The productive city
The so-called Gewerbehöfe 2.0 are to contribute to overcoming the separation between working and living and to help bring back manufacturing to the city
“This is unchartered territory,” says Lech Suwala, a professor at Technische Universität Berlin, who is supporting the development process together with his students. A hundred years ago, people in Berlin would live in the street-facing building and work in the courtyard. “Berliner Mischung”, the Berlin mix, refers to this dense mix of living, commerce, and manufacturing. This changed with industrialisation and more efficient means of transport: Commerce and manufacturing increasingly moved to the city margins.
New technologies and digitalisation now make it possible to make manufacturing cleaner, quieter, more environmentally friendly, and, above all, more space-saving But where? Many of the old Gewerbehöfe, local hubs for skilled trades in Berlin’s courtyards, have been converted into modern apartments. Firmly anchored in the new Leipzig Charter of 2020, the guiding document for contemporary urban development policy in Germany and Europe, the concept of the “productive city” calls for greater integration of small-scale skilled trade businesses into existing urban quarters. The Charter postulates that “small-scale economic structures in cities are clearly gaining relevance.”
The so-called Gewerbehöfe 2.0 are to contribute to overcoming the separation between working and living. They are to help bring back manufacturing to the city, but, this time, “without the smoking chimneys”. Carola Zarth, president of Berlin’s Chamber of Commerce, is passionate about another thing: “We want to keep our skilled trade businesses in the neighbourhoods.”
Modern technologies have now become a key component of the trade. Painting robots paint 80% of large surface areas autonomously and are thus also changing the jobs of painters. Electricians use augmented reality for planning and installing their circuits. “The work processes in the skilled trade sector are changing rapidly and continually,” says Suwala.
Pointing the way ahead, skilled trade hubs in Berlin’s courtyards are to revive the city’s formerly characteristic mix against the backdrop of contemporary demands. They are laboratories for the city of the future. Traditional businesses and start-ups will work together on solutions for the challenges of tomorrow. On Bornitzstrasse in Lichtenberg, initial planning for the first new Gewerbehof has begun.
What are the needs of craftspeople? What are those of start-ups? How can the trades and start-ups best interact and benefit from each other? Where will funding come from? What is sensible regarding location?
All over Berlin, there is a need for establishing skilled trade hubs. The first step as part of a prioritisation process was to analyse where the work could kick off. Bornitzstrasse in Lichtenberg was one of many available locations in Berlin, which also included Marzahn and Spandau. Now that the prioritisation process has been completed, the state-run pilot project “Gewerbehof 2.0” will now be launched in Lichtenberg. The plan is to erect purpose-built facilities with a modern infrastructure that enables cooperation between start-ups, industry and commerce, helping to implement new concepts and approaches more rapidly.
Lukas Becker considers a time horizon of five years until completion as ambitious but realistic. The first companies should then be able to move into the new skilled trade hub. “We are creating something that doesn’t exist yet,” says Becker. Asked about the impact, he answers: “If only we were able to say exactly!” Some industries converge, others disappear completely, but new ones are always emerging, he says. Confidently, he adds that the Technology Park Adlershof did show how successful it can be to try out new ideas.
Rico Bigelmann for POTENZIAL
- Gewerbehöfe 2.0 – WISTA Management GmbH
- Prof. Dr. Lech Suwala's Chair of Urban and Regional Economics (tu.berlin)
- Carola Zarth – Berlin’s Chamber of Commerce