The smart urban pioneers idea contest inspired urban visionaries to come up with innovative ideas for urban space. Sifting through a wealth of submissions, we now present seven projects that make our cities more livable, from Bremen to Heidelberg.

Urbanites enjoy their own city’s everyday transformation and variety. Yet increasing urbanization also makes living in cities a stifling affair. This is where the smart urban pioneers idea contest comes in: smart asked urban visionaries to improve and rethink our urban environment and habitat with pioneering social, digital, technological, and creative concepts. For a glimpse of inspiring ideas that aim to enrich our urban lives, read on to explore impressive new urban development options.

Making urban space more livable

Our cities are bursting at the seams. No surprise there, really, since urbanization remains a key trend. In view of the fact that 70 percent of all people will be living in cities by 2050, the smart urban pioneers idea competition is more than timely: We’re already paving the way and setting the course for livable mega cities in the future. The contest received 39 innovative project submissions – we were stunned and delighted by the range of thoughtful inspirations on offer.  So, let’s hear it from seven projects with a focus on urban space – from bright visions to up-and-running initiatives.

Raumfänger: Share and conquer

Heidelberg’s Raumfänger (space catcher, a play on “Traumfänger”, dream catcher) urban intervention encourages urbanites to swap consumption for production. The 15-meter-long transparent PV bubble can host up to 80 people, giving them plenty of room to explore and develop their ideas. Designed to serve as an idea workshop, cooperative stage, or simply urban hub, the project is a stellar social prototype for community and collaboration. It literally makes the city’s development potential more transparent, encouraging people to set out and conquer urban space, creating and shaping their own culture. The project’s next step: a workshop for contemporary cultural techniques, planned and shared by all, at the new Begeisterhaus.

Raumfänger hub
Raumfänger creates new urban space for creative development.
Photo: Raumfänger
workshop inside PV bubble
Photo: Raumfänger
building a Raumfänger
Photo: Raumfänger

Everyday fluxus

Walking through Stuttgart’s empty Calwer Passage shopping center in 2014 – agency owner Hannes Stein had a bright idea. “Wouldn’t it be great if this space was filled with small, individual stores?” Said and done – the Fluxus temporary concept mall opened a mere two months later. And since late 2014, the concept has been playing host to a vibrant mix of concept stores, boutiques, cafes, and bars under a “fashion, vintage, design, zeitgeist” umbrella. Beyond offering a refreshingly unique shopping experience, Fluxus also hosts art exhibitions, theater, concerts, and a rooftop urban gardening project

streetfood store in Stuttgart
A chance for pop-up stores: temporary concept mall Fluxus.
Photo: Fluxus
ice cream pop-up store
Photo: Fluxus
rooftop garden at Fluxus
Photo: Fluxus
temporary conceptional mall Fluxus
Photo: Fluxus
fashion store
Photo: Fluxus
Fluxus
Photo: Fluxus

Lofty thoughts and hands-on involvement at platzWERK

The Hanover-based experimental lab and workshop for wood, metal, and plastics invites intrepid souls to make and manufacture market-ready products – without the associated commercial pressure. platzWERK not only houses a well-equipped workshop, but also four project spaces that offer answers to questions on art, future, culture, technology, sustainability, or upcycling. The resulting “container castle” is part of the city’s PLATZprojekt, a federal research endeavor exploring experimental city development. The project is run by a core team of seven young product designers – ideal conditions for an urban think and make tank.

platzWERK container
A lot of space for innovative people: platzWERK.
Photo: platzWERK

Make the most of urban space with foldaway transformations

Designer and brand developer Magnus Fischer from Hamburg has a dream: flexible city spaces that tweak their character according to time-of-day or use scenario. Just like a folding bed – alternating between sofa use and restful sleeping space – store fittings and wares could vanish in the ground after closing to make room for temporary urban overnight apartment furniture that injects new life into pedestrian zones, empty commercial properties, and offices – at least overnight. To realize his dream, Magnus Fischer collaborates with an interdisciplinary team of designers, journalists, trend researchers, and economists.

Waking sleeping houses

The demand for affordable urban space has grown far beyond existing available and empty properties. But what if we could fill all those sleeping, i. e. unused, buildings with new life? That’s exactly what ZwischenZeitZentrale (ZZZ) has been doing since 2010. The communications hub identifies suitable properties and users, consults with owners, connects people, develops concepts, and initiates positive reuse scenarios. Here, the ZZZ serves as contact, go-between, mediator, advisor, and initiator for temporary uses of abandoned spaces and empty properties. And the results are impressive: Since the launch, Anne, Daniel, Sarah, and Oliver have already awakened plenty of “sleeping” properties, instigating and helping 90 temporary use projects.

graffity coummunity
Resurrecting forgotten spaces: the mission of ZwischenZeitZentrale.
Photo: ZwischenZeitZentrale
dancing people
Photo: ZwischenZeitZentrale
street gig
Photo: ZwischenZeitZentrale
painted building
Photo: ZwischenZeitZentrale

Hack your City

Just how much land do cities need? How green will tomorrow’s metropolis be? How will we eat and commute in future cities? Complex questions deserve equally considered, interdisciplinary answers – answers provided by the Hack your City initiative of the 2015 Science Year. Hackathons in five German cities yielded new mobility concepts, ideas for improving the way we live together, and even redesigns of entire neighborhoods. Take Cycle Philly, an app that uses GPS data to display the most popular bike routes – precious knowledge for city planners who want to optimize traffic routes. Or consider the Open Water Project, which enables interested residents to measure, share, and analyze the quality of nearby water bodies – with nothing more than a cheap and easy-to-build do-it-yourself tool. Never one to stand still, the initiative will continue to shine a light on the future of urban mobility.

How urban artists conquer urban forests with sparrows, wild boar, and deer

Contemporary metropolises often resemble massive construction sites: More and more buildings are squeezed into existing space, ousting much-needed green spaces. Most of the time, the latter are replaced by hardly inviting artificial oases that quickly deteriorate, leading to an increasingly neglected cityscape. But there’s an alternative, at least according to graffiti artists Philipp Kabbe (Hamburg) and Yves Thomé (Lüdenscheid). Their “urban forest” provides a welcome inner city retreat while also discouraging visual vandalism. In their design, cute woodland creatures like sparrows, wild boar, or deer are invited to explore our city – no feeding required.

duck graffiti
The inhabitants of the forest return to the cities with urban forest.
Photo: Stadtwald