Knowledge City Heidelberg

In Heidelberg, the city and knowledge have forever been inextricably bound up with each other: Since 1386, world-class research into the future has been conducted here. The city is famed for Germany’s oldest university and its long-standing tradition of research, teaching, and scholarly discourse. Heidelberg’s university world is very broad, covering the natural sciences, medicine, the humanities, law, economics, and the social sciences, to which a faculty of engineering was added in 2021. That said, the city’s identity is also driven by major non-university research establishments such as the German Cancer Research Center, various Max Planck institutes, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and by a wide range of educational and cultural institutions, not to mention internationally successful corporations.

In terms of urban fabric, Heidelberg is known primarily for its historical Old Town and the accompanying landmarks, namely the castle ruins and the Old Bridge over the River Neckar. Heidelberg actually has a lot to offer beyond the beaten tourist trail. Its current 15 districts are characterized by emphatically different identities: As an urban, mixed quarter, Bergheim forms a »second downtown«. In Neuenheim and Handschuhsheim – the quieter districts on the north bank of the river – innovative research establishments and life-science institutes complement the buildings and campus for the humanities in the Old Town. Weststadt is marvelous testimony to urban planning in the days of the Wilhelmine Reich. And extensions to the city, such as Emmertsgrund and more recently Bahnstadt, not to mention the expansive conversion projects in Südstadt, Rohrbach, and Heidelberg’s future 16th district, Patrick Henry Village (PHV), attest to the city’s dynamic development.


Heidelberg’s special education community (which, given the dynamics of modern society, is constantly developing further) needs new places and open spaces for knowledge transfer and interaction within a growing and diverse civic society. Moreover, Heidelberg, like many other municipalities up and down the country, faces the challenges to urban development posed by climate change, such as multimodal mobility, the use of new energy sources, and the creation or upgrading of urban green zones. For a civic society that is shaped by migration and strong fluctuation (at present, more than 50 percent of Heidelberg’s inhabitants change every ten years, or so the Heidelberg 2020 study suggests), it is also crucial to create affordable, easily reachable spaces that integrate home and work life. Specifically, as a »Knowledge City«, Heidelberg needs vibrant quarters, places that promote identity, and infrastructures for education and culture, recreation, leisure time, and shared moments and encounters.

New Knowledge Spaces for the City

The city also faces the major challenges of transforming historical knowledge hubs such as Campus Bergheim and converting areas formerly used for military purposes. When the US Army withdrew from Heidelberg in 2014, and thus only shortly after the part-realization of the most recent district of Bahnstadt, new challenges were posed on a large scale: The former Patrick Henry Village (PHV) complex is the last major development zone in the city, and across some 180 hectares Heidelberg’s 16th district will be created – for 10,000 inhabitants and with 5,000 jobs. IBA Heidelberg teamed up with the municipal administration to develop the PHVision, a dynamic master plan for a green, sustainable, and vibrant future quarter that prompted a debate with international experts and civic society on the question:

How can this new future quarter be sustainably integrated into the urban fabric to the benefit of all existing and future citizens?