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Unexplored suburbia: Does the future of cities lie in the suburbs?

A large part of the population lives in the "suburban space" - in suburbs and outskirts of cities. But while the inner city and attempts to revitalise it are the focus of general interest, the periphery is considered practical but boring. Yet a lot has been happening there for some years. A research group from urban planning, landscape planning and social sciences is investigating whether the future of the city is emerging in the periphery.

Image: Florian Bellin-Harder.

"A lot has changed in the outskirts of cities in recent years," describes Prof. Dr.-Ing. Uwe Altrock, head of the Department of Urban Renewal and Planning Theory and spokesperson for the group. "Rising demand for housing is again leading to the establishment of entire city quarters, but cities want to do this better than in the past. These neighbourhoods often aspire to be urban and liveable, conserving resources and providing functions otherwise associated with centres, such as jobs or vibrant city squares. But does it work?"

This is a core question of the new research group. What future of living and coexistence is emerging in the new neighbourhoods? Do they work, and if so, what does life look like there? Or is reality forcing cutbacks from the grand plans? The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the research group "Urban Expansion in Times of Reurbanisation - New (Sub-)Urbanity" under the leadership of the University of Kassel with an estimated 3.3 million euros.

Over the next four years, the research group will combine perspectives from urban and regional planning, open space and landscape planning as well as spatial social sciences. Sub-projects will deal, for example, with the underlying urban planning models of large-scale urban expansions, the interaction with infrastructure or with biodiversity in new development areas. Large-scale projects in or near Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt/Main and Freiburg are examined as examples. In Freiburg, for example, the climate-neutral Dietenbach district for around 16,000 people is currently being built at a cost of around 1.3 billion euros.

Seven departments at the University of Kassel, the HafenCity University in Hamburg and the Technical and Humboldt Universities in Berlin are involved in the research group.