Workshop in Wolfsburg



The Intensive Program Workshop / Wolfsburg-Detmerode / Alvar Aalto Kulturhaus / April 25 – May 10, 2014 

Wolfsburg - located in northern Germany, halfway between Hannover and Braunschweig – has a very recent city development, having celebrated its 75th birthday only in July 2013. When focussing on its urban development one encounters side to side Koller’s “Stadt des KdF-Wagens” (1938, the “city of the strength-through-joy-car”), Reichow’s “organic city” (1951), Koller’s “articulated and lesser densely developed city” (1955), Baumgarten’s “urbanity through diversity” (1961), furthermore “urbanity through density” (from 1966 onwards), and last but not least “settlements of the postmodern era” (from 1979 onwards). Today these developments often are, although mostly still intact, under a growing pressure. It is the pressure of a manifold change.


In the editorial to the Bauwelt 17-18.13, a special issue on Wolfsburg, Ulrich Brinkmann has written: “… Wolfsburg is growing and at the same time changing. For a long time it has basically been a working-class city being shaped indeed by people from all over the world, but with only a few social distinctions. Now - thanks to the globalisation of the VW-company - it is experiencing the influx of thousands of highly qualified (and well paid) employees, who are working in the development and / or the management and for whom Wolfsburg means only another step on the career ladder. For them Wolfsburg is only an intermediate stop on their way, waiting for the next place of action. Those winners of the global economy are used to the fact that they are not only making demands but enforcing those demands as well: demands regarding the working environment, their occupation, and payment, but also demands regarding their apartments, the respective surroundings, and the city. The apartments and the residential environment which however have been built 40, 50, or 60 years ago for the VW-workers and their families are not suiting their demands at all. Those residental environments are for example Rabenberg, Detmerode, Westhagen, etc. But also the well established residents are changing; they are getting older, less flexible, and in need of care. Wolfsburg as a city of great distances was created according to the concept of a “car-friendly city”, meaning that there are a small city centre and many satellite towns. But keeping in mind that the city is changing this way, we have to be more flexible. Alteration, densification, and improvement are tasks which are present all over the city - as well as in the agency of urban planning and in the two huge housing societies of Wolfsburg - the municipal Neuland and the Volkswagen Immobilien“. [1] 


The idea to work on the important settlement Wolfsburg-Detmerode and its “urbanity through diversity” was developed first, in January 2013, in talks with Winfried Brenne and Franz Jaschke, who at the time were planning the conservation campaign of the city theatre in Wolfsburg, designed by Hans Scharoun. Pierre Rey at the office of urban planning and Nicole Froberg, the head of Wolfsburg’s forum of architecture, than were most constructive in shaping the workshop’s specific form and very helpful in selecting the six objects for our investigation. These have been Baumgarten’s stepped high rise building, Scharoun’s Kindergarten, the six point houses, and to its side the shopping centre, the Erich-Kästner elementary school and its direct vicinity, and finally Detmerode’s landmark, the two high rises, named in common parlance Don Camillo and Peppone. 


Detmerode is particularly interesting to investigate for various reasons: First of all, it is a settlement of high quality, caused both by its “urbanity through diversity” and for the design of its landscape, although much altered. The Hansaviertel in Berlin was here the primary reference, upon which the first designs for Detmerode were modelled. It is intended, secondly, to list Detmerode as a settlement. The remarkable size of the satellite town, originally planned for 14.000 inhabitants, is at the same time a crucial aspect, which renders it difficult to list the settlement. We consider it a great chance to participate in the debate on how to do so. Detmerode is, thirdly, much appreciated both by its residents, who have often lived there for many years, and the younger families, who are currently moving to Wolfsburg. But these two groups have very diverse needs, requesting different changes, not a few of these in direct contradiction with the requests normally formulated by the monument authorities. In addition to these issues determined by the demographic change there are also serious needs to enhance the building physics, the comfort, and the energy efficiency simultaneously. The central question here is how to turn the various requests for change into a challenge from which Detmerode as an urban settlement can profit. This turns the satellite town into a showcase of how to best rework an urban settlement of a very particular design and character. To this showcase Wolfsburg is currently paying much attention, and first of all the urban planning office under Monika Thomas, the housing societies Neuland and Volkswagen-Immobilien, the regional and the local monument authorities, and here specifically Rocco Curti respectively Heidi Fengel, and the city of Wolfsburg - forum for architecture headed by Nicole Froberg. These, in exchange, provided us with a very solid body of work to refer to and build upon. 


We have developed an Intensive Programme on these grounds. This website intends to give the interested reader a first idea of the work we - about 60 students, and 15 professors from architectural programmes from the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn, the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Faculty of Architecture, the department for Building Environment Science Technology, Politecnico di Milano and from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Frankfurt am Main, Studiengang Architektur - have done over the span of the winter-term 2013/2014 and the spring-term 2014.


In addition to that, a brochure intends to allocate the workshop in a broader context. This brochure would like to introduce the interested reader to our investigations on the satellite town and the six key objects, done between autumn 2013 and summer 2014. It begins with a welcome address by Wolfsburg’s vice-mayor Elke Braun. My paper then intends to introduce the Intensive Programme’s themes, questions and approaches. In the second part, our research on informative references is documented. Here we have listed first the cases we have had the chance to visit during our pre-workshop-meeting in November 2013 in Bratislava. These will be followed by the students’ pre-workshop preparations, and specifically their research on references in the countries the participants are coming from. The third part starts with five papers. To begin with, Pierre Rey gives an overview of the urban development of Wolfsburg, and Holger Pump-Uhlmann together with Leonhard Pröttel focus specifically on the development of Detmerode. Then Jörg Dahmer delineates how the municipal housing society Neuland intends to introduce change in Detmerode, whereas Rocco Curti and Hedi Fengel discuss how to best conserve the satellite town. These papers will be followed by the concepts and strategies developed by the students on these grounds for Detmerode in general, as well as on the afore mentioned edifices. In part four, first our guest critics Peter Blundell Jones, Diane Watters and Gert-Jan Wisse re-open the horizon of the workshop, discussing concepts and strategies for a series of analogous cases, reaching from the Park Hill in Sheffield to the mega-structure of the Cumbernauld city centre close to Glasgow to the landscape-park in Potsdam. In conclusion Winfried Brenne and Franz Jaschke introduce us to their restoration projects for a housing complex by Hoffman next to Taut’s Siedlung Schillerpark in Berlin and for the city theater by Scharoun in Wolfsburg. Last but not least, Günter Pfeifer resumes the topic of energy efficiency from an extraordinary point of view. The very last pages of this brochure are dedicated to a sequence of images by Stefan Heßling to characterise the workshop as such.


With the website and the brochure we would like to present and promote this work moving between the requests of preservation and challenges of change. We are looking forward to getting to know your view.



[1] 1 Ulrich Brinkmann, Change in WOB, in Bauwelt 17-18.13, 10. Mai 2013, 104. Jahrgang, p. 25.