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Berlin Brandenburg 2040 Superhealthy

Urban Design and Research

Berlin Brandenburg Superhealthy

Type: Urban Design / Status: Concept Design and Research, UD Studio TU Berlin / Location: Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany / Year: 2020-2021

Work in Collaboration with Laurenz Blaser, Diana Chvirova, Sarah Friedel, Julian Hees, Saskia Hirtz, David Svensson

1 EXAMINATION BB 1870-2020

The desire for healthy city life has always shaped the way cities are perceived and transformed. The installation of a comprehensive sewer system in the 1870s in Berlin to bring cholera under control, Sanatoriums against Tuberculosis like Beelitz Heilstätten, and the rise of garden cities around Berlin as a reaction to the unhealthy tenement living in the early 20th century- these are just a few examples of health issues having a direct influence on and shaping our built environment. Through industrialization, Berlin experienced unprecedented growth and development; rendering the city louder, denser and more polluted within a few decades. Since then, the notion of the bustling, hectic, overcrowded and overloading city has been widely associated with the stress it causes to its inhabitants. The Covid19 pandemic has changed urban life dramatically. Public life has been shut down. People are requested to stay at home. Berlin has become a desert, empty, silent, anaesthetized. The isolation policy, although successful in pushing back the virus, is taking its toll in other ways. Fatigue, loneliness, depression and anxiety are rising. Inequality between the rich and the poor is growing. Economic insecurity and restricted housing conditions increase the stress.

In 2020, public infrastructures of healthcare and stress relief are distributed unequally. Quantitative analysis shows that green spaces are lacking in many central and dense quarters of Berlin, which has a negative influence on thermal loads and air pollution.  Opportunity for leisure activities is concentrated in the central districts of Berlin, while people living on the fringes of the city and in rural areas in Brandenburg have insufficient access. Not all districts are adequately or equally connected to healthcare infrastructures. Furthermore, the distribution of sports facilities varies greatly, leaving many people without any access to sport in their local area. Noise, social problems, thermal loads and air pollution add to the overall stress of the city. Berlin appears to be splintered into healthy fragments, where infrastructures are concentrated, and unhealthy fragments, where similar infrastructures are lacking.

Permanent high-stress levels, a worrying increase of depressive moods, as well as an alarming growth of inequalities indicate the necessity to tackle health in urban space with a new approach. Berlin pioneers the implementation of broad political changes in the combined areas of physical health, social well-being and mental health. In the following years, reliable tenant protection, coal phase-out, sustainable mobility, joint planning administration and hospital municipalization are pushed through.
Based on the notion of equal living conditions, certain basic infrastructures should be accessible for everyone: Green spaces, Leisure, Sport and Healthcare. Promoting and improving the quality and function of Public Space is recognized as a decisive instrument to implement these health principles. It is the public spaces, both accessible and appealing to different people, which offer opportunities for physical exercise, leisure activities and green space. As places of encounter, they play a critical role in democratic processes, social cohesion and active participation in urban life.

In 2040, Berlin-Brandenburg provides equivalent access to health enabling infrastructures throughout the Metropolitan Area. Public Space works as an interconnecting infrastructure, acting on different scales and merging the once fragmented BB of 2020. The established new public space network creates seamless outdoor spaces. Multiple types of initiatives connect formerly separated urban fragments. Fragments with lacking infrastructures along the Teltow Canal between Neukölln and Schönow can serve as exemplary sites for this transformation process. Quarters, that were previously lacking in green, leisure and healthcare infrastructures, are now interconnected with diverse infrastructures. 
Making access equal in this area doesn't mean designing all areas homogeneously, but creating diverse spatial areas with offers meeting the different needs of a heterogeneous society. Once highly polluted industrial quarters and exclusive settlements of one-family-houses, that made the canal partly inaccessible, had to adapt to a more inclusive agenda. The canal itself experienced a profound change over the last 20 years. It became a connecting rather than a separating element. Inserted into a broader network of new mobility paths, it is today a point of reference for moving through South Berlin. 
Unused sites along the canal, like the oil tanks, were transformed into cultural institutions, healthcare facilities and social centres - or in combination. The focus is on accessibility and the diverse use for the public. The formerly abandoned swimming hall now acts as a cultural and sports facility, with an outdoor plaza for community events. The graveyard across the canal is now a calm park, offering swimming options for the community with a floating pool. People also enjoy the pool for partying at night.
In Neukölln, some designated car-oriented streets were turned into pedestrian-prioritized areas, creating more quality public space in dense neighbourhoods for people to spend more time outdoors and to socialize. In some designated streets the public space previously occupied by parked cars is given to the use of people. Pocket parks, street platforms with different utensils provide people with outdoor meeting space. More green space is provided in the dense neighbourhoods by planters and street-side greenery.


So: can urban life be healthy?

A healthy city would not be completely free of stress factors nor would it direct its inhabitants towards one particular lifestyle. Rather a healthy city would empower its inhabitants to discover their means for relieving stress. 

In 2040 public space promotes health as a connecting, qualitative infrastructure of opportunity, that gives people the freedom to decide what is healthy for them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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