Archive from August, 2016
Aug 26, 2016 - News    3 Comments

Baugruppen in Berlin

While in Berlin I met with Berthold Pesch, an architect and project manager for UTB – a company that delivers Baugruppen housing across Berlin and Germany. A reminder, Baugrupen means ‘group housing’ and is the term used to describe owner built multiple dwelling developments.

Berthold Pesch from UTB

Berthold Pesch from UTB

As mentioned in my post on Freiburg, this tends to create much more attractive developments, but is also more likely to include sustainability initiatives and tends to cost about 10% less than developer built housing (no developer profits to factor in).

I was keen to learn more about how this works in practice when the ‘developer’ is removed and a collective of owner occupiers work together to design and construct the housing they want to live in.

UTB have become a specialists in the field and I was shown around one of their largest and most recent projects in the trendy Berlin suburb of Templehoff. Read more »

Aug 23, 2016 - News    Comments Off on A lesson in national healing

A lesson in national healing

Berlin wall memorial

Berlin wall memorial

There are a lot of useful lessons that can be learned from Germany about healing and reconciliation after terrible national trauma.

It has been fascinating and deeply moving to visit the sites where terrible atrocities occurred under the Nazis and in the aftermath of WWII, to see them remembered, explained and memorialized.

Many memorials are only in German, because they are not designed for tourists, but for Germans to acknowledge understand. With the help of my local guide who translated, I watched as a mother explained to her young son what Berlin’s book burning memorial was all about.

Jewish memorial, Berlin

Jewish memorial, Berlin

German students learn about the atrocities of WWII, not to feel ashamed and guilty, but to understand and ensure they are never repeated.

I have been watching with interest as Fremantle debates how it should celebrate Australia Day, and I am deeply disappointed I am not there to participate. Read more »

Aug 20, 2016 - News    Comments Off on Reflections from Vauban: utopia or ‘tofu ghetto’?

Reflections from Vauban: utopia or ‘tofu ghetto’?

the infamous light rail

the infamous light rail

When I arrived at my Airbnb in the heart of Vauban, I asked my host what it was like to live there. He called it a ‘tofu ghetto’ – a monoculture of wealthy, white middle class academics – not what I expected at all!

He knew it was a great place to raise a family, but he was concerned his kids would not be raised surrounded be different languages, experiences and points of view (he is from Venezuela).

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

Vauban does a lot of things right. Most famous is the implementation of alternative transport options from the commencement of the development, with light rail was built through the centre of the district as the first of its 5500 residents moved in.

My tour guide Steffan described the history of citizen activism that made Vauban the exemplar community it is today. Through a series of protests and interventions, the community successfully made the case to use the government owned land to create a community they wanted to live in, rather than what developers wanted to build. And the result is outstanding. Read more »

Aug 13, 2016 - Development, News    1 Comment

Is Tiny Sprawl possible? Lessons from BedZED and the UK

One thing that concerns me about the growing popularity of Tiny Houses is the potential for Tiny Sprawl.

Like me, many people love the idea of a quaint little cottage surrounded by garden that would be both affordable and sustainable. However that means we continue to develop outwards, using land in an inefficient manner at the expense of our wetlands, green spaces and urban bush. We need to make better use of the existing urban footprint.

UK from the sky2

Typical urban development in the UK

As I travelled through the United Kingdom last week, it struck me how much green space, fields, woods, farms and even castles there are between each of the towns and cities.

The UK has a population of 64 million people, two and a half times that of Australia, and it’s land mass is just 243,610 km². Meanwhile, just 9- 15% of the land area is classified as urban or is built on. This reflects my observation about the vast amount of green space in the densely populated country. To compare, Australia’s population is 24 million and land area is 7.68 million km².

So how do they do it? House a mammoth population on a tiny island and keep the local character and green belt in tact? Read more »