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Promoting growth in small towns

As a real estate group, our mission is to promote successful, sustainable growth of suburban centers. The last 20 months have forcefully demonstrated that life in suburban and small towns is becoming increasingly attractive - especially for younger generations. Working digitally from a home office is opening up opportunities for many people to escape ever-rising rents and the glaring lack of space in major cities. Many are beginning to search for alternative living and private working spaces. Urban developers and planners are now faced with the challenge of designing suburban areas in a sustainable and resource-saving way. And who better to help develop promising solutions than students, trainees and university graduates who are particularly concerned about shaping their own future? This was the impetus for launching the ZIEGERT scholarship. From June 5 to October 4, applicants could submit essays or presentations on the following question: How can small towns promote sustainable growth and attract younger generations? What actions would impact the modernization, attractiveness and quality of life of suburban areas?

Meet the scholarship winner

We are very pleased to announce the proud winner of the €2000 scholarship Julia Treichel, a recent graduate of the Landscape Architecture program at the Technical University of Munich. "The contribution of Julia Treichel convinces with an unconventional view on the question and picks up in an authentic way the spirit that is especially attributed to the Millennials. The work stands for creative departure, for the innovative reorganization of everyday coexistence and a sustainable approach to material and personal resources" (Prof. Dr. Marcus Menzl, Head of the Urban Planning program at the Lübeck University of Technology and part of our expert jury).

Julia Treichel recently graduated from the Landscape Architecture course at the Technical University of Munich.

EverEstate: What does sustainability mean to you?

Julia Treichel: My definition of sustainability basically goes hand in hand with the generally accepted understanding: In order to ensure that the needs of future generations are met, but also to realize equal living standards for all, we have to make careful use of the given resources. This includes, on both a small and a large scale, the constant weighing and critical reflection on which systems and modes of action are passed on by the behavior of us as individuals and in collectives. We should ask ourselves more often: what comes from where, who was involved, how was it produced and where does it go again? Instead of just wanting "fast, new and better", we should generally take a deeper look at all the things and people we come into contact with, directly or indirectly. 

What does your "small town of the future" look like?

Julia Treichel: In my vision, the best aspects of both worlds would come together: the combination of small-town potentials and atmospheres with the opportunities and diversity of metropolises. I myself come from a small town and now live in the big city. I value my place of origin very much, but at the same time I could no longer live there today because I would miss certain aspects. Appropriate support for cultural offerings, optimal digital connections, successful infrastructures, as well as new construction and redevelopment projects that complement and develop the existing cityscape and urban structure, but do not generically overhaul them - all of this would be desirable. Another important element is the mutual exchange of lifestyles. Certainly, different views can sometimes lead to friction, but discussions that arise as a result always harbor potential.

What needs to change to achieve this vision?

Julia Treichel: I think competitions should increasingly promote designs that succeed in detecting the atmosphere and the specifics of the existing buildings on site and use them to drive urban development forward, instead of designing everything in the same way everywhere. In my opinion, smooth renderings often lack the courage to look for corners and edges - for reality. Of course, it looks good on paper when everything is clean and beautiful, but that often has nothing to do with the actual mood on site. People buy an image of their own city from a catalog. Increased participation of affected residents is also necessary. Participation can also be a way to establish a way of thinking that moves away from "owning only what is yours and demarcating it" to "working collaboratively to create livable places for all." This would establish an exchange within the neighborhood and possibly even beyond. 

What threatens the attractiveness of suburban areas?

Julia Treichel: Anonymity, monotony, and insignificance. Wherever suburban areas are seen and lived as mere appendages of or to something, they cannot develop a character of their own. In this way, suburban settlements are created that, for example, have no common meeting places, but function only as a string of single-family houses in which individuals separate themselves as much as possible from a communal life. It is also problematic when retail is dying out in small towns: formerly established, important social structures are disappearing as commercial areas develop with shopping centers that tap into all needs in one place. In my opinion, space is not just mere area for consumption. Space is created in communal processes, and for this to happen, there needs to be a debate among the residents, but also between people and place. 

Can you think of examples of well-planned projects?

Julia Treichel: I can't think of any specific small town ad hoc that I would say everything is perfect there. That's not to say there aren't many great examples. What I can name here, however, are a few projects whose planning and design approaches inspire me or that I consider successful. One example is the MPreis company from South Tyrol - a supermarket chain where no two stores look the same because they adapt to the conditions on site and respond to them in their design. I'm also fascinated by the clay buildings of architect Martin Rauch, who handles the building material, which is rather unusual in this country but is ecologically valuable, in an impressive way. He allows his buildings to be permanently changeable through erosion or wear, for example, instead of wanting to build for eternity. Many people are also familiar with the Norwegian office Snøhetta, which develops a lot of great architecture, spaces and products. All of them pursue the goal of not only having as little negative impact as possible ecologically, but even achieving a positive balance; and always very carefully in dialogue with the environment.

What does your future hold for you?

Julia Treichel: I graduated a few weeks ago and am now starting at the landscape architecture firm Valentien + Valentien. Here, classic open space design awaits me in a motivated team and the senior partners have an incredible amount of expertise and clever approaches. Along the way, I ponder spatial issues that transcend the sometimes pragmatic day-to-day office life with fellow students and cross-disciplinary enthusiasts in an open collective. As LAPensilina, we currently have mostly utopian musings, but maybe someday they can be translated into real projects.

Thank you to all applicants

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants for submitting numerous creative and inspiring essays and presentations. Today, urban developers and planners are asked to reduce energy and resource consumption, to use existing areas efficiently, or to develop a reliable infrastructure - all the while maintaining a high quality of life and attractive spaces for city dwellers. We are convinced that Julia's concept contributes an important perspective to this initiative and look forward to the sustainable development of many small towns.

Written by:

Annika Kiesewetter

Annika has been part of the experienced team of authors at EverEstate for almost five years. With her keen sense for topics related to real estate, architecture, art, and culture, she provides readers with insightful information.

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