Heidelberg was looking for something beyond the classic urban development plan

How can a city develop within the knowledge society? This question is all the more pertinent when it concerns the home of Germany’s oldest university, a place characterized by academics and young people from all over the world. And how does this image fit in with the historical backdrop, which lures millions of tourists to Heidelberg every year? These are some of the fundamental questions the city of Heidelberg asked itself a few years ago. From the outset, those responsible were in agreement that a classic urban development plan would not do justice to the future challenges Heidelberg will face. A laboratory and time and space for experiments: this is what the specialists in politics and administration had in mind, and they examined whether or not the format of an Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) was suitable for an exceptional state of affairs like this.

Does an IBA suit Heidelberg?

To this end the city convened an Academic Advisory Council in 2008. Its task was to examine whether or not the format of an IBA was fundamentally suited to the complex issues linked to the “field for experimentation” that was Heidelberg. The Advisory Council was also tasked with narrowing down the topic area, formulating the objectives of an IBA and making proposals for how a corresponding company should be organized.

Four specialist forums

Other building blocks forming the foundations of the IBA were a working group and specialist forums. The former brought together local experts and representatives of various different academic cultures. In turn, the specialist forums were a source of ideas and inspiration from the population for the city. In the same way, the results and theses on the urban knowledge society went into the strategy and the exchange that took place with other IBAs. As part of the preparations, the city and university also agreed on a joint charter with the motto of “Knowledge-based urbanism”. The themes of the public forums, which were moderated by Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, were “Urban Development in the Knowledge Society”, “Urban Areas and City Identity”, “Planning Processes, Building Culture and the Public”, and “An Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) for Heidelberg”. Each theme was explored in a discussion group and addressed in a dialogue with the general public. Furthermore, from the outset Heidelberg sought contact with other IBAs, and became involved in the nationwide discourse: In 2010 the city presented its ideas at the IBA laboratory in Großräschen (IBA See), and then again in 2011 in Berlin. In 2012 it was finally able to extend an invitation to itself, to the launch of its own IBA.

The city council decides: IBA Heidelberg starts in 2012

The city council was won over by the results and findings of this long period of preparation and on the basis of several resolutions since 2011 has been setting the IBA on course. In late 2012 the local councils eventually managed to agree on the team that would run the exhibition and appointed Michael Braum as IBA Managing Director. In March 2013 the IBA office began work in the former fire station, the newly established Creative Business Center of the City of Heidelberg.