As part of the BUGA city exhibition, a new residential district will take shape in Heilbronn by 2019. The Bauhaus was the source of inspiration for the project on the river Neckar. We spoke with the architect in charge about integrating major events, urban planning and the revived Bauhaus idea.
London was a pioneer with the 2012 Olympics, and ever since, large-scale projects such as major sporting events and expos try to plan for the reutilisation and continued use of their exhibition venues. And now Heilbronn: the Neckarbogen district is taking shape as part of the 2019 National Garden Show, or BUGA. It will be a home for 3,500 people; a neighbourhood with 22 buildings. Slightly more than half of the dwellings will be rentals and the rest will be owner-occupied. “The city of the 21st century must be rethought”, says Barbara Brakenhoff. The BUGA architect is responsible for the first phase of construction of the new urban district. After having worked on projects in Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig, she is now working in the city on the Neckar. “Today, a garden is no longer just beautiful flowers and raked paths”, says Brakenhoff as she talks about the conceptual framework of the project – which, being part of the BUGA, is of course a green one. “A garden of the 21st century is also landscape architecture and the design of public space in general.” The dichotomy of town and country has, in her opinion, long since become obsolete. And so it is only logical that the BUGA, for the first time in its almost 60 years of existence, also has as part of its programme a city exhibition that will result in real functional housing.
As many as 800 people are expected to already be living in the district by the time the big event – which is expected to draw up to 2.5 million visitors – opens to the public. To this end, 600,000 cubic metres of earth, a large portion of which was contaminated by residual waste and wartime detritus, have been moved since construction began on the 40-hectare brownfield site north of Heilbronn’s main railway station. Brakenhoff explains the social mix that is sought: “We want to create a vibrant infrastructure, with varied businesses and retailers as well as a day care centre and student apartments.” The architectural and urban development and supervision of this first phase of construction is being stewarded by the garden show’s organising body, BUGA GmbH, which, along with providing consultation to building owners and architects, is the driving force behind the project’s timely realisation and a guarantor of quality.
Adhering to the standards of modern, forward-looking architecture, the Neckarbogen district is for the most part barrier-free, energy efficient and uses environmentally friendly materials wherever possible. Proposals from developers were obtained using an investor selection process – here, too, BUGA provided invaluable assistance – and decided exclusively according to quality and not the level of investment. But in planning this prominent project, those in charge wanted to go further: as Brakenhoff believes, “to understand architecture as a total work of art (zu dt. „Gesamtkunstwerk”, Anm. d. Red.) and combine it with other arts and crafts, that is precisely the Bauhaus idea”. And sure enough: the architecture, building materials, design and fit-out of the first construction phase are based on evolutionary forms of Bauhaus ideas, and each aims to put into effect forward-thinking developments that are both aesthetic and practical as well as ripe for presentation.
For the opening of the BUGA in April 2019, the process leading to the creation of the Neckarbogen district and its relationships to Bauhaus concepts will be made accessible for visitors. To this end, an exhibition will be presented on the ground floors of the buildings. “There we will again draw the connection between the Bauhaus and today’s modern architecture”, remarks Brakenhoff. “The idea that people are at the heart of architecture is at least as relevant today as it was in the days of Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.”
The notion of building and living holistically can be found not only in the Neckarbogen project, as part of the BUGA city exhibition, but also in the “Building from Waste” pavilion: it will be produced completely of refuse and designed by students of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). It is a further milestone on the way to the popularisation of new materials for construction and sundry other uses in a building culture of the future and, in this sense, is also anchored in the tradition of the Bauhaus idea. On 20 February of this year, a jury decides which design will be implemented. “The Bauhaus must again be shared more with the population at large” – that is important to the BUGA architect. That this time around it has a green roof is, for her, also the logical continuation of the tradition-rich garden exhibition: “The BUGA has to adapt to the issues of the 21st century.”
[CG 2018; Translations: DK]