tool box” was developed from all the results of the open space analysis and the core points of the BürgerProgramm (citizens program). Three subprojects were formed which were managed by subgroups from different chairs of the KIT. Besides the scientists of the KIT and the team of the Urban Transition Lab, students, representatives of the city administration, citizens and sports clubs in the Oststadt were involved.

Rethinking existing spaces: The subproject “Linear Square”

The subproject Linear Square that belongs to the Faculty for Architecture focussed on the quality of public spaces (paths, streets, squares). The project’s aim was to emerge a very special concept from the existing road network: a linear square! Meaning: an open space for exercise and encounter that connects the neighbourhood and can be used by the Oststadt-citizens in an active, cross-generational and sustainable way. In a manner of speaking a “common land” in the city that makes health and well-being, playful activities and learning possible.

A mobility plan for the Oststadt and street-profiles were created to record the multitude of daily movements and being able talking about them. Through conversations with the citizens of the Oststadt, it was possible to create individual movement profiles of users. Furthermore, the experimental seminar “Wege/Gehen” (paths/walking) was organised at the Faculty for Architecture. In this seminar themed walks through the Oststadt were developed – e.g. “Walking by night” or “Movement for the young and the old”.

Shaping open spaces: The subproject “Mapping Space”

Design and perception of public spaces were the contents of the subproject Mapping Space (as well Faculty for Architecture) that was realised from 2016 to 2017 by students of architecture. With the aim of uncovering hidden potential of streets, paths, squares, green spaces or courtyards and presenting public spaces in a new way, students developed scouting games (geocaching) in the Oststadt as well as design ideas for landscaping of the Bernhardusplatz or the axis from Gottesauer Platz to Karl-Wilhelm-Straße and dealt with the Oststadt in terms of theory. The courses took place altering between the Future Space and the faculty. Some of the presentations were open for the public. The students also took part at the Oststadt Picnic and discussed their ideas with the other participants. Thereby, the subproject connected two learning spaces: university- the learning space for the prospective architects – and the real world lab – learning space for the urban community. You can download the reader with the results of the different exercises (in German) here. If you want to have it in a high resolution, please contact us. A printed version of the reader can be found in the Future Space.

Together on the move: The subproject “Netzwerk Bewegung” (“Network Movement”)

The Network Movement of the Oststadt was a subproject of the Institute for Sports and Sports Science: Its aim was to scrutinize the movement offerings, spaces for movement and relationship structures of the involved stakeholders that are working in the field of movement. Free and daily forms of movement and playing were just as important as organised, traditional sports activities offered by sports clubs.

  • Which sports and movement facilities are offered in the Oststadt?
  • Who is using these moving spaces and for what?
  • How is the usage of these spaces organised?
  • Which relationships exist between the users (e.g. exchange of information, joint organisation, rental of sports equipment or the like)?

The open spaces were also examined regarding the aspect “everyday movement” and furthermore the walkability and bikeability of the district were brought up for discussion. In terms of walkability, the citizens themselves have the chance to become active. By using the Walkability check list, they can highlight areas of the Oststadt with potentials for improvement.

Mixture is the key! Join us!

One thing is clear: The Urban Transition Lab 131 project Social Affairs & Spaces stands out due to its mixture of methods and participants. City council, scientists, citizens and students from various fields and disciplines and with different background are working hand in hand benefitting from each other’s theoretical and practical knowledge. This is exactly what defines real world labs!

Smaller events in the quarter that should focus attention on public spaces were also a part of the project. One of these events was the “Freiluftwohnzimmer” (“outdoor living room”), that took place in 2014 and 2016. District Future initiated this event at took part at it. True to the motto “Take it easy!”, urbanites had the chance to reclaim open spaces and at the same time, sitting together with their neighbours over coffee and cake.

For the future, we want to keep on working on the topics community and (open) spaces in the Oststadt. How we can do this is a question that can only be answered by you and your ideas! Although most of the activities of the project Social Affairs & Spaces have already ended, we are still interested in keeping up the work!

Do you have a wish or an idea on how we can make the Oststadt an even better social space? We are always looking for creative minds that want to become active! Just contact us (Helena Trenks is your contact partner: Helena.trenks@kit.edu ) or visit us during the opening hours in the Future Space.

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