How do you convert a US Army town into a "knowledge city"?

Conversion as a chance for a knowledge-based society

There are many former US military sites in Germany – they offer great development potential for communities, however, they also pose many challenges. The International Architecture Exhibition (IBA) Heidelberg wants to demonstrate possible solutions for these areas regarding subsequent use. Their urban laboratory: the former Patrick Henry Village (PHV) in Heidelberg, with formerly 8,000 inhabitants. The IBA is planning to develop a knowledge city of tomorrow according to their motto “knowledge based urbanism”. For this purpose, the IBA has developed a process proposal, the so-called “planning phase zero”, which Heidelberg local council approved with a vast majority.

Patrick Henry Village – An urban planning challenge
Patrick Henry Village is a challenging task for urban planners: At around 100 hectares, the area is almost as large as Heidelberg’s old town and larger than the other US-conversion areas. The remoteness of PHV requires intelligent future concepts in mobility, urban development and open space development. Isolated in its location, there are no obvious uses. Given these challenging circumstances, there is a demand for careful further planning – for this purpose, IBA Heidelberg is now working with five internationally renowned urban planning offices.

What should Patrick Henry Village look like in the future?
To put the city of Heidelberg and the citizens in a position to make future-orientated decisions for this area, the IBA developed the so-called “planning phase zero”. Its purpose is to formulate fundamental questions and developing ideas for PHV based on these questions:

  • How can science and business collectively define their place in PHV?
  • What will a good mobility infrastructure look like in and around PHV?
  • How are education and knowledge spaces depicted in the new district?
  • And what role will nature and urban metabolism play in the “knowledge city of tomorrow”?

Goal: An innovative development vision
The goal of the IBA’s “planning phase zero” is to work out a development vision together with Heidelberg urban society, PHV neighbours and globally renowned urban planning offices in terms of the “knowledge city of tomorrow” by February 2017, based on different thematic scenarios. The development vision should promote the decision-making capabilities of the city and urban society for the future of this challenging area.

International urban planning offices for Heidelberg
Together with Winy Maas (MVRDV) from Rotterdam, Carlo Ratti (Carlo Ratti Associati) from Turin, Markus Neppl (ASTOC) from Cologne, Herbert Dreiseitl (Ramboll Liveable Cities Lab) from Überlingen, Katrin Bohn (University of Brighton) from London and Kees Christiaanse (KCAP) from Zürich, the IBA was able to win over both young and established, local and international urban planning offices to work out a development vision for the conversion area. The first four offices mentioned are each designing a scenario for the area in regard to an IBA topic. Kees Christiaanse (KCAP) will present the development vision for the area in February 2017. Political bodies will be able to determine the area’s future on the basis of this development vision.

Public forums offer space for questions and suggestions
Within the framework of “planning phase zero”, a public participation process according to the Heidelberg directives for public involvement shall be held: on four dates, the citizens of Heidelberg are invited to public forums in which they have the opportunity to bring their own ideas and impulses, to raise fundamental questions and to comment and discuss the planning team’s scenarios. The responsible urban planning teams will be present at each forum and will present their thematic scenarios. Citizens from surrounding communities are also invited to participate.

Particular emphasis on youths
The IBA will also be addressing youths as future users: TU Darmstadt’s Digital Design Unit is therefore developing a computer game modelled after the strategy game Minecraft in which children and youths can develop their new, fictitious district using different building blocks. The game “IBA_GAME | 20,000 BLOCKS” is being developed with friendly support from Eternit.

June 30, 2016 | Carlo Ratti (MIT) started working on a future scenario for Heidelberg’s Patrick Henry Village

On Thursday June 30, 2016, Carlo Ratti and his team from Turin started developping a possible future scenario for the former US Army facility, the Patrick Henry Village (PHV), in Heidelberg, centered around the theme of “Networks and Infrastructure”. Carlo Ratti’s presentation of previous work in the Chapel in Heidelberg’s Südstadt attracted around 120 interested listeners and formed the public debut of his activity in Heidelberg. A workshop group of more than thirty participants from all over Germany gathered in Heidelberg on June 30, 2016, to work with Carlo Ratti and Project Manager Emma Greer in developing initial ideas for the PHV.

June 14, 2016 | Winy Maas (MVRDV) starts his work in Heidelberg

In order to come up with innovative development ideas for Heidelberg’s Patrick Henry Village, the IBA has been able to bring on board five renowned town planning firms, who will work with Heidelberg’s local community to develop thematic scenarios for the PHV. Winy Maas from MVRDV in Rotterdam is one of those involved, responsible for the field of “Science and Business”. On Thursday June 14, 2016, Winy Maas kicked off his work in Heidelberg with a presentation in the Chapel of the Südstadt, introducing his projects covering the areas of research, urban planning and architecture to around 100 interested listeners.

May 31, 2016 | First citizens’ forum – How will the PHV become a “knowledge city of tomorrow”?

There was lively participation at the first citizens’ forum organized by the IBA Heidelberg for the Patrick Henry Village, Heidelberg’s biggest conversion space: On May 31, 2016, around 150 interested came to Dezernat 16 in Heidelberg in order to listen to urban planning expert Kees Christiaanse from Zürich and input initial ideas and comments as part of planning phase zero of the former Patrick Henry Village.

April 20, 2016 | Presentation of the process to city authorities

On April 20, 2016 the IBA presented the planned procedure along with the planning and architectural firms involved to the Municipal Committee for Conversion. On April 28, 2016 the Heidelberg Municipal Council approved the concept proposed by the IBA by a large majority.

January 29, 2016 | Municipal council resolution: IBA put in charge of “phase zero” at the PHV

On January 29, 2016 the Heidelberg Municipal Council decided that the IBA should take charge of the planning of “phase zero” of the conversion space Patrick Henry Village (PHV). The Mayor spoke in favor of a masterplan for the Patrick Henry Village (PHV) conversion site, where a “city district for the digital future” is being planned under the leadership of the IBA. This is one of the IBA’s key projects and is an urban development project of international importance.

Key data

  • Location

    Patrick Henry Village Heidelberg

  • Project organizer

    Moritz Bellers
    IBA Heidelberg GmbH