Cooperative training research project from the Wüstenrot Stiftung and the HFT Stuttgart

Life Before Cities is a cooperative training research project of the Wüstenrot Stiftung and the Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart. Within the context of the International Building Exhibition 2027, it will examine the defining residential component of single- and multi-family housing, and generate incentives for its further development.


In the second half of the last century, modernism changed the look of our cities dramatically. Besides automobile-friendly spaces and large large housing developments on the periphery, single- and multi-family housing developments have become a distinctive feature of residential development in the Federal Republic of Germany. During times of economic growth and the dawn of the automobile, when the supply of fossil fuel seemed inexhaustible and the image of the small family prevailed as the classical model of life, the collective ideal of living in your very own home was born. This model has been one of the most popular forms of living in Germany ever since. When it came to planning and politics, residential areas with a predominant share of single- and multi-family housing were long regarded as “no-brainers.” Aside from an ample supply of developable land and infrastructure, local planning, control and participation were hardly necessary. Today, however, the lack of available space and the current model of resource-friendly city development in metropolitan regions require a different kind of residential development on the land available. In many areas, a generational change is also either on the horizon or already under way. Today, if houses are still inhabited by their first owners, an “internal vacancy” often exists along with a substantial backlog of renovation and modernization work. More specifically, the increasing tendency of people to stay single combined with the aging of society and its associated demand for smaller household sizes and age-appropriate forms of living are ushering in a call to action in residential areas characterized by monostructures.

Research Question

The following questions, among others, are being asked: What role do existing single-family housing areas play in view of the current challenges facing urban development, such as climate change, climate adaptation and changes in mobility? How sustainable are existing single-family housing areas and what kind of development potential might they have? What can municipalities, residents, planners, researchers, teachers and students contribute to neighborhood development locally in terms of transformative science and best practices of city development? How can housing offerings be differentiated and address different housing needs, particularly in view of our aging society?


Within the context of the cooperative training research project, we are wrestling with questions like these in the region, together with the different municipalities and their inhabitants, in order to find the best solutions. Incentives for realizable change directed toward the Stuttgart region will be generated using a methodically differentiated approach. The key is close cooperation between research, teaching and practice.

Targeted results

Within the context of the International Building Exhibition 2027, we will examine the defining residential component of single- and multi-family housing, and generate incentives for its further development. Students of design, planning and other disciplines will be sensitized regarding future development in these areas. The development and combination of open and unbiased, newly interpreted formal and informal instruments and their best practice applications will offer opportunities for real-world implementation.

ManagementProf. Dr.-Ing. Christina Simon-Philipp
PartnerWüstenrot-Stiftung, PD Dr. Anja Reichert-Schick
Further partners

Bundesstiftung Baukultur

Duration01.02.2020 – 31.12.2024