What happened to Freiburg?

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Freiburg for us refers to ecological districts, renewable energy, solarsiedlung and Vauban. With the development of the Vauban district in the ’90s and ’00 Freiburg gained an eco-image at a time when sustainable building was hardly an issue in the Netherlands. We are very curious if Freiburg has managed to keep up this leading position..

We cycle through Freiburg with Pieter van der Kooij, a Delft-trained urban planner who works at the municipality of Freiburg. Contrary to earlier demographic predictions Freiburg is growing rapidly. The city is mentioned on lists of so-called “schwarm ‘cities; German cities that attract many young people and thereby grow significantly. Freiburg, however doesn’t own the land to facilitate this growth after the development of the major sites Vauban and Rieselfeld.

Vauban is such a success that it is now seen as an area for the eco- elite unaffordable to most Freiburgers. Therefore, the politicians have decided not to continue with similar developments. The city now aims at densification within the city limits and at affordable housing. With Pieter we see some more and less successful examples. A number of recent less successful infill projects have led to increased resistance to densification. This makes it difficult for the city to generate support among the population for new developments.

Densifying the city within existing urban fabric is a complex assignment. This is clearly a challenge for architects, careful densification demands integrated spatial solutions on all scales. When more volume is required a delicate architectural design is of great importance to make a project appreciated. Proof for this statements is found in one of the more successful projects; student housing in Seepark. This area, developed in the 60’s -70’s, is characterized by student housing in small towers with precast concrete walls in a green park. The new interpretation fits both in terms of volume as well as in the architectural expression very well in this context.

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