Wachstumsmarkt München. Foto:

Redensification - a conversation with Klaus Neumann and Tilman Latz

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The state capital of Munich is expecting an influx of around 300,000 new citizens within the next 20 years. But where and how should this growth take place?

If one goes by the latest study of the planning association Äußerer Wirtschaftsraum München (Outer Munich Economic Area), redensification does not seem to be an option, but rather an inevitability for a long time. "The metropolitan area is running out of building land" was the headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung back in September. And Bayerischer Rundfunk is devoting a special theme day today to the topic of the future of our cities.

We have interviewed Klaus Neumann from realgrün landschaftsarchitekten and Tilman Latz from Latz

Mr. Latz, Mr. Neumann, can we say in a nutshell: reality creates the facts?

Klaus Neumann: Yes. Redensification within the city of Munich is unavoidable, but only a very limited option that will not solve the requirement of increasing housing demand on its own. Certainly, inner-city densification is still possible in some places - but it would also be exciting, for example, to investigate the potential of Messestadt with its landscape park - or to finally build higher in the new urban expansions such as Freiham.

However, it is often overlooked that the need for freely available public outdoor space and open areas increases with the number of residents. In my opinion, this is where the abandonment of the demand figures from the 80s is counterproductive. The word open space now includes the concept of area.
Over the often only purely quantitative conversion of the open space organization statute in the closer residential environment - keyword number of play devices - must surely be discussed.
The compensatory approach of "qualifying" existing open spaces advocated by some colleagues and urban planners is a capitulation in disguise. Even the much touted activation of rooftops can only do so much to solve land demand.

To really make a breakthrough in affordable housing supply, we need to seriously explore the idea of new urban satellites in the surrounding area, in the "open countryside", and develop them in an interdisciplinary planning manner. With knowledge of the analyzed weaknesses of satellite cities, socially and ecologically viable new concepts can be developed.

Tilman Latz: Post-densification is happening all over the world, and it definitely has similar causes globally, but it is developing in very different ways in some cases. Above all, however, post-densification is changing our modernist ways of thinking, functionalist classifications and social behaviour. Agglomerations are growing in all directions, at all levels and with both good and bad consequences for their attractiveness, development and competitiveness.

The city of Munich is a good and at the same time difficult, if not bad example. For on the one hand, one can already assume that Munich would have the finances to push ahead with redensification on its own land in a consistent, high-quality and, above all, sustainable manner. On the other hand, a very traditional idea of the city and the idea that everything should remain as it is prevents exactly that from happening.
Because redensification and thus higher population density require not only more housing, but also a more efficient infrastructure network at all levels - supply and disposal, public services, energy, public open spaces(!) and, above all, polycentric development with resilient mobility systems!
The latter in particular already essentially describes the lines of conflict. We notice this in concrete terms, for example, in the fact that more and more cars want to enter the city but simply don't fit in, that public transport is completely overloaded at peak times, that rents and purchase prices for apartments are rising to dizzying heights for most people, or that the few parks in the centre of Munich are now massively overused.

The classical planning systems and ways of thinking have long since reached their limits here. For example, the traditional calculation systems for building densities and area sizes can only help us to a limited extent, because they originate from times when activities and needs were aligned according to functionalist ideas of the city, i.e. each function (cars, infrastructure, living, working, leisure, ...) was given its own separately designed space. We know the consequences of this, because little thought was given to the overlapping of functions in jointly used spaces - the consumption of space increased, so did mechanisation and usability decreased. It is sobering to see that most people still prefer to live in districts of the Wilhelminian period instead of in the younger areas that were planned "according to demand".
The redensification that is now taking place also offers us the chance to rethink the way we live together, to reconcile our needs with current possibilities, and perhaps to reclaim urban spaces that have been blocked off in particular by road traffic (the "tin") and unusable residual areas (sometimes "greened").

Are there successful examples of redensification outside Munich?

Tilman Latz: Beautiful new urban quarters and chic architecture are being built all over the country, but almost all of them feature the classic horizontal separation of uses, which often lacks density in the end. And with this comes increased land consumption, because I then need more mobility to compensate for the distance of the workplace or to be able to reach the place of leisure. Most land is consumed not by buildings, but by road construction and logistics. And this is where hardly any rethinking is taking place in Germany. Even e-mobility, which will certainly become established in the near future, can do little to change land consumption. In London, on the other hand, in order to make better use of existing public infrastructures outside the city centre, massive efforts have been made to increase density, especially at transport hubs (e.g. underground stations) - a very effective approach that has also been able to counteract settlement pressure with a highly efficient measure.

In Germany, I miss vertical mixes of uses in new development areas and, unfortunately, usually also dense urbanity, which could really reduce the problematic land consumption to a significant extent. Because clichés of the city are stubbornly opposed to this. For us, this usually means in the end: no high-rise buildings, "nature" comes before people, almost everything old becomes a monument and just: everything should change, but everything should remain as it is ..... Unfortunately, our own guild often does not present a good picture.

Klaus Neumann: Good examples can be found in Vienna, Zurich or Paris. In Vienna, which is two storeys higher than Munich almost everywhere in the city centre, the Seestadt Aspern shows how a dense new residential quarter can be created on a greenfield site with a subway connection. Here, ground-floor use is also deliberately controlled with shops and restaurants, and shopping centres are not permitted.

In the greater Zurich area, the glasi project is currently being planned in Bülach, a town in the agglomeration. It is interesting to note that it is being developed by the association of housing cooperatives. In Paris, the new residential quarters in the vicinity of the former Renault factories are very exciting, sophisticated architecture, built much more densely and higher than here, 5-9 storeys, balconies, green inner courtyards, green streets, intersections with shops and restaurants and - very important - an attractive, large neighbourhood park.

In your opinion, are there any taboo areas for redensification?

Klaus Neumann: Taboo areas result from the known benchmarks for space requirements, amenities and accessibility. If densification wants to access open spaces that are necessary to provide the city's residents with recreational functions, this is taboo, also in terms of responsibility towards future generations.
Munich has a very green city image, thanks to the Isar and the English Garden. In a statistical comparison of major German cities, however, Munich is far behind Berlin or Stuttgart in terms of absolute green spaces.

Tilman Latz: Is that such a bad thing? Of course the large, well-functioning parks and squares are off limits. But for me, the same applies to the major urban planning axes of a city. This also includes many existing street spaces, visual axes, and precisely buffer spaces for future green and grey infrastructures.
It seems important to me that the city should again provide space for really large parks and that the necessary areas should be strategically reserved and developed. Large city parks, in my experience, end up being more important and effective for a city and its identity than most pocket parks. And next to that, larger neighborhoods could be created again, where you might have to walk 7, 8, sometimes even 10 blocks before the big green space starts... But in return, you'll have really functioning plazas and central shopping and recreational spaces that might not always have to be green.

So in the future, are landscape architects just residual space managers or optimizers?

Tilman Latz: If we landscape architects also succeed in dissolving the classic categories of green versus street and nature versus artificial, in favour of integrative systems - for example, if street spaces are freed from the dominance of motor vehicle systems and once again become living and working spaces for everyone's everyday life - then a lot would already have been achieved for redensification.
Landscape architects who think integratively and cultivate a networked way of thinking about the city, some of whom also work as urban planners, will not run out of work. Nevertheless, the management and optimization of open spaces will become increasingly important for the complex cities of tomorrow, especially in the course of their redensification!

Klaus Neumann: If they don't get more clearly involved in the urban planning discussion and defend open spaces, yes. Strategic demands or visions have unfortunately become scarce since Grzimek...

What conflicts exist? And: Can our profession take countermeasures here?

Tilman Latz: The consequences and challenges of densification can be observed all over the world. There are already many approaches to solutions and experiences that need to be studied.

Landscape architects will have to deal with themselves first and foremost, because our profession is also stereotype-laden and not always sufficiently educated. This is usually not a bad thing, as it is not uncommon for our clients to be in this situation as well. But the many tasks in dense urban structures require a corresponding rethinking. We have to decide anew - sometimes from project to project - how we want to position ourselves and which methods and tools we want to use to develop and apply new approaches to solutions. For me, it seems particularly important to avoid the functionalizations that some people demand in the interest of one-sided ideas of use. In a dense city, the pressure on open spaces is too great. And so multifunctionality and openness, robust basic structures, flexible use systems and integrative planning are much more important in redensification.

Landscape architects' skills are needed, although they also have to work increasingly integratively with other disciplines. For example, landscape architects are increasingly leading large teams that include architects and urban planners, engineers and lighting designers, economists and marketing experts.

Klaus Neumann: It is certainly presumptuous to want to see landscape architecture as a saviour in market-based urban development. Nevertheless - see above - we have to take a stand and, especially for the part of society that does not have a lot of alternative options, defend the open spaces close to housing and secure them in the new urban quarters through planning.

Here the education at the universities is also challenged to look for solutions in overlapping cooperation with architects and urban planners.


Topic reference: numerous initiators have currently drawn up a Munich appeal for a different land policy.

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Preview: In the next installment, we will turn our attention to the topic of accessibility in urban spaces in early 2018 vss.

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