Team Representative: Sofie Vaasen (BE) – architect
Associates: Maria Luísa Pacheco Gonçalves (PT), Marco Xavier Cunha Fonseca (PT) – architects
Sofie Vaasen, Bötzowstraße 36, 10407 Berlin (DE)
+49 176 98 120 680 – firstname.lastname@example.org
S. Vaasen, L. Gonçalves & M. Fonseca
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1. How did you form the team for the competition?
We are a group of friends who met in Berlin, where we have been living and working for several years now. As we all felt enthusiastic about the competition and this year's topic, we decided to join up for the first time, subscribe as a team for Europan 14 and take the opportunity to deepen our interest and experience in urban planning and architecture. All three of us are architects, but our different work experience, background and focus make us a very complementary team.
2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic: the place of productive activities within the city?
The project aims at providing a backbone to the development of this neighbourhood, in order to become an integrated, heterogeneous and vibrant urban district in which apparently conflicting interests are being overcome. How can we densify without losing the open and green character of this place? How can we combine programmes like housing and production that are often thought of as conflicting? We believe that the mixing of these programmes can add cultural, social and economic value. A key feature of our project therefore are mixed-use buildings, located in strategic areas, that seek new forms for production spaces and commercial uses that are flexible, visible and allow for a great variety of programmes, without imposing them.
3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?
As a starting point we identified the strengths of the site that we want to preserve and possibly reinforce with future development. The site is centrally located, yet badly connected. It has a lot of green and open space that is not qualified and differentiated yet. By introducing a promenade, a green traverse and an urban park connecting the existing and new public spaces on site and in the rest of Neu-Ulm, a new 'Core' that extends beyond the borders of the project site is created. Mixed-use buildings with dynamic ground-floor zones are strategically located along these public spaces. The entrances to the district are highlighted to captivate and invite people in. The neighbourhood is supplemented by vertical extensions and a set of typologies that each form a different ensemble with the existing residential buildings and make use of the existing infrastructure. Open space that is taken up by new buildings is recovered on the roofs and in shared spaces that complement the existing programmes. The new typology in the middle of the district preserves the permeability of the site and guarantees fluid public space that unites the whole.
4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?
Some of us have been involved in urban planning projects, but Europan, being an competition of ideas, has little restrictions and leaves space for innovation and future-oriented enthusiasm, making it both challenging and fun. Also the sessions topic - the place of productive activities within the city - was a new field to focus on. Inspiring projects for us are those that integrate productive activities, commercial uses and new forms of living in mixed-use buildings - like the Spreefeld in Berlin or a project from Partner & Partner in collaboration with Dachfarm that combines a supermarket with housing and a rooftop greenhouse, and the Dynamo Metal Workshop in Zürich by Phalt Architekten. Other sources of inspiration were the International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam 2016 about The Next Economy, The Human Scale by Jan Gehl, the 'Berliner Mischung', work of Raumlabor Berlin, the Europan database, and much more.
5. Urban-architectural projects like the ones in Europan can only be implemented together with the actors through a negotiated process and in time. How did you consider this issue in your project?
Rather than imposing a ready-made design, our project offers a framework that can be implemented in stages and describes both short-term impulses and a vision for the long-term development of Vorfeld. Through all stages, participation of a gradually expanding and diverse actor base plays a major role, so that future growth will be well anchored in the existing context and community. Actions like building a temporary look-out tower, an urban gardening project, building and placing benches on the site, are just some of the ideas to make the inhabitants of Neu-Ulm and other actors aware of the potential, make them value the site and motivate them to participate in the regeneration of Vorfeld. Almost symbolically, we suggest the vacant school building as a "catalyst". Its central position offers a good location for an Urban Laboratory; a room for debate, an exchange platform, a location for festivals. On the long term, this location can make place for a new Productive Core. /p>
6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?
This was the first time we competed in Europan and therefore also the first prize we have been awarded here. Participating in Europan inevitably makes you dig deeper into a subject, makes you reflect, provides insight. We also look forward to seeing the inter-sessions forum, giving us the opportunity to exchange with peers, experts and city representatives and build up an international network. All these elements make it a valuable experience helping us becoming more sensitive planners and architects, so in that way this will certainly help our professional career.