Tag Archives: housing

Scavenger Hunt through Rieselfeld

Walk through Freiburg’s Rieselfeld district and seeing sustainable city planning and neighborhoods

Today Stefen took us on a bike tour of some districts in Freiburg: Rieselfeld and Vauban. Before we started biking, Stefen pointed out the car sharing stations. Users can pay 4 euros to use the cars and he pointed out that most trips people take in Freiburg are distances of only a few kilometers, which makes the car sharing program particularly convenient.

These are three different car sharing companies in Freiburg. Stefen told us that many of the trips people need to make in Freiburg are only a few kilometers so the car sharing service is helpful.

We began the ride by renting bikes at RadStation (Bike Station). Once all 27 of us had a bike, we rode over the bike bridge until we arrived at an electronic counter that counts how many bikers have crossed that plaza that day. On a rainy day like today, there were 1,636 bikes that had crossed the plaza at 10 a.m. in the morning.

There were 1,636 bikes that went over the bridge by 10 a.m. on this rainy Wednesday. This was tracked by this device.

One of our first stops was at an apartment complex that had been redesigned. The multi-story complex has been outfitted with solar and had reduced energy usage by a significant amount as a result. We then went to another apartment complex and Stefen explained that the residents were involved in the planning process when the city of Freiburg was renovating the complex. The citizens got to choose how many people they wanted in their apartment and even the specific people. There was a meet and greet where future residents could talk to people they might be living with and decide if that arrangement would work or not. Residents of a floor even took part in an art decoration project where they designed a circular art piece that corresponded to their floor’s number. This community participation was a big theme of the day. Stefen also explained that knowing your neighbors made the apartment complex safer and made the people more friendly and empathetic.

This was the apartment complex that Stefen told us the residents had a say in how they wanted to redesign it and they even got to meet who they might be living with to see if that arrangement would work.
This is the same apartment complex as above in Freiburg. These circular art pieces on the outside of the apartment were designed by residents of each floor. I really liked these because their creation process means that the residents get to know each other and interact. This resident was biking into her apartment and the tram was only a two minute walk away, demonstrating how prevalent and accessible alternative modes of transportation are in Freiburg.

We then biked to the Rieselfeld district in Freiburg. We went on a scavenger hunt where we walked and looked for various landmarks in the city. One was a culture center called “Kultur Glashaus” and they had activities like music and games for all ages in an attempt to engage the community. I noticed that the Kultur Glashaus was near the tram, which made a lot of sense and made it accessible to many people. As we walked through the city we noticed that the trams even went through grass at some points. It was very picturesque. The district is very walkable and our next location we needed to find was the recycling area. There were multiple colors of bins for different types of recycling. Glass had its own bin while paper had another bin. There were even bins for clothing that people wanted to discard.

This is one of the first apartment complexes that Stefen pointed out. It has been redesigned and now has solar in the middle–that’s the blue. It reduces energy usage significantly.

One of our next stops was another neighborhood with a courtyard that functions as a play place for children and also a water retention basin. If the water level rises more than the surrounding grass can handle, the water flows to the streets which works well. We also saw a garden for residents of the same apartment complex which had flowers of all kinds as well as vegetables. These green spaces are important since the residents don’t have much in the way of a lawn but still have ownership of a space that allows them to grow produce if they wish. Many of the apartments are co-housing, or Baugruppen. Residents got to make decisions about how they wanted the apartment to be designed and in many places they chose who they lived with, promoting community and a high quality of life. We finished the scavenger hunt and ate at Ciao Bella, an Italian restaurant with amazing pasta.

This is a housing complex in the Reiselfeld district in Freiburg. There was solar on the roof and there is quite a bit of vegetation surrounding the area.
Natalie and I were looking at the community garden for residents of that particular apartment complex in Reiselfeld. There were lots of flowers like the poppies pictured here as well as vegetables and produce.

-Jennifer Craft

Vauban

From mobility to housing, Vauban, a district of Freiburg, has created a vibrant, efficient and dense community

On June the 7th, the fourth day of our Summer Burch program, the nearly thirty people that comprises our group cycled about twenty kilometers between Freiburg, Reiselfeld, and Vauban. In the kilometers in between, we witnessed beautiful nature, undisturbed by hordes of suburbs. Thanks to impressive bicycling infrastructure, even in rural areas, the trip was a huge success. Attempting to stay in a single file line on our bikes, we first stopped in Reiselfeld and later stopped in Vauban, both expertly planned districts outside of Freiburg. This blog post will focus primarily on Vauban, from its remarkable mobility to its diversity of housing projects.

In this image, you can see the main road that passes by Vauban – not through it. Even on this main road (this only one near the district), you can see that well-maintained bicycle infrastructure and the pedestrian-friendly features.
Here you can see another view of our bike ride to Vauban. From the beautiful landscape to the well-maintained bicycle infrastructure, this was a very pleasant ride.
In this photograph, we are cycling from one district to the next – from Reiselfeld to Vauban and all the while experiencing the beautiful and well-maintained countryside.

Our group leader, Stefan, who biked with us and helped us understand the area, explained the necessity of both discouraging individual car ownership and giving rewards for using public transit and bicycles. Vauban successfully embraces both of these concepts and thereby reduces car ownership to a fraction of its population. Of that population, many people often use the tram instead of their car because tram stops are more convenient than their car, which cannot be permanently parked in front of their home. Vauban has done several things to ensure that this pro-communal transit concept is successful. Firstly, the trams come about every seven minutes. When tram arrivals are kept under ten minutes, ridership is more likely to be high because the tram becomes more convenient for individual riders than taking their own car. When cars do drive in Vauban, they are generally guests on the road. Everyone else has right of way most of the time – cyclists, children, and pedestrians. This encourages other modes of transit over cars and provides for a safe environment for families. Vauban’s expert planning with a focus on the tram, bikes, and pedestrians, provides a number of lessons for United States suburbs on mobility.

Here is a view of a public space that the citizens of Vauban decided would be a community garden and green space rather than a parking deck. If sentiment changes within a community, this area could become a parking deck.
This is a view of a street in Vauban. Notice that there are no cars – parked along the street or in carports. This allows a safer, more child and bicycle-friendly community.

Vauban’s variety of housing also provides many insights for the United States. Rather than creating a suburb with individual houses, large yards, and a lack of social interaction, Vauban creates high-density housing that encourages social interaction and discourages crime. However, rather than creating identical housing projects that eliminate a sense of identity, Vauban attempts to create a huge range of housing. One of the most interesting buildings we looked at was a mixed-use building. Some of the building was used by people who financed the cost of their apartment entirely on their own, other rooms were social housing, and other rooms were used for people with disabilities and the elderly. This cohabitation helps people realize the importance of relationships with people of different incomes, backgrounds, and experiences, something sorely lacking in the individualistic culture of America. Another interesting housing project was a largely subsidized set of housing in the district, paid for by a group whose mission centers around ensuring housing for everyone. In every housing project in the district, bottom-up decision making plays a key role and citizens are on the front lines, versus the top-down approach considered the default in so many other places.

This is a picture of a building with Pippy Longstocking painted on the side. This art is a symbol to the people of Vauban of their cultural and social identity.
Here is an example of another housing community in Vauban. This project brings together people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds to achieve higher levels of social capital.

Consider rethinking what you view as sustainable development. In your community, are new suburbs encouraging sustainable housing and transit with significant social capital? Or is there something you could do to make your town more like Vauban?

-Joseph Womble