How can architecture contribute to the improvement of urban life? Specifically, what can a new building block for temporary living in the Creative Quarter achieve for Munich? This was the question set for the panel discussion entitled "coming soon... Creative Quarter", which took place on 11 July in the Mucca in the Creative Quarter itself. The reason why this question is being asked is the construction of the Munich Urban Colab in Munich's Creative Quarter by UnternehmerTUM and the City of Munich. Starting in 2020, start-ups, corporate innovators, scientists and creative minds from all over the world will work together here on intelligent technologies and services for the city and future living. Supported by MINI LIVING and in cooperation with DETAIL, the three project partners examined the topic of urban living in various events and expert rounds, because in addition to co-working, co-living is also being considered as part of the innovation campus for entrepreneurs.
Despite the supposedly different interests of the panel experts, who as investors, architects, planners and creative artists, and the city as the owner, represented the range of actors involved in the planning of development areas, the consensus could hardly have been greater. This is undoubtedly due to the special status of the Creative Quarter. Jürgen Enninger, Head of the Culture and Creative Industries Expert Team of the City of Munich, explained the reasons for this: In order to ensure that the redevelopment of the neighbourhood did not fall victim to the Munich's problematic real-estate market, in 2010 the City Council made a "Commitment" that no normal real-estate development would take place here and that the neighbourhood therefore would not be subject to the same development pressures as the rest of Munich." Moreover: "Intermediate uses, parallel uses, multi-coding of spaces: These are topics that we have to take up, develop further and integrate as modules into urban development in order to ensure that we continue to have working space for cultural and creative workers in the city and to positively support change processes. (...) The development of the Creative Quarter is intended to be an ongoing process, with participation from actors in the cultural sector and the creative and cultural industries at all times, and also with external cultural and creative business partners, overseen by an advisory board. We are in a constant participative dialogue. Each month we reflect anew on the current development of the site, thereby ensuring the transparency and permeability of ideas, perspectives and needs." At present, the conversion area is an important free and enabling space for the creative and cultural industries – and it can remain so in spite, or perhaps because of the redevelopment. With a little courage and the willingness not only to allow fractures and informality, but also to actively integrate them into an urban redesign of the site, a place with particular appeal could emerge here.
Beauty, fractures and urban society
Asked by the moderator Wojciech Czaja about their personal favourite places and emotional connections to the topic of the city, the answers provided an initial possible 'catalogue of requirements' for the quarter: "A city must be an organism that can change and adapt permanently, depending on the inhabitants, the materials, the resources and the climate. This creates enormous quality!" explains engineer Jan Wurm from Arup. Ellen Blumenstein, curator of Hafencity Hamburg, adds: "I'm attracted to the city not by beauty, but strangely by ugliness. Fragmented cities are more attractive than complete or finished places. What interests me are the fractures, the complexity. Stefan Höglmaier, Managing Director of real-estate developer Euroboden, agrees: "It is not the superficial beauty that determines the quality of a place. You first have to examine a place to recognise its values." For Matthias Hollwich, HWKN, a New York-based planner, what is important is the following: "For me, every city that welcomes strangers in a friendly way is beautiful – a beauty that is reflected in its society." And society plays a special role for Jürgen Enninger, too: "The adaptation of and interaction between society and the urban space are what's exciting – whether it's the life of nomads living without permanent homes in the great outdoors, or the alteration of a metropolis like Hong Kong, where the loss of democracy is currently reflected in the deterioration of the cityscape." The same naturally also applies to the positive, parallel development of a city and society that can be seen in the cityscape. The experts believe that many of the current aspects of the interim uses in the Creative Quarter can be transferred to the new quarter – without specifically adhering to the old structures. According to Jürgen Enninger, the aim is not to turn the Creative Quarter into a protected space for culture or the cultural and creative industries, but to open up a "space of opportunity. This is only possible if as many people as possible participate in it. They must be enabled to appropriate this free space in a kind of 'empowerment'. This is the process we should be working on. Part of this process will also be to break with the existing and allow new things to happen. A whole new dynamic will be created on the site by the many different uses and users from different socio-cultural, cultural and creative areas and industries."
Chaos, informality, and the dissolution of logic
"What's interesting about post-industrial conversion areas is their informality," says Matthias Hollwich, describing the current qualities of the quarter. "Naturally, this place was originally planned logically, but lost its logic after the industrial use phase. Now everything can be reinterpreted, creating free living space." These qualities of missing logic or chaos now also need to be transferred to development areas and new construction projects. We should "dissolve logic and create illogical spaces, because they appeal to the emotions." For the Creative Quarter and new building blocks on the site, this means aspects such as the "history of the site, the incongruity of building blocks and the informality should be retained. Order should be created that results in disorder!" In concrete terms, this could mean "working with parts of the existing buildings, with memories, with ruins," adds Stefan Höglmaier. However, he believes that it is more important to create something controversial, extreme architecture or even spatial designs that give offence. Why? Because "this is where the potential lies to create a high level of identity through this singularity. These places can be hated or loved – opinions will always be divided – but this in turn guarantees that the new will not degenerate into the boring." Matthias Hollwich emphasizes, however, that the architecture must not comprise international icon buildings; that which is 'different' is defined not by its shape but by its structure. "We have to break all the rules and question them – distances, density, height, efficiencies. We need to create surprises. What's illogical is what's exciting. Much of what has been built in recent years is terribly transparent, predictable, normal, and deadly boring. We need to promote the return of unusual spaces and architecture – not unusual shapes, but unusual structures."
Nature, material cycle and resources
Jan Wurm also sees a quality worth preserving in the structures on the site: "What stands out are the different degrees of openings and connections to the city, an interlocking of buildings and vegetation, versatile connections between buildings and nature or natural elements, different spatial qualities and lots of surfaces – hard surfaces, soft surfaces, sealed, semi-sealed, open surfaces. This is something that could be transferred into a new design, not only horizontally but also vertically." Essentially, he argues in favour of a holistic, integral approach. "We think mostly in separate terms – in terms of building structures, plant structures and infrastructures. However, the three areas are always mutually dependent. Plants have an enormous impact on the water balance, the microclimate in cities, acoustics and the thermal comfort inside and outside buildings. We need a climate-friendly 'sponge city' that holds moisture, stores it, releases it again and automatically regulates the climate through plants. This will ensure a better quality of life in cities in the future, and would be a conceivable experimental field for this quarter or for individual buildings or structures in the quarter."
Appropriation, adaptability and robustness
"Spatial adaptability combined with a need for change – this is what I want for the architecture that is to be created here," Jan Wurm continues. Relevant in this context for new buildings is the hot topic of 'Flex Assets', i.e. buildings are no longer planned for a fixed purpose, but instead are planned to be redeveloped right from the start. This calls for a robust building structure that permits flexible use – a residential building can be turned into an office building or a gallery at a later date, for example. For Ellen Blumenstein, locality is also important, establishing an exchange with the city, so that places are created that function not only in the commercial sense. "When spaces are purely commercial, they become dysfunctional. We need intermediaries who will promote their liveliness and organise programmes and activities." She goes on to speak of the need to give space to the imaginary within urban spaces. This imaginary development or personal appropriation of space can only take place if not everything is 100% controlled and planned. In the discussion, Rotterdam was cited as an example. Its master plan was deliberately left incomplete and with holes, which were then repeatedly developed and overlaid with new concepts. Munich, on the other hand, still considers itself a small residential city, despite growing into Germany's third-largest city and occupying much too small an area. Jürgen Enninger says: "This type of thinking needs to change. I want to further develop the vision of 'Munich as a metropolis', with all the positive effects. Munich has a strong identity. Munich is incredibly international. Munich is economically very successful. If you combine these characteristics, further development can only be positive."
When asked about his vision for the quarter, Jan Wurm remains true to his original idea: "I would like to have a quarter that doesn't produce any waste through dismantling, conversion or new construction. Technical materials should flow back into new building components in a closed material cycle. I would stipulate that only renewable raw materials be used as far as possible." Matthias Hollwich, not entirely seriously, explains how the chaos could be structured: "I would commission a reputable German architectural firm to draw up an exact master plan, then rotate it by 23 degrees and leave all the existing buildings standing. This would create chaos. And out of this chaos an extremely exciting master plan would emerge." Ellen Blumenstein wants aesthetic, creative shapes to make the invisible and the suppressed visible in urban spaces – once again here, the desire to give the unorganised more space is discernible. Stefan Höglmaier in turn takes up the idea of a vertical superstructure: "A scaffolding structure connects all the buildings via bridges and footbridges. A walkable landscape stretches over it. Buildings are inserted into the scaffolding structure, partly completed, partly handed over to the users as a shell for further construction. In this way a process of appropriation takes place and the desired chaos emerges." The future users become part of the construction process. Basically, everyone agrees that the change needs to be slow, a permanently developing process with different construction cycles. "People come and go and everyone shapes the place in their own way. Everyone leaves something behind," says Jan Wurm. Jürgen Enninger adds: "What I want to see is a radical democratization and the maximum transparency of all processes. Everything happens on a face-to-face level – with the awareness that Munich is an incredibly strong location, with a strong identity."
One thing became clear during the discussion – Munich needs places that allow freedom to develop, that become enabling spaces, that give users a platform within highly regulated, controlled urban development so that they can decide for themselves how they want to use the space. It's important that something unique is created in the Creative Quarter that grows out of Munich's own culture. It is also crucial that no international architecture, a traditional standard urbanity or top-down programme is applied. The local aspect is seen as absolute added value. All the new structures should open up spaces rather than closing them. "Where do we usually travel to? We travel to exciting places we don't usually get to see. And that's also what we should aim for and create in our cities – the unusual," says Matthias Hollwich, summing up the discussion.