My Favourite Plan, Berlin Planwerk Innenstadt, 1999
Berlin Planwerk Innenstadt, 1999 | Source: Berlin, Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Wohnen
WHY I LIKE IT...
Berlin is a city that I started to get to know in 1996 when I went there for the first time with my now wife, who is a German planner. We stood in what is Potsdamer Platz today, then the no-man’s-land of the Wall between East and West Berlin, and wondered about the scheme to redevelop this part of the city, which can be visited today. Since then, I have been back to the city many times, as an academic and a tourist, and gradually pieced together the rich tapestry of its design and development, with layers of thinking building up to the present result. It is a good example of what Colin Rowe would characterise as a collage city.
This 1999 plan brings all of those moments of history together on one page and summarised what was in the pipeline following Reunification, as the capital functions returned to the city. It is a kind of index, giving citizens and investors a sense of what has planning consent, and giving everyone an ordered sense of how the city willdevelop. Within its detail are many interesting and controversial schemes which can be compared to some that are happening closer to home. Is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe a successful piece of design? Would or should we rebuild a royal palace today, if we were a republic? How are the Critical Reconstruction neighbourhood projects of the 1980s holding up today and what can be learned from them? Although originally drawn up in 1999, the plan is kept up-to-date, presumably because it is useful.
HOW IT CAN BE USED OR APPLIED...
When I moved from academia to practice, I suggested to colleagues that we build a model of Cardiff city centre and the bay for our own reference and in order to keep a similar record of what is built, what is in the pipeline and what has consent. Built by us over a few years using Sketchup, it has become an invaluable tool which we can open up at any time, and into which we can quickly model and discuss new proposals as part of our own internal design review discussions. Sometimes we ping back to applicants graphic suggestions and ideas based on our conclusions, or clarify views or areas for which we need more ideas. It took me a while to realise that I had suggested this because of the influence that the Berlin plan had on me. In spite of the greater certainties of the German planning process, we are still able to use a similar tool, albeit in a slightly more dynamic way, in our own system.
Urban designer with Cardiff Council in the Placemaking Team
Design Commissioner, Design Commission for Wales
RTPI Research Awards judge and member of the RTPI Partnership Board helping to accredit planning programmes
24 years in academia at Liverpool University and Cardiff University