From the retrospective and looking ahead

A Ukrainian proverb says: "You don't really see the world if you only look through your own window". Or as Prof. Volker Coors, Scientific Director of the Institute for Applied Research (IAF), put it in spring in a lecture on the subject of 3D city models: "If you only want to see the city, you only have to look out of your window."

So we step out of our own house in the figurative sense and dive into the transfer world with its possibilities to help shape the cities of the future. The "M4_LAB_FINISSAGE" at the end of October at the HFT Stuttgart provided the occasion for this.

"Change your perspective with us and broaden your horizon!" was an invitation in a news message of the M4_LAB to participate in said finissage. The approximately 190 participants of the "M4_LAB_FINISSAGE" on October 26, 2022 at the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences (HFT Stuttgart) were able to accomplish such a change of perspective. Basically, the event was a mixture of a retrospective of the participants' own transfer work, paired with a look ahead. The focus was on the city of the future and the major topics of resources and digitalization as well as urban development, mobility and transformation. A multimedia exhibition, flanked by expert presentations, allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the future of the city.

The problem of implementation and living on credit

The fact that this future in the urban context is not always in the best of shape is underscored by the challenges facing cities, their leaders, and architects and urban planners. And they start with sustainable construction and do not end with mobility issues. What is needed are solutions for today and the future. Prof. Katja Rade, Rector of the HFT Stuttgart, put it this way in her opening remarks: "We don't have a problem with knowledge. We have an implementation problem." With a view to the findings and the implementations to be derived from them, the lectures by Prof. Juri Troy, architect, and urban planner Prof. Christina Simon-Philipp focused on building and the city as a space for trying things out. Architect Troy's talk was set against the backdrop of the big question: "Continue building despite climate goals? His clear answer: "Definitely not as before." In his opinion, we need to be more sustainable with our resources. "We are living on credit," Troy says. And he adds, "We have to learn again to make do with what we have." What sounds simple is not necessarily so in practice. In Troy's view, we wait too long to take action. For example, he says, any form of change must be subjected to sustainability. "Buildings and cities need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Troy summed up.

Simon-Philipp referred to Copenhagen in her remarks on the city as an experimental space and asked the question, "Why don't we think around the corner?" Because, in her opinion, we need to say goodbye to the city of yesterday. "We are in the midst of a transformation process," Simon-Philipp said, referring to the climate, mobility and building. That also means dealing with existing buildings differently. But in her opinion, this requires a different perspective. She used the Danish capital Copenhagen to illustrate what such a change in perspective might look like. The metropolis, which has a population of over 640,000, implements in its urban development much of what urban planner Simon-Philipp would like to see in this country. And that means, first and foremost, more experimental spaces. One of these experimental areas in Copenhagen is the "CopenHill" waste incineration plant. The place is more than a waste-to-energy plant and people also use it as an outdoor park. "Sustainability can be fun," Simon-Philipp explains, adding, "Solutions that initially contradict each other can also cross-fertilize in the end." Simon-Philipp points out that "thinking around corners" with regard to public space is also possible in German cities. Basically, this presupposes stronger interdisciplinary thinking and working in the future. Simon-Philipp: "We need a holistic strategy." And this, in Simon-Philipp's understanding, presupposes a transdisciplinary approach with the people on the ground. "The city is the laboratory," Simon-Philipp emphasizes, adding, "It's about asking questions on the ground and trying out new things." In this regard, she refers to the Stuttgart metropolitan region and M4_LAB's Nordbahnhof laboratory, among others. In conclusion, Simon-Phillip emphasized that the transformation in cities can only succeed if it is accompanied by an increasing quality of life.

The legacy of modernity – dissolving borders

Speaking of transformation. The topic of mobility is closely linked to the transformation process and questions about the time required, the costs and the availability of the possible mobile alternative in everyday life. In this context, Prof. Patrick Planing, business psychologist at HFT Stuttgart, sees acceptance research as the key to a new mobility. In his keynote, he raised the question: Who will actually decide how we get around tomorrow? For Planing, several factors are crucial. After all, investors are needed for an idea to be ready for the market. But in his opinion, that alone is not enough, as the example of the failed Segway shows. Despite investors, the Segway was not able to establish itself on the market, according to Planing. And so the business psychologist sees a triad of a great idea, great implementation and ultimately that people find the whole thing great. According to Planing, this is about weighing the perceived advantage versus the perceived effort. For example, he said, the fun of driving plays a crucial role in (partially) automated driving. "It's about emotional factors," says Planing.

And for him, this also includes the fear of a possible loss of control while driving, such as the use of autopilots. This is a difficult environment for the industry because, despite the advantages of new technologies, some of them are rejected. He talks about the power of habit and that it is also about why we accept or reject some technologies.

Acceptance was the topic of the final presentation by Andreas Hofer, the director of IBA27. The background to this is that Hofer sees Stuttgart as a region with a future. But: In his opinion, it also has obstacles in its way. Basically, the IBA27 director sees needs for transformation in the region. "Stuttgart is a place where industry still takes place," says Hofer. Looking at this industrial heritage, Hofer predicts, "We will live in the factory and produce in the bedroom." For him, this raises a key question: "How do we bring the different disciplines together?" One answer lies in what Troy and Simon-Philipp underscored in their remarks: "A new look at resources is needed, because the construction industry is the biggest consumer" explains Hofer. Thinking ahead and reusing are two constants that are also reflected in Hofer's presentation. He calls it the "legacy of modernity" and advocates a dissolution of the boundaries between living and working.

The laughing and crying eye

Speaking of dissolving in the sense of no longer existing. Thus the book of the M4_LAB closes slowly but surely. It leaves the reader with one laughing and one crying eye. Laughing, because it records five years of transfer work in and for the Stuttgart Metropolitan Region, with all the small and large success stories. It would certainly be a bestseller in no time if the book were published. This is because it deals with practical experiences with the topics of sustainability and transfer in relation to construction, mobility and energy supply, but also participation. Interested parties could find plenty of tips for their city of the future in it. Compiled by creative, enthusiastic and argumentative people who made the M4_Lab a flagship in knowledge transfer, far beyond the borders of Baden-Württemberg. Crying because this success book will not find a sequel, with many more stories around resilient, sustainable and livable cities as well as communities. "We would have liked to do a few more rounds," Holger Haas, Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart GmbH, emphasized during the finissage.

And Prof. Uta Bronner, project manager of M4_LAB and member of the board of directors IAF, outlined in her remarks the image of transfer as a kind of finding process. "When it came to the concept of transfer, we didn't really know what all was involved in the beginning," Bronner recalled. Today, it's all the clearer, because in the end, it's about people with all their needs, concerns and hardships in a world in constant change. So the M4_LAB success story comes to an end on Saturday, December 31, 2022. Fin.

Publish date: 16. November 2022 By Andreas Eicher ()