Knowledge creates Cities

In order to remain socially just, environmentally friendly, and economically successful in the future, too, Heidelberg is morphing into a »City in Change« and has consciously invested in the instrument of the IBA as an »Excellence lab for built culture«. In course of this, city-wide experimental spaces could be created in which future-oriented solutions beyond common administrative procedures and regulations could be tested.

What role does knowledge play for the city?

In 2012, Heidelberg started researching this exciting interaction of knowledge and city.

Over the last 10 years, IBA Heidelberg has examined the complex structures of the knowledge society and has developed urban planning approaches on the basis of exemplary projects and processes. Taking as its motto »Knowledge creates cities«, IBA Heidelberg explored how innovative planning and construction as well as a new process culture can help improve the quality of life in our cities in the future. The IBA discussed the topic throughout the city, nationally, and internationally:

How do we design innovative places, spaces, and infrastructures for science, education, and lifelong learning? And what new forms of knowledge transfer and networking can advance our built culture and urban planning?

Under the motto of »Knowledge creates cities«, IBA Heidelberg locked into Heidelberg’s existing potentials and took the thinking further. The IBA process resulted in a backdrop of projects that range from urban quarters to strategies for entire cities.

Projects and Strategies

IBA Heidelberg has run for ten years. After four years of preparations and a kick-off event in 2012, in early 2013 the IBA set to work. It reached out to civil society and civic institutions soliciting ideas that make a strong substantive contribution to the city’s development into a knowledge society. From the countless proposals, the IBA Board of Trustees then selected a first brace of concepts. These were initially treated as »candidates« until the plans were sufficiently elaborated on to show they met the requirements for an IBA project. In 2016, upon the District Council’s resolution, IBA Heidelberg started a strategically designed Planning Phase Zero for Heidelberg’s largest conversion zone, the Patrick Henry Village. In 2017, it presented an initial development vision for the »converted district amid green fields«. Two further strategy spaces – Bergheim (conversion of parts of the existing urban fabric) and the Agriculture Park (for material cycles outdoors) – rounded out the overall project portfolio. In 2018, IBA Heidelberg showcased the project status quo in the form of an interim presentation. Now, in 2022, IBA Heidelberg is highlighting its findings in a final presentation: It will put up for perusal nine realized projects and seven that are still at the planning stage, three strategy spaces within Heidelberg, and three cooperation projects in Mannheim.

In line with the IBA’s original mandate of improving dialog between the sciences and the city, recommendations were also made for a governance structure that enables the innovative side to an IBA to impact long-term on everyday planning by the city administration, as well as an outline for a »Science City Heidelberg 2050« developed from the perspective of the sciences and covering the entire city.

»International Building Exhibition«

International Building Exhibitions are an influential urban planning instrument. Local authorities, regions, or indeed entire countries choose this form of »temporary state of emergency« to develop extraordinary urban planning and architectural solutions for how people can all live together in the future.

The first IBAs at the beginning of the 20th century were shows of innovative architecture held in a limited area. Over the years, the IBAs have evolved beyond classical building exhibitions and now, as »Excellence initiatives for built culture«, increasingly address regional themes of international relevance. An IBA has an impact well beyond its actual lifetime, not only through the buildings that arise within that context. In the best of cases, the »Think and Do Tank« process gives rise to structures or guidelines and creates networks that have a long-term impact.

IBAs have no predefined format. The German Federal government has, however, appointed a council of experts who have formulated recommendations and quality criteria for hosting an IBA.