Category Archives: City Planning

Alternative Tour of Berlin: City Planning Thoughts

Walking tour focusing on culture and creativity in Berlin

Today we took a tour of alternative Berlin. We had taken a historical tour of Berlin on the 13th but today’s walking tour focused on sources of innovation and creativity in Berlin. The tour focused on art and graffiti, urban culture, alternative lifestyles, cultural icons like the YAAM Beach Bar, and artists’ squats. Themes that ran through these sights were significance of the areas and current city planning problems including the tension between preservation of Berlin’s history and modernization initiatives that might spur economic growth.

The alternative tour focused on many aspects, including the graffiti culture in Berlin. Although this tag does not look that impressive, there is a large fine since this is a very public area under the Berlin train station. Graffiti artists often gain credibility for the measures they took to tag the area and this tag becomes arguably a bit more impressive when considering the likelihood of a big fine.

We started our tour at Alexanderplatz, one of the best-known public squares in Berlin. It was a central meeting place during communist rule in East Germany. It has the iconic Fernsehturm television tower and the surrounding shops are very commercialized—including a Starbucks and other shopping chains. Like much more of what we would see, Alexanderplatz demonstrated the tension between history and modernization are affecting Berlin’s growth and redevelopment.

We saw quite a bit of street art on the alternative tour and this sculpture spoke to the theme of an increasingly commercialized world. The Native American is wearing the cliche I

Another aspect of alternative Berlin relating to city planning that we saw was in the Hackescher Markt area, specifically the Spandauer Vorstadt area. A number of artists’ squats, workshops and galleries sprang up here in the early 1990s. The area we walked through was a former artists’ squat and now has a flea market, a beer garden, the Anne Frank Zentrum (home of the Anne Frank: Here and Now Exhibition), and the Monster Kabinett (part art gallery, part haunted house holding massive robotic creatures, metal sculptures, and insect-looking beasts). This former art squat describes the action of artists to occupy (squat) in abandoned buildings and using these to create art. The concept of art squats, some of which are still open, really spoke to the alternative culture of Berlin and how different conceptions of housing are in the United States as opposed to in Berlin. Art squats in Berlin seemed to be much more accepted in Berlin than squatting would be in the United States.

Hackescher Markt had a really great market with jewelry, produce, coffee, spices, and lots of food.
This is the former artists’ squat that now has two beer gardens, the Anne Frank exhibit, the small flea market, and graffiti and art on the walls

My favorite part of the tour was when our guide mentioned YAAM Beach Bar, which our group went to after the tour ended. YAAM is an acronym for “Young African Art Market” and is located on the River Spree. YAAM is a cultural hotspot and has a club, beachbar, and gallery, complete with sand, hammocks, and picnic tables. YAAM is incredibly laidback and although it’s really close to some of the main attractions in Berlin, namely the East Side Gallery (the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall), it is not face paced and is a really unique area.

Mediaspree is one of the largest property investment projects in Berlin and aims to establish telecomm and media companies along the section of the banks of the River Spree where YAAM is located. Unused or temporary occupied real estate is to be converted into office buildings, lofts, hotels, and other new structures. Our guide said that YAAM’s current location is its third location due to these Mediaspree plans. YAAM is temporarily thriving in its current location, but only time will tell whether it will be able to survive the increasing commercialization of Berlin.

To the right of YAAM we saw the Mercedes-Benz arena being built which to me really embodied the increasing commercialization of Berlin. The arena is being built right by the East Side Gallery and Mercedes-Benz. That is the type of mix between history and modern initiatives that this alternative tour and all of our time in Berlin kept demonstrating. We can debate the merits of this commercialization and the Mediaspree plans, but it will likely take active citizens to keep places like YAAM from being bought up by larger corporations. This alternative tour demonstrated all of the careful planning that must go into city planning initiatives in a city that will likely keep growing for quite some time.

-Jennifer Craft

Farewell Dinner

The last gathering of the Burch program

After an exciting alternate tour of Berlin focusing on street art and gentrification, students were given about five free hours to explore the German capital city. Students dispersed in small groups to view the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, city center and the Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest inner-city park. After exploring the city students headed out to meet the professors for the farewell dinner reservation at 5:45, a couple S-Bahn stops away.

Städige Vertretung, the restaurant where students and professors gathered to eat their last meal together.

Professor Gangi and Radamker chose a restaurant called Ständige Vertretung, which means permanent or steady representation. Upon entering it was certain that the restaurant had an archive of history hanging on its walls. Black and white pictures of politicians, historical icons like the Berlin Wall and various photographs of political groups covered all available wall space.

Coaster and menu of the restaurant. It was quickly evident that this restaurant is a place of great history.
A hungry and happy Professor Gangi ponders the menu as he awaits students to arrive to the restaurant.

As it turns out, “Permanent representation” has a significant political meaning. After WWII, and the fall of the Nazi regime, the German country was controlled by two main political sectors. The Western Allies held the western side of the country while the Soviet Union covered the eastern side. Tensions began to grow between the east and the west territories which eventually led to the cold war. Citizens on the eastern side began to flee to the west for a safer life. In response to this migration, in 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed to officially divide the two territories. Crossing was possible only at certain checkpoints, as for instance Checkpoint Charlie, though only people from West Berlin were able to pass through to the East. These two sides did not have regular embassies, but “steady representations” in the regions of Bonn and East-Berlin. When the Berlin wall was torn down in November 9th, 1989, a bitter fight commenced between the west and east capital cities. Eventually the city of Bonn lost and Berlin became the capital of the united Germany, after which the city expanded greatly. Therefore, forty years of Bonn as a German capital was consigned to history. This is why Städige Vertretung restaurant was born! A French news agency previous wrote – “The ‘StäV’ is not an ordinary pub, but a political reading-book … The past decades’ history is brought back.”

Hungry students and professor Cor preparing to feast. Bittersweet emotions before the start of dinner.

Students were seated at two tables with the professors, Emily Gangi, and Gina Difino, the Burch program head administrator. Professor Cor Radamaker gave a heartfelt toast to the group, saying “it’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you, and I hope to keep in touch.” The menu offered various traditional German meals, like curry-wurst sausage and flammkuchen, a German style flatbread pizza. Over the delicious meal, everyone traded food and reminisced on the top memories of the seemly quick six-week program. Some best memories included the castle day, where students hiked up hills in the French country side, or watching the sunset on the beach every night in The Hague. A bittersweet atmosphere filled the room as deserts were ordered and students realized their summer adventure was coming to a close.

The final meal, which consisted of meatballs, fish, and german pizza called flammkuchen. It was all delicious!
Professor Cor commencing his final toast during dinner. Quote, “it’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you, and I hope to keep in touch.”
Burch students bonding for the last time together at the end of the six week program. Also, note the interior of the restaurant, and its historically decorated walls.

As the tab was paid and everyone moved outside the restaurant, the program was officially concluded. No more eight o clock program day mornings and no more train rides through the beautiful German countryside. After hugs and an official goodbye from all the professors, two students snuck up behind Dr. Gangi and started a program wide group hug in the downtown district of Berlin. There could have been no better way to end such and amazing six-weeks abroad.

-William Onorato

TXL: The Urban Tech Republic

TXL airport becomes showcase for future Smart Cities

After visiting the Heinrich Böll Foundation, we visited Berlin TXL: The Urban Tech Republic.

The Urban Tech Republic uses lots of bright colors and fun graphics to communicate that the finalized product is a fun, creative use of space that will benefit the community.

Our host first provided context for understanding Berlin. She described the two major phases of development in Berlin, after 1945 and after 1989. After these periods, the industrial employment base collapsed by two-thirds between 1989 and 2001. To combat this change, the city invested in the knowledge industry.

Students arrive at the Tegel Project office space. The organization shares the building with several other businesses.

Today, there are four major institutions in the city and a high concentration of talent, both of which curate an innovative ecosystem. Berlin now functions as a cultural center, known for its diversity, creativity, tolerance, cluster of start-ups, and more. As the presenter described, these qualities are summed up by the “three Ts:” technology, talent, and tolerance. There is also a digital ecosystem, which is concentrated in the capital. There are lots of co-working spaces and incubators in the area.

Students take notes and ask questions during the presentation. The Urban Tech Republic provides a perfect example of how to reshape old infrastructure for the needs of the future.

Berlin is doing well, seeing GDP growth and general economic health. As the population grows, the need for space for living and working within the city does too. Between 2003 and 2014, the number of inhabitants increased by 7 percent, and the working population increased by 17 percent. This influx of residents and workers will only enhance the positive feedback loop of innovation.

Students check out the plans and projections for the finalized project.

Then we began discussion about Berlin’s three airports: Tempelhof, Tegel, and Schönefeld. Tempelhof was closed in 2008 and was converted to a green recreational space. Tegel, which sits on approximately 500 hectares of land, will be closed in 2019 and opened up. The campus will have a green landscape, an industrial park, a commercial area, and a main campus. The space is meant to be a showcase of what a Smart City can and should be.

In the development of this project, the team faces several challenges: resource scarcity, climate change, demographic change, urbanization, and digitization. Even so, it is the Urban Tech Republic’s goal to “do well by doing good.” The organization engages in lots of activities to better the city: developing/testing mobility concepts, inventing materials, field-testing new energy sources, upgrading recycling, improving water tech, and creating ICT solutions.

Students take advantage of the opportunity to speak with a member of the Urban Republic staff.

Nearby residents are supportive of the project because they will not have to endure the noise pollution that airplanes create. However, some citizens think Berlin still needs two airports to manage the tremendous amount of traffic, but the Urban Tech Republic argues that the Tegel airport is already so old that it would be too intense to renovate to the international standards anyways.

-Olivia Corriere

Berlin: A City of Opportunity

Learned from the past, focused on the present, planning the future

Staying consistent with the last few days, a steady drizzle once again persisted as students transferred from Hamburg to Berlin to round out the study abroad trip. Upon arriving in Berlin, they were amazed by the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Students had visited many multimodal train stations over the course of the trip, but nothing like this in Berlin. Not only did the main train station have many forms of transportation integrated within it, but it had multiple levels for train lines as well. Many call this Hauptbahnhof “the greatest train station in Europe.”

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, one of the biggest and most impressive train stations in Europe. It features a multimodal transportation hub as well as multiple platform levels for long distance trains.
Sign located on a German long distance train that informs riders that this train runs on renewable energy.

Upon arrival at the hotel, students did some quick exploring. A unique feature of the Berlin Plus Hostel is its location. Just a block away is the location of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin. Although the wall was torn down in 1989, part of the wall still stands a couple blocks away from the hotel. This wall is a tribute to the cold war and has been decorated by professional graffiti artists making various political statements.

The rest of afternoon was spent visiting Adlershof, one of Berlin’s biggest technology and research sites. Located in East Berlin, Adlershof employs roughly 17,000 workers in a 4.5 square kilometer campus. They employ the triple helix management structure which works to integrate education, research, and products/services. Here, large companies work with smaller start-ups to match innovation with the money to back it up. On-campus, they have main tech areas specializing in photovoltaics and renewable energy to IT and media. Each of these tech centers has their own specialized hub which is customized for specific needs. Generally, all the hubs receive high speed communication systems as well as high-tech equipment which include things such as labs and workshops. Adlershof provides resources and equipment to start-ups and students that normally they would not be able to use affordably.

Frank explains how Adlershof has expanded over the years and the location of specific tech hubs on the campus.

The campus is not all sunshine and rainbows however; they do face some challenges when it comes to its workforce. The campus is located forty-five minutes away from Berlin’s city center. As a result, the young workforce they rely on for breakthrough ideas has to commute this distance every workday. A possible solution is to create housing very close to the research park which would significantly reduce commute time. With this solution however comes a few requirements. For employee satisfaction and the general “want” to live there, the local area must have the right infrastructure. This includes necessities such as good schools for their children, recreational facilities, and everyday stores needed for a high quality of life. These are all improvements that Adlershof is working on for the good of the employees in the park.

This is an example of some the housing in the vicinity of Adlershof. This location significantly cuts down commute time for employees compared to many who live in downtown Berlin.

Adlershof is a bright point in East Germany, competing for national and international business. They provide start-ups a brand name to build off of and promote their product. To stimulate this innovation, they provide an open space with no fences and many common areas for easy, casual interactions among different companies. This is a company that is continuing to expand and contribute to global innovation.

-Basil Rodts

Development of Wilhelmsburg

The Wilhelmsburg quarter of Hamburg is being developed alleviate density in the city.

In the morning we met up with Rolf and made our way to the train station. Along the way we stopped by some former meatpacking warehouses that have been repurposed into art galleries, a kindergarten, a brewery, restaurants, and other cultural attractions. While these businesses are revitalizing the area, the meatpacking district is becoming less and less affordable for people with low incomes. Rolf also mentioned that some people want to clean out the Rote Flora, the center for political extremism and one of the hubs for protest during the G20 summit, and convert it into a nonpolitical public space. However, this would remove some of the diversity and history from the St. Pauli quarter of Hamburg. After perusing some of the other redevelopments in the area, we proceeded to the platform and caught an S-bahn to Wilhelmsburg, the island in the middle of the Elbe River.

Our guide, Rolf, points at the old autobahn running through Wilhelmsburg on a model of the island. The autobahn is slated for closure in order to reduce noise pollution and make life on the island more pleasant.

Our first stop in Wilhelmsburg was the city planning office of Hamburg. In the center of the lobby was a detailed model of the entire city. We took a seat on the steps and Rolf launched into a lecture on the development of Wilhelmsburg. He explained that during the Third Reich an autobahn was built through Wilhemsburg. Hamburg fell under western control after the second world war, and companies in the packaging and shipping industry took root in Wilhelmsburg to take advantage of the port and the newly built autobahn. After reunification these companies expanded to the market in east Germany with ease, which actually hindered economic innovation and causes problems with job creation today. These companies developed the western edge of the island, leaving most of Wilhelmsburg untouched. As urbanization and globalization caused Hamburg to become more densely populated, the city had to come up with innovative solutions to housing people. One such solution was building up Wilhelmsburg and making it an appealing place to live.

However, there were many challenges to making the island livable and attractive. Wetlands, pollution, and flooding are all barriers to development on* the island. Nevertheless, the city of Hamburg, which owns the land, began by building a kindergarten, a medical center, a retirement home, and a hotel on the island. People began to move to the area. The south side of the island became a center for education, and north became filled with sporting facilities. The southeastern edge is a pristine, untouched forest, and the center is a large public park called Inselpark. This abundance of green areas makes the city feel spacious and less dense than it is in reality. Another autobahn was built through the island, and public transit makes traveling between the island and the city center easy and convenient. Rolf explained that in the future the city will close the old autobahn, reducing noise on the island and making a more attractive place to live. After gaining an understanding of the development of the island, we left the city planning office to see what the island had to offer. We strolled through the Inselpark, which the locals have turned into a recreational area. There were basketball courts, skateboarding ramps, a public pool, and even a towering rock climbing facility. People seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the park, and part of me was dying to put on a climbing harness and join in the fun. We continued our tour through a residential area. The flats in this area were created as part of an experiment that the government was conducting; one building had tanks of water on the outside walls and was growing algae to sell to fish farms, one was affordably built out of slabs of concrete and was subsidized by the government to provide affordable housing to low-income families, and another had solar panels to generate energy and walls made of foliage to keep the building cool during the summer and warm during the winter. The area had a friendly and inviting feel, and seemed to be gaining popularity.

A group of children gather on a soccer field in the Inselpark. The park was part of a citizen effort to make their neighborhood in Wilhelmsburg more lively and enjoyable.
The climbing gym at the Inselpark has been a huge success with young people. All skill levels can enjoy the gym, and if climbing doesn’t interest you then the bar or office spaces in the building may.
The algae house is a good example of the housing experiments that are happening in Wilhelmsburg. The outer walls of the house are filled with tanks of water and algae. The water is in motion constantly to prevent the algae from settling. This causes maximum algae production. The algae is dried and sold to fish farmers.

-Ayla Gizlice

Bunkers, Landfills, and Energy. (oh my!)

This afternoon in Hamburg, we explored several converted sites that now produce renewable energy.

After our lunch in the Mensa at the Department of Urban Planning and the Environment on Wilhelmsberg (an island created by a fork in the River Elbe), we traveled to the Energiebunker, a former WWII air raid bunker that has been converted into a renewable energy power plant. It was built in 1943 using 80,000 tons of concrete and offered shelter for over 30,000 Hamburg residents. In 1947, British Allied troops demolished the interior of the bunker. The building remained unused for over 60 years, but in 2010 the rubble inside was cleared and rehabilitated as part of the International Building Exhibition (IBA). Then in 2013, a terrace on the eighth floor was opened to the public. The building has a 1300m2 south-oriented solar shell with a 99KW peak. The panels on the roof produce thermal solar energy, while those on the side produce power. The bunker has other renewable efforts: a biogas CHP-unit produces power and heat, an ongoing woodchip-plant project produces heat, and the waste heat of nearby industry is stored in the bunker’s natural gas boilers (capacity: 2 million Liters) and supplies the local heat grid. The grid has a radius of about .5km, providing heat to 3000 households and electricity to 1000 households. The project cost 27 million Euro total: 15 for refurbishment and 12 for the energy concept. Hamburg took the initiative to convert a WWII Nazi bunker into a sustainable energy plant. Looking forward, Hamburg.

Next, we went to the Energieberg. Like the Energiebunker, this landfill was converted to a renewable energy production area. We watched an epic video presentation that made waste management appealing. The story begins in 1945, when a mountain of rubble was compiled from destroyed towns. It was called Georgswerder. Four years later, it became a waste dump for nearby manufacturers. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, no one was worried about what this waste heap could morph into… In 1954, Germany won the World Cup; in 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected; in 1962, one third to a half of Wilhelmsberg flooded; in 1963, JFK was assassinated; In 1969, man landed on the moon. So, in 1967, when dioxin was being produced in Hamburg, no one thought anything of it. Even when the hazardous waste was dumped at Georgswerder. “The waste will absorb the toxins” was the general sentiment. But as the most poisonous chemical humans have created, dioxin is 10,000 times more poisonous than cyanide. Birth defects affected villages in the vicinity and people became incredibly sick. The toxin was found in seven different locations. Finally, in 1984, the hazardous mound was covered and the toxin was contained so it could no longer seep into the groundwater. This transformation was only possible because of people’s efforts and cries for a safer environment. Something we could use more of in the US – citizen involvement. The site was publically opened in 2011, with solar and wind providing energy for 4000 household (20% of Wilhelmsberg).

Our last stop was a house owned by Conrad, a friend of our guide. The house is a multi-family home with shared cars, solar energy, and a 20-KW CHP unit. They have 2 Tesla batteries that store the energy throughout the day, and use that energy for the home and car charging. Excess solar energy can be sold to the grid at 12 Eurocents/KWh, and extra CHP-produced energy can be sold at a range of 4-6 Eurocent/KWh. Perhaps what is even more interesting is that Conrad owns a wind park. Or a part of it. He and six neighbors started the project and others from adjacent villages invested. Conrad’s wind park contains twelve 3-MW turbines, producing 100 million KWh/year for 25,000 households. Wind energy is not taboo here, as it is in some US states. In some parts of North Carolina, people of resisting the energy transition. It is almost a German right to own part of a wind park. Now, we just need to bring this mindset back to the US.

-Kaitlyn Ave’Lallemant

G20 Protests and City Tour of Hamburg

G20 protest remnants and the various neighborhoods and sites of Hamburg

Upon meeting up with our tour guide, Rolph, we learned a bit about the G20 protests that had taken place over the past couple days. One of the first things he told us was that while the city might appear to be a normal city, Hamburg is in a state of tension beneath the surface. The people of Hamburg are still trying to process what had happened at the G20 protests on Friday and Saturday. During the protests, roads were barricaded for 8 hours to prevent police and firefighters from entering. Numerous stores had broken windows. Several cars were set on fire. Distrust between the government and the people penetrated throughout the city. When we first arrived in Hamburg on Sunday, evidence of the protests could be seen everywhere: graffiti statements, stickers, posters, signs in store windows, and even sidewalk chalk exclaimed resistance against the G20 event. However, among all of the protest efforts was evidence of the care people had for the city. Hundreds of volunteers were working to clean glass from the streets and graffiti from building walls. A street performer played the drums on one of the most popular streets of the region, bringing the citizens together to enjoy music.

The G20 “Welcome to Hell” movement was one of the most violent protests during the conference. Here, a sign shows the logo of the protest and explains the demonstration details.

A collection of feminist signs hung along one of the walls near the train station. They encouraged people to reach out to G20 leaders to address the inequality in education women receive.

One the first places we stopped at on our Monday tour was a meeting point for many of the protests. Outside the building hung the sign “Capitalism will end anyway. You decide when!” This was one of 3-5 buildings throughout Hamburg where people can meet to discuss alternatives to capitalism. The plaza surrounding the building was a place where people were looking to change the world. It is also a common gathering place for students.

“Capitalism will end anyway. You decide when!” was a poster hung outside one of the main meeting points of the G20 protests. This building also houses discussions about alternatives to capitalism.

We then walked through a region of town known as the Slaughterhouse region. True to its name, meat packaging had once taken place here. In the 80s and 90s the city had bought this region before it was supposed to be torn down. The city leaders hoped to improve the area, but they also wanted to keep a balance of housing prices. Gentrification, or the movement of a middle class into a newly developed region, was a concern for the leaders. Rolph explained that the city tried to keep affordable flats open to people and that problems arose when this housing was no longer considered affordable. As we walked, we saw a leftist neighborhood: a sign stating “FCK G20. Make capitalism history – another world is possible!” hung outside the neighborhood gates. Nearby, sidewalk chalk exclaimed “No cops, no border, no action”. Continuing through the city, more protest signs, political graffiti, and broken store signs showed evidence of the protests that had taken place.

This banner hung outside a leftist neighborhood that we toured in the morning, promoting the end of capitalism.

Before leaving the Hamburg region immediate to our hotel, we discussed a World War 2 bunker that could be seen nearby. During the war, cannons lined the top of the bunker. After the war, people wanted the bunker destroyed; however, it would have been too expensive for the city to destroy. Currently, an investor is buying the bunker and is hoping to build a rooftop garden. This is a common theme for the bunkers in Hamburg: the city or private investors are looking into making bunkers into a more useful structure for the city.

We then hopped on a tram to the harbor region of Hamburg. Here we discussed how the city had raised the harbor sides by 1.5m to protect against global climate change. Nearby, a prototype for a house floated on the water. The home was a two story house, and it was said that it was too dangerous for the canals of the city. This specific home was around 300-500 thousand euros. These floating houses are being explored for an option to cope with global climate change and rising sea levels. While the prototype that we saw would not work for canals, there are many floating homes that are on the canals of the city. There are only 1000 spaces left for canal floating homes, and it is predicted that these will fill up within the next decade.

Pictured here is a double story prototype for a floating house. While this particular model of the floating house cannot be placed on the canals due to height restraint, many other floating homes are on the canals. These homes are being explored as a response to global climate change.

We then visited the Elbphilharmonie building. This building- with its one of a kind wavy roof that appeared to match the waves of the harbor- was a popular attraction in the city. A symphony hall was perched on top of the building, and an incredible view of the harbor and the city accompanied a walkway around the building. The Elbphilharmonie is considered a signature building of the city. It is a place where the imagability of the city comes into play: the building provides a site that is memorable to Hamburg. While the Elbphilharmonie was originally estimated to cost 70 million euro and take 5 years to construct, it ended up costing the city 700 million euro and took 12 years to build. This brings in the question of what a signature building in the city is worth.

The Elbphilharmonie building in Hamburg is considered to be a signature building in Hamburg due to its unique design. Visitors can view the harbor and the city from the walkway around the building.

We then trekked through the rain to our next location: the Unilever building. This glass building with unique ceiling designs and plenty of open space is a public space that strives to bring people together on the outskirts of the city center. From the bottom floor, several stores could be seen, such as a market, a Dove store, and a cooking site. People meandered and chatted freely with one another.

Pictured here is the Unilever building: a public place where people can gather to shop, chat, and hang out. The goal of this space is to move people out of the center of the city.

Our final stop before lunch was a site from which companies, community housing, and a school could be viewed. The city had originally not planned for having a playground with the school. In order to conserve space and provide a play area for the children, a garden was constructed on the roof of the school. This is an excellent example of how cities can maximize their space. The garden could also provide an opportunity to help reduce the overall heating of the city that occurs because of the common black rooftops. The community housing nearby provides families with easy access to the school and to the nearby businesses. Overall, the combination of the companies, the school, and community housing exemplifies how cities can be planned out to provide people with easy access to everyday events.

A school (left), a company (center), and community housing (right) are pictured here, demonstrating the mixing of the three into the city. On top of the school is a garden and playground, which was strategical planning for the city: the city did not originally plan for a playground for the school.

-Emilee Armstrong

The Ruhr Transition

The Ruhr area has transitioned from major coal and steel production into one of the “green” guiding lights of Europe

Today, we began with a wrap-up discussion of our time in Eindhoven. We then travelled to the town of Essen, which is in the Ruhr area, which is considered the old industrial heart of Germany. There, we visited the Zollverein Industrial Complex, an old coal mine transformed into a museum and took a tour led by guide Peter Reuter. Walking up to the museum I was struck by how huge the physical infrastructure of a coal plant is.

We begin our tour by looking at a small scale version of the complex.
The building of Zollverein Industrial Complex.

Beginning in the early 19th century there was a huge steel and coal mining industry that moved into the Ruhr area. It completely industrialized the small farming area, which led to a huge economic boom. It also led to horrible pollution. In the 1950’s pollution was so bad that you could only see 17% of the sunlight on the ground during the day- they had to keep street lamps on at all times. The typical life expectancy for miners at that time was only 25 years, so they were encouraged to get married and reproduce young. This brought up an interesting point. Our guide said that industrialization led to the realization of human rights as more than a philosophical argument.

We got to look into the coal mines’ mills, which used to crush coal into smaller pieces with its own weight.
Students look at examples of the size of the coal before and after milling.

Soon, technology progressed to the point where miners were no longer needed. They became almost completely replaced by machinery, something that is continuing to happen in the coal industry in America. Misplaced miners were reeducated and highly valuable in industries similar to coal, such as steel. However, it still took time for acceptance. Many old mines were turned into event venues, art galleries or restaurants. Old miners would refuse to go to these places at first. Now they are some of the most popular venues in the Ruhr area. This was a really great example of ways to reuse old infrastructure and avoid razing and rebuilding. Many of the old railroad tracks that went to pick up coal have been repaved into bike paths and other forms of transportation infrastructure.

On the rooftop, we could see the many surrounding towns and cities making up the Ruhr area. Because they were originally small farming communities before industrialization, many don’t have a city center.
Old mines have become some of the most popular event venues in the Ruhr area.

As one of the poorest areas of Germany, many things still need to change for the Ruhr region. The outsourcing of steel in the 1980’s left many out of work. Now, much of their economy comes from the over 1 million tourists that visit the region each year. While there are still many large businesses based there, the majority of work is mechanized. Most jobs are minimum wage, and are service oriented. Despite this, there are many new initiatives that are hoping to bring more vitality to the region. The Ruhr area is incredibly diverse, thanks to the many international investors and diverse cultures that have moved there, which allows many different paths and innovation to occur there.

In 2017, Essen was given the European Green Capital Award, which is given to one European city that consistently meets environmental standards and is committed to improvement and development of sustainability. Our guide explained the way that Essen got the award as being just letting all of the plants grow nonstop, except to add biking paths and pedestrian areas, which led to trees and wildlife areas springing up everywhere. They have also completely redone their wastewater management system. Originally a manmade system of open sewers, they have converted it into enclosed underground sewers while retransforming the original water systems into near-natural bodies of water.

The 150-year transformation from polluted coal and steel industrial area into the Green Capital of Europe is inspiring and provides a beacon for cities trying to redevelop.

From Black Coal to a Green Role

A look into Essen’s history as a coal powerhouse and how the city turned green

We started out the day with a recap of the prior week we spent in The Hague and Eindhoven. We mainly discussed smart city aspects involving innovation and technological advancement. Then we made our way to Essen which contained Zollverein, the most modern coal mine in Europe during the 1930s. Many countries and coal producing regions would take visits to Zollverein to study the techniques used that made the coal mine more efficient than other mines. The facility was incredibly large and industrial. The inside housed large machines, conveyor belts, coal carts, and mine shafts. We started atop the main building overlooking the town of Essen and surrounding area. It was easy to see the vastness of the mine and understand how long it took miners to get to and from the wash station where they would start and end the day.

Overlooking a large portion of Zollverein, which was one of the most modern coal mines of the 20th century. Also pictured is some restored green space.
A view from the “ceremony place” where marriages took place in the mine. It was surprisingly common for workers to get married in the mine despite their daily involvement for work.

Next we took a look at one of the mining areas and sampled some of the tools miners used in the mines. Work techniques for breaking off coal evolved from a simple hammer and chisel to a safer more complex hammer and chisel to the jackhammer. The jackhammer was the heaviest and most dangerous tool. It kicked up a lot of dust which caused black lung and also sent workers home still shaking from the vibrations. Bad working conditions in mines was something I had known for a while but getting to see the environment out of context firsthand was startling. Eight hours a day would be spent in the mines and an additional 4-5 hours was spent traveling and washing causing many miners to just sleep in the mines for multiple days. We also learned how horses were used in the mines to carry loads of coal. Horses would stay 4-5 years at a time in stables in the mines. We concluded the visit to Zollverein by going to the loudest part of the mine where coal was dumped to lower level and sorted by workers. The noise was 118 decibels which is 2000 times louder than moderately loud speakers. Workers spent 8 hours a day here with no ear protection in shifts of 18 months at a time which left many of them practically deaf.

The loudest place in the mine. Tons of coal was dumped from here to lower levels daily at a volume of 118 decibels.
A look at some of the tools used to break off coal. Hammers and chisels were used first and then the jackhammer became more popular because of its efficiency.

Zollverein was an important part of the history of Essen and prompted us for our next small tour which was an exhibit dedicated to Essen’s prize of being Europe’s green capital of 2017. This is surprising considering throughout the 19th and 20th century the area was a major contributor to global warming. After much destruction of the environment in the 19th century Essen recognized the problem and put in conservation and restoration programs to achieve a healthier environment. The exhibit featured park plans, animal exhibits, gardens, and forest samples. Essen and the Ruhr area actually took grade pride in leading the green revolution. A lot of the initiatives have come from locals with garden initiatives. The Ruhr area also plans on putting in a cycling superhighway as a main means of transport. The main goal the greening of the Ruhr area is for all citizens to live only a couple minutes from any parks or green space. This exhibit concluded our journey for the day.

An overlook of the Essen ‘Green Capital of 2017’ exhibit. After many years of environmental destruction, the city recognized its new role in green restoration and focused an exhibit on some of the projects put in place.
Some local species on display in the Essen exhibit. Deer, bobcats, fox, squirrels, and fungus are all featured.
An overview of a park project in the exhibit. The major goal of the revitalization was to have green space within a few minutes of every citizen.

Both Zollverein and the Essen exhibit were located on the same industrial grounds which is a unique way to display the change in mindset that has occurred in the area. What used to be an industrial area has shifted to an eco friendly hub for green space. If it was not for the industrial roots and environmental degradation caused it is likely that Essen would not be the green capital of Europe. This is a prime example of how an old town has changed from high impact to low impact on the environment and maintained citizen participation. I think the US can use Essen and the Ruhr area as a guide to creating livable healthy environments from old unusable coal mines.

-Charlie Garnett

Amsterdam Smart City

How Amsterdam Fosters Innovation and Smart City Planning

The day began with a trip to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. There, the group heard a lecture from a public-private partnership called Amsterdam Smart City (ASC). Amsterdam Smart City, representatives explained, is an innovation platform that brings supply and demand together to connect startups to other parties that can serve as resources. The goal of the platform is not to provide funding, but to connect groups with similar interests and test innovative ideas.

Cornelia Dinca speaks with Dr. Rademaker, explaining her role in Amsterdam Smart City.

Amsterdam Smart City is dedicated to using new ideas to improve the city of Amsterdam, incorporating themes such as urban planning, environmentalism, and technology. The five main focuses of the program are health, mobility, circular economy, digital connectivity, and talent for the future. A majority of the projects ASC is involved in require collaboration, and are of interest to multiple parties. For example, the city has a goal of having 850,000 solar panels installed, one for every citizen. To complete the project, Amsterdam Smart City assists in connecting businesses with universities, government, and other companies that can function as partners.

A graphic from the presentation, depicting the idea that citizens can help transform their city. This idea is employed in hackathons and other innovation competitions.

Tom van Arman, founder of a venture called T.app, explained how the city of Amsterdam engages young entrepreneurs to solve some of the city’s most challenging problems. Hackathons are a common method of connecting young programmers and app-makers, and offer a free platform for participants to utilize their skills. One of the most recent challenges was to create an app that would decrease congestion and improve crowd control at sports events. In this way, the city of Amsterdam attracts young innovators and gains fresh ideas to better manage the city and improve quality of life. Events typically have private partners, but are advertised by the city, bringing in hundreds of attendees.

Tom van Arman explains the function of the makerspace during a tour of the Amsterdam Smart City building.

Another unique aspect of ASC is the program’s website. Unlike most companies’ websites, amsterdamsmartcity.com functions as a two-way forum that allows startups to post information about their ventures. Small businesses and non-profits can post updates, event notifications, and introduce new products on the website’s project page, which is organized into themes, creating a more interactive interface.

Amsterdam Smart City also has a 3-D printing lab and workspace for those that wish to create and test new products. The purpose of the space is to create a hub for entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools to be successful, without directly supplying funding.

A student works on a design in the makerspace. 3D printers can be seen in the background, used by entrepreneurs to make prototypes.
Signs point towards the “makerversity” reception and workshops, resources for founders of startups in Amsterdam.

Throughout the presentation, it became clear that a major focus of ASC is digital connectivity and programming. Cornelia Dinca, our first presenter, is an urban planner with a chemical engineering degree. When asked about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), she confirmed that there were very few women in these fields in Amsterdam, and that she hoped to see more female involvement in the future. Currently, participants in hackathons and similar events are predominantly male.

Cornelia Dinca gives advice to a student, explaining possible internships in the Netherlands.

Overall, Amsterdam Smart City provided an interesting look at the innovative ways the city supports entrepreneurs and smart city planning in the Netherlands. Cornelia even offered several business cards to our students, urging them to contact her in the future regarding internships.

A presenter from Amsterdam Smart City explains digital infrastructure, a vital part of digital connectivity.

-Erin Danford