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Next Door Neighbour Transformation - Rummelsburger Bucht

Rummelsburger Bucht

Just across the train tracks, directly east from Obere Stadtspree lies a development called Rummelsburger Bucht, offering a completely new inner city river area. Yet 15 years ago, the two areas were very much alike, consisting mainly of industrial brownfield sites. The Rummelsburger Bucht was much easier to develop as it is a somewhat isolated bay, due to elevated train lines, with little activity because of to the heavily polluted water and with a much more human-scale master plan compared to the Obere Stadtspree. So there was much less public opposition against its redevelopment.

Rummelsburger Bucht was developed as part of wider city planning for the future population of Berlin. It aimed to provide room for population growth within the city rather than on the outskirts of Berlin where the majority of growth was taking place, thus reducing the consumption of greenfield sites. The concept was of a mixed-use community integrating landscape and buildings, an ‘urban landscape’, combining the tranquillity found in the outskirts of cities of being amongst nature with the density and convenience of the city in a walkable community. The masterplan features a mixture of townhouses, apartments and single family homes set amongst thick greenery with ‘green canals’ of open space leading to the water. It also provides generous amounts of open space and the development of river and bayside walking trails (SenStadt 2008).

The Rummelsburger Bucht was planned in the 90’s when Berlin was expecting a population boom that never emerged. The state funded the project through the state budget and loans, planning to pay back the loans by acquiring brownfield sites, compensating their owners and later after remediating the bay and building social infrastructure, selling these at a profit. With an increasingly weak real estate market it became clear that the development of Rummelsburger Bucht was no longer viable. In 2003, the development plan was cut back in scale and density from 5400 residences to 4200 and commercial floor area almost halved. So far only 2265 residential units (54%) and 60000 m² (20%) of the office space has been built, despite the drastically reduced plan. The project was broken up into 9 districts that could be completed in separate phases, with some no longer being developed, at least not until demand returns (SenStadt 2008).

Rummelsburger Bucht

The area has become a rather mono-functional residential area, dominated by upper middle class families due to the high land value with only rudimental social mixture. It has a relatively low building density of 1,6 (Ground Area Ratio) compared to average Berlin quarters (Milzkott 1993). This may contribute to a suburban atmosphere and be a pull-factor for young families, but it is also a waste of ground. The much used building typology of townhouses will further decrease density in future when children moving out and parents inhabit the empty nest.

Though it remains denser than the outskirts of Berlin, it is unable to provide enough customers leading to the absence of commercial uses. Therefore the neighbourhood features the same problems as suburbia, only shifting these into a rather central context. These facts do not contribute to modern policies of sustainable urbanism or even the project’s own goals of mixed-use and densification of the city.

Rummelsburger Bucht

Is this ‘urban suburbia’ desirable? It is certainly an improvement from the abandoned industries and polluted bay, but considering the potentials of the area, it must be said that better developments could have been possible. It also has not made use of the existing structures, losing much of its industrial heritage through the demolition of many buildings in order to make way for the new developments. Only a couple have been retained and retrofitted for new uses. One thing that Rummelsburger Bucht does successfully do is provide easy access to the water for the public with trails alongside the water and ‘green canals’ of open space that lead to it, but the ample amount of green space is also one of the reasons for the lack of density. Overall, the project has successfully transformed the area into a contemporary neighbourhood but has missed the chance to create a future orientated, urban and sustainable development.


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