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Germany's urgent case for mixed-use regeneration

Wupperthal's City Plaza building, North-Rhine Westphalia (designed by Chapman Taylor) - home to Primark

Germany's town centres are facing a pressing need for mixed-use urban regeneration post Covid-19, a need that has been slowly growing due to the trend towards online shopping. The country is re-thinking its urban environments to create environmentally, social and economically sustainable places to draw people and businesses back.

Future Cities Forum spoke to Jens Siegfried, Director in charge of Chapman Taylor's German studio, based in Dusseldorf.

Jens has completed a wide range of projects and has an established track record in the design of retail and mixed-use schemes in Germany and in the Central and Eastern Europe region. He joined Chapman Taylor's London studio in 1989 but relocated to Germany in 2002.

City Plaza is the centrepiece of a large urban redevelopment project which links Wupperthal's railway station to the town centre. In order to create a seamless and pedestrian-friendly link, a highway had to be lowered by 6 meters and a new bridge built, flanked on both sides by retail pavilions.

The plaza marks the rail gateway to Wuppertal's city centre, forming part of an assembly of impressive historical buildings which define the remodelled square in front of the railway station.

City Plaza's curved façade is clad with brass panels which alternate with the glass of the curtain wall, lifting the area's look and feel alongside major improvements to the surrounding public realm. It takes its inspiration from the city's 18th and 19th century textiles boom, drawing on the shapes of the yarns, fabrics and lace that were created and traded. The 'curtain wall' references fabric folds.

Jens said:

'In 2012 the City of Wuppertal ran a master planning competition, wanting to redevelop the square and create a new link from the rail station to the centre avoiding the use of a 1960s concrete underpass. We entered the competition in collaboration with the developer and retail specialist Signature Capital. The existing proportions of the square at the time were all wrong and there was a big cube of a building which wasn't the most innovative in design. A lot of analysis later, the building was relocated and the bridge leading into the centre was widened.

'When we tackle projects such as these, we are tapping into traditional European ways of how cities are put together, and in this case we were helped by the listed railway building acting as an anchor.

'Wuppertal isn't a number one city in Germany, and is in the shadow of first tier cities such as Cologne and Hamburg. Despite this, the council invested heavily in infrastructure improvements to make the connections work.

'Destruction in the second world war has meant as in the case of Wuppertal that there are a lot of buildings from the 60's and 70's, so historic listed buildings dating earlier to this are treated with respect and are seen as a positive, something to work with.

'We want to create a tension between listed buildings and the new - that's what makes cities interesting - we don't copy what is just there and create a pastiche. Currently we are looking at the second level linked to the plaza to create an entirely new city point of arrival.'

Read more of Future Cities Forum's content on master planning in Europe through our future blogs and research reports.

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