Lab-Fellows Portrait #5 | Franziska Sahr

A master thesis on the Urbane Mitte Am Gleisdreieck

The question of how we want to live and work in our cities in the future shapes our urban present like no other. Franziska Sahr, a master student at the Urban Ideation Lab, the laboratory for the urban quarter of the future and the heart of B-Part Am Gleisdreieck, is also dedicated to this topic. Franziska examines the Urbane Mitte Am Gleisdreieck about its perspectives for a contemporary urban quarter.

For decades, the focus was in the car-friendly and fragmented city. Car traffic was given the most space to be able to switch as smoothly as possible between the various city quarters, where people were either living, working or shopping. With the car’s right of way, the city segmented into monofunctional quarters.

This form of urban design can no longer be represented today. Nevertheless, we still have to come to terms with the car-optimized infrastructure and even today we still repeat the past mistakes. Born in Berlin, Franziska Sahr lived in Essen for a while during her studies, near three motorways, which is why she knows the problem well enough from her own experience.

“The essential imbalance,” says Franziska, “arises from the focus on one-sided use. A shopping mall, for example, may serve its purpose, but after closing time it forms a lifeless monolith that has an abandoned effect on the surrounding urban area. For me, the best example of a dysfunctional urban quarter is the Potsdamer Platz – an office district without sufficient housing, where shopping is not flourishing either.”

An important inspiration for her work and her own life experience is the American city- and architecture critic Jane Jacobs. As early as the 1960s, Jacobs was firmly opposed to the predominant urban planning of her time, which planned everything according to the needs of the car, and the associated loss of grown urban structures and their social capital.

Jacobs contrasts these developments with a clear counterpoint: the more the primary usage functions such as living, working, shopping, recreation, and others are mixed in, the more worthwhile and sustainable urban quarters become. Last but not least, such urban diversity not only promotes social cohesion and the vitality of areas, but also the local economy.

In this spirit, Franziska’s master thesis deals with the Urbane Mitte Am Gleisdreieck and she brings with her a diverse and interdisciplinary background. After completing a combined bachelor’s degree in Scandinavian Studies and Business Administration at HU Berlin, she is currently studying “Urban Systems” in Essen.

She came up with the idea of studying the development of cities in a second course after her bachelor’s degree while attending a seminar in Sweden. “Here, spheres that seem separate as democracy, culture and urban space were brought in to complete new contexts for me. I am amazed at the fascinating, multi-faceted field that opens up when you look at cities from different contexts and disciplines”.

In this sense, the Urban Systems program is holistic and open: “Students from various disciplines can expand their knowledge and learn to look beyond their horizons in this master’s program. This leads me, for example, to talk to engineers who are only interested in function and who are not at all interested in what a flower pot alone can do here and there. But while we are attending seminars together, our views open up over time and I too can better understand the mentality of the engineers”.

With this view from different perspectives, Franziska dedicates herself to the Urbanen Mitte Am Gleisdreieck. While the view of new buildings is more of a deterrent to park visitors or residents, a well-mixed and diverse development, and utilization concept is currently being implemented here. Franziska’s analysis will show whether it can provide one or two suggestions for the design of the future urban quarter in the Park Am Gleisdreick. It is expected that she will complete her master’s thesis in spring 2020 – we will report on the results.