Gleanings from Governance and Green Infrastructures: A 2015 IGLUS Snapshot in Dortmund
Authors: Karsten Zimmermann, Andreas Putlitz, Robin Chang @TUD
The Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration constitutes the perfect environment for the IGLUS Executive Master Program. With more than 11 million inhabitants the Rhine-Ruhr area is one of the biggest agglomerations in Europe but, despite various suggestions and visionary master plans, it lacks a coherent governance structure. As such it is a scattered metropolis with larger cities and wide suburban peri-urban areas which is in particular true for the post-industrial development in the Ruhr. Here, in the northern part of the Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration, the legacy of voluntary cooperation of municipalities still is the dominant and successful pattern for metropolitan governance. However, extreme poly-centricity is a major challenge for more coherent policy design in relevant fields such as public transport. Hence, due to the dense functional interdependencies of the cities on the one side and the multi-scaled governance approaches the Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration is considered a laboratory for structural change.
With what kind of impressions on metropolitan challenges do international students leave the Rhine-Ruhr region? Can they truly glean insights on governance and green infrastructures, engage in discussions on energy systems, or tackle transportation topics? For just over a week in September of this year, a small group of practitioners from around the world took a professional sabbatical and swapped their regular responsibilities to become students at the Faculty of Spatial Planning of the Technical University of Dortmund through the IGLUS Executive Master Program.
From a wide spectrum of topics that the students tackled, the team of scholars from the Department of European Planning Cultures introduced the students to the region with its legacy of green infrastructure projects and current green innovations. By introducing the students to a myriad of motivations for green infrastructures, Prof. Karsten Zimmermann set the tone for the German module. With examples from Frankfurt am Main and the Ruhr, the students received a primer on the politically complex and strategic nature of green infrastructure projects. This start for the students detailed the multifunctional and collaborative processes for greening projects that are in both cases confronted with implementation issues.
Prof. Zimmermann’s colleague, Robin Chang followed by sharing innovative research on biomass landscape parks based out of the Institute for Work and Technology (Institut fuer Arbeit und Technik). Through the ‘CultNature’ project,which is a developing vehicle for green infrastructures in the Ruhr, participants gained further insights into the potentials for biomass energy technology integration at municipal and regional scales. Positive insights included the social, environmental and economic benefits contingent on experimental collaborations between municipal governments, research institutions, and state level development agencies. Additionally, students were exposed the convoluted hurdles of developing biomass landscape parks on the abundant brownfield sites in the region. The thematic political complexity introduced by Prof. Zimmermann resurfaced in the Miss Chang’s presentation in the form of diverse and myriad stakeholders and narrow consultation involved with the CultNature pilot projects.
In following sessions during the week, students visited sites presented in the opening session on green infrastructures. Excursions to the regional planning association (Regionalverband Ruhr Essen), the Landscape Park Duisburg North, and the Emscher Landscape Park provided opportunities for the participants to examine the presentation examples themselves and consider the feasibility of such initiatives in their home countries.
Further topics that were addressed were metropolitan governance, energy policy on neighborhood level, smart cities and mobility. Speakers from the Faculty of Spatial Planning, the Wuppertal Institute for Climate Research, Veolia, Cemex, IBM, Siemens, the Worldbank, UN Habitat, and local and regional governments from the Ruhr area introduced technical as well as socio-political innovations for the management of large infrastructures and the provision of service for the citizens. This ranged from smart technology driven concepts such as “mobility as a service” or the inspiring urban development in the Seestadt Aspern in Vienna to the planning and implementation of bicycle highways for commuters in the Ruhr.
Further field visits included Lake Phönix in Dortmund which is one of the biggest urban regeneration projects in Germany. On a former industrial site for the production of steel an artificial lake has been created in conjunction with upper level housing. The students also visited the CentrO Oberhausen and the Garden City Margarethenhöhe in Essen (constructed between 1090 and 1920 by an industrial tycoon).