‘Enabling Architecture’ for the Learning City, Neighbourhood University (UdN)

Abstract:  This presentation will discuss the interdisciplinary education- and research project “Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN), a diverse learning platform in Hamburg: it is a building site, stage, laboratory, interactive space and community centre.

During a period of five years, the UdN has taken an experimental approach to developing and testing contemporary forms of education based on culture, knowledge and urban development. The word “Universität”, in English “university”, refers to the process of discovering what can be defined as knowledge in an alleged “global knowledge-based society” and under which local conditions it can be generated – how it enters the world. “Nachbarschaften” (neighbourhoods) deals with local conditions: with social relationships and integration issues.

The starting point for examining these issues is a familiar urban situation: an empty, disused building, a symbol of “not any more” and “not yet” – the former Health Authority building in the Hamburg district of Wilhemsburg. Here, the UdN is developing its own principles for working and studying, its own curriculum: active appropriation, real interventions in the substance of the building and the programmatic utilization of it. In doing so, the potential for the generation and communication of knowledge will be removed from the “ivory towers” of the university and shifted elsewhere during the process of concrete urban transformation. The design of a city, perceived as an existing constructional, social, cultural and economic network, will be examined on a 1:1 scale. The main focus is on a form of sustainability that draws on the current conditions of the conversion and remaining utilization of the building, examines it in the light of its basic economic parameters, and attempts to use these to create new forms of action. This also mean that in this case sustainability does not develop from things but from relationships, from the neighbourhood.

Bio:  Professor Bernd Kniess is the Dean of Urban Design at HafenCity Universität in Hamburg. The project Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN) is a collaboration between the HafenCity Universität Hamburg (HCU), the International Building Exhibition Hamburg (IBA) and Kampnagel Internationale Kulturfabrik. It is sponsored by Max Hoffmann GmbH & Co. KG.