Eight months, more than 40 ideas, one shared goal: 2015 saw the launch of the smart urban pioneers idea competition, attracting proposals for improving life in the city from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Now, the three winners share how they plan to make the most of the contest’s boost and support.

It started with a key question: How can we make life in the city a better experience for everyone? The finalists – Cabin Spacey, Urban Affairs, and myLike – completed all three stages of the smart urban pioneers competition. In the end, they successfully competed against 40 great submissions by creative and sustainable projects.

smart urban pioneers awards
Eyecatchers: the awards for the winners.

A notable jury

Aside from the competition’s patron, neighborhood platform Nebenan.de co-founder Christian Vollmann, a diverse jury contributed to the process with their expertise. Architect Ana Sampaio Barros and Gründerszene chief editor Frank Schmiechen were joined by betterplace.org co-founder Dr. Joana Breidenbach, Prof. Dr. Marianne Reeb from Daimler’s future research division, and social entrepreneur Renat Heuberger.

Frank Schmiechen at smart urban pioneers
Gründerszene chief editor Frank Schmiechen exchanges thoughts with Cabin Spacey’s Simon Becker.

After evaluating all submissions, the jury members pre-selected ten applicants for a public voting phase at smart magazine, where readers were invited to pick and support their favorites. During the last stage of the process, three finalists then got the chance to solicit additional community support via crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, in addition to the competition’s prize money. While all three projects managed to exceed their initial funding goals, the final ranking was based on the teams’ overall performance across all three competition phases.

Jochen Küpper of Urban Affairs with his award for third place
Jochen Küpper of Urban Affairs accepts the award for third place.

In third place, associated with a €10,000 cash prize, Berlin-based Urban Affairs welcomed the boost they received from the contest. “Now, we can really delve into the festival’s detailed planning,” enthuses Jochen Küpper, curator and co-founder of the urban festival concept. “With Urban Affairs, we not only want to exhibit art, but also effect real change in the city. It’s all about leaving something behind.” Together with local residents, scientists, and experts, Jochen Küpper and fellow organizers Luisa Trautmann, Clara Stein, and Robert Hummel revive unused buildings and urban wastelands with constructive approaches and fresh ideas.

Jochen Küpper's talk for his third place
“It’s all about leaving something behind.”

Tailwind at just the right moment

“We realized that Urban Affairs is not just a festival, but slowly becoming a platform for urban reevaluation,” Jochen Küpper continues, “so we’re already doing city-wide interventions. Take our recent artistic collaboration where we appropriated subway displays – to show art where you least expect it. This shake-up of urban realities is the overreaching goal of Urban Affairs.” The actual festival is scheduled for late autumn under the motto “three days, three locations, three topics.”

Cabin Spacey founders with their award for the second place
Cabin Spacey place second.

Two people share and celebrate the competition’s second place and thus €15,000 of prize money. Simon Becker and Andreas Rauch of Cabin Spacey might have given their joint project a witty name, yet the vision behind it is quite serious.

Cabin Spacey founders' talk
“If you think about it, roofs are the city’s greatest spatial resource.”
Cabin Spacey founder

“The basic idea of Cabin Spacey is to treat the roof as free urban space,” states Simon Becker when asked about the Berlin-based start-up’s underlying concept. Cabin Spacey wants to seed the city’s flat roofs with small wooden homes as a creative response to rising rents and lack of space in urban environments.

“If you think about it, roofs are the city’s greatest spatial resource. Andreas and I want to spread our micro-housing concept across the entire city. The sense of freedom this style of living implies already intrigues many people. The current trend is moving away from owning goods and towards access of their use.”

Christian Vollmann congratulates the Cabin Spacey founders on the second place
Founding spirit: Patron Christian Vollmann with Andreas Rauch and Simon Becker of Cabin Spacey.

The smart urban pioneers competition gave the two architects just the right boost at the right time, Simon Becker emphasizes. “For us, taking part proved incredibly important since it rekindled our awareness of the idea’s relevance. We started working on this without any funds, so the money is also a welcome help. And while we know that the road to realizing this vision is a long one, we are eager to pursue it.”

The icing on the cake

First prize and €25,000 went to myLike. For Uwe Hering, founder of the Munich-based start-up, there’s ample reason to celebrate. “We just went live with the app and are incredibly happy,” Uwe Hering explains. “This amazing prize is the icing on the cake!”

myLike invites users to tag and share their favorite locations – among a trusted circle of friends. With its app, the myLike team wants to broaden access to inspiring places in the city – away from the beaten paths of popular travel guides. “Now, we can really focus on improving the app and developing new features,” adds Uwe Hering.

Uwe Hering, the founder of myLike app, with his award for the first place
Uwe Hering and his team are ready to tackle the next round of development of their app myLike.
Winners of smart urban pioneers
Instagram first, glass cabinet later.

“One of my favorite functions is Shake it. We’ve all been there: You’re out with friends, discussing where to go next. Well, just shake your smartphone and the app will suggest a great spot nearby.”

myLike provides users with a much more personal urban experience than any other app. “You can tag any place on earth using geo data,” says Uwe Hering. “And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the best spot for coffee – you could also recommend your favorite park bench, for example.”

winners of smart urban pioneers with their awards
The proud winners of smart urban pioneers.

All three award-winning projects now enter their next phase with a fresh burst of energy. In this, they underscore how great ideas can benefit from an outside boost and help to improve life in the city – by working together, with plenty of fun and creativity. smart magazine will continue to follow and report on these projects – while also exploring similar approaches. Every day, our cities throw up a wealth of new ideas and visions, just waiting to be explored by us. All it takes is a pair of wide-open eyes.