Friday, June 9, 2017

Stuttgart an industrial legacy city in Germany

Stuttgart, Germany, is the largest city of a industrial region with a long stagnating and now slowly growing  population of about 607,000 in a 2.7 million people region. It is known for having the dirtiest air in Europe but also for having vineyards directly next to the the main train station and maintaining and excellent park system to meticulous standards.
Stuttgart Schlossplatz: City Tours (Photo Philipsen)

As the "cradle of the automobile", where Gottlieb Daimler invented the car, and where the Mercedes factory of Daimler-Benz and Porsche are still made today, Stuttgart is Germany's mo-town.

Those much loved cars are the reason for the bad air (especially fine particulates) and cars and trucks flow through Stuttgart in great numbers on two large national roads bisecting the city like coordinates, and autobahns circling it. Since the place isn't flat but located in an elongated valley that traps the bad air in a kind of cauldron roads wind up the steep hills and don't form a grid.

European cities rarely have a uniform grid pattern, the much more irregular system doesn't have the redundancy of a grid, resulting in more congestion. Stuttgart will prohibit older Diesel vehicles from operating in the city under smog conditions starting next year. That hits a German city hard where about 60% of all cars have diesel engines and where that fuel type has a lower tax rate than gasoline. The German car industry is now trying to catch up with hybrid and electric propulsion because for too long they thought the frugal diesels (50mpg) could get  them through the California Standards. As the VW diesel scandal shows, this was only possible through fraud. While US VW diesel customers get large settlements pay-outs, German buyers so far have gone empty.
Stuttgart Marktplatz: Fully rebuilt after WWII with
 unremarkable architecture

Stuttgart saw a huge influx of rural residents and war refugees in the postwar boom years. Bursting out of its cozy pre-war confines urban renewal finished off the historic places that Allied air raids had not managed to destroy before. More than Baltimore Stuttgart lost its architectural integrity this way.

Even with the recent decades of emphasis on rehabilitation and restoration, historic buildings are just small islands in a sea of various phases of modernist architecture.

The automobile and suburban sprawl Stuttgart didn't drain the city in the same way as it did Baltimore, but Stuttgart is like Baltimore surrounded by prosperous and exploding suburban communities, one of them even managed to finagle the Daimler Benz headquarters into its jurisdiction. This was a special blow to Stuttgart at the time since the tax base of German cities is largely commerce and not property taxes.But de-industrialization never reached US proportions, the State of Baden Wuerttemberg is still seen as the center of tinkerers and inventors with many internationally known manufacturers located in here.Interestingly, the State currently has a Green Party Ministerpraesident (Governor) and Stuttgart also a Green Party Mayor.

As it was common in the US, Stuttgart's center city was for a long time zoned only for retail and office with very few people living where they worked. This began to change in the 1970's when planners complained about the 9-5 downtowns which turned into ghost-towns every evening. I was involved in one of the early undertakings to bring housing back to downtown when hundreds mixed income townhouses were erected on top of an underground parking deck in a mews type development a stone-throw from city hall.

Since then there has been more residential development but not to the extent as we see it in Baltimore and US cities. Adaptive reuse of office buildings or old warehouses and factories into apartments is rare. An early conversion of a centrally located factory campus was the new use of the old Robert Bosch headquarters. Buildings were initially adapted to university uses but since include a host of uses which now form a creativity and lifestyle (Erlebnis) hub. Stuttgart keeps re-inventing itself with large redevelopments including redevelopment of freight track areas which are becoming the Euro-quarter, the Dorotheenviertel, a mix of high end retail, hotel, offices and housing, Berliner Platz (new housing) and the redevelopment of the old congress center area on the posh Killesberg.
Historic Stiftskirche: Restored after the war
(Photo Philipsen)

Unlike Baltimore, Stuttgart kept the main lines of its vast streetcar system running, even when the automobile took over with expressways, parking garages and electronic guide systems showing where the nearest open raking spot is to be found. When the first oil crisis hit in the 1970s, and cars clogged up the city center especially on big shopping days, a big move to improve transit was made: The narrow gauge small streetcars were upgraded to full size subway type vehicles running in dedicated spaces usually in the median of major streets. In downtown all streetcar lines were put into tunnels with a large underground transit hub in front of the main train station.

Today the system is a reliable, high capacity way to get around in the entire region, typically with head-ways between 6 and 10 minutes. Fares are based on zones and can cost as much as $3.20 a trip if using single ride tickets. An extensive bike share system is operated by German Bahn, the federal railroad.

Today, most of downtown is car free with an extensive network of pedestrian malls, downtown shopping arcades and outdoor eating. The Stuttgart region does most of its brick and mortar shopping still in the center city and not in suburban malls or shopping centers which remain rare.

Unlike Baltimore, the State can hardly disrespect Stuttgart, since the city is the seat of the State government. Although Baden Wuerttemberg is a larger State than Maryland and has several other metro areas including Karlruhe, Mannheim, Freiburg and Ulm, all cities with their own universities and cultural institutions, Stuttgart has been and remains the cultural center with many museums, a symphony, an opera and a ballet troupe. Far from being a rust-belt city whose best times lie in the past, Stuttgart today is like Munich a hub of innovation, high tech and advanced specialty manufacturing attracting migration inside Germany and inside Europe.
Transit on a car centric artery towards the suburbs (Photo Philipsen)

Race relations never played much of a role since the State was much more homogeneous than the US ever were. This changed when guestworkers came to assist in the  post war economic miracle of the Wirtschaftswunder. Today the city is home to large contingents of Italians, Yugoslavs (from the time when there still was such a country) and Turks. Over 40% of residents have a foreign origin (twice the national average) with an even higher percentage of children. Without foreigners Stuttgart wouldn't be any longer a manufacturing hub and would be a markedly smaller place. Tensions arose only from the Turkish immigrant group because they were largely Muslims and brought a different culture and recently also from the strong influx of refugees. As in the US, large cities are mostly liberal or progressive while right wing policies concentrate in rural areas or in disinvested towns of the former East Germany.

The murder rate of Stuttgart is so low that it is hard to even find crime statistics. In 2004 Stuttgart was Germany's safest city, in the meantime Munich has taken that spot. still, Stuttgart's has murder rate is in the single digits somewhere between zero and seven per year.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Redevelopment Berliner Platz: Wohnen in der Innenstadt

Bosch buildings adaptive reuse

Redevelopment Stuttgart Killesberg: International participants (Photo Philipsen)

new development Dorotheenviertel (Photo Philipsen)

Stuttgart, between innovation and traditionalism (Photo Philipsen)

Modernized streetcars (Stadtbahn) in the median of streets with high platforms

Underground Stadtbahn stations downtown

The book, Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City is my take on the post industrial American city and Baltimore after the unrest. 
The book is now for sale and can currently be ordered online directly from the publisher with free shipping. 

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