THE SUSTAINABLE URBAN DISTRICT OF VAUBAN IN FREIBURG, GERMANY
Free (open access)
Volume 8 (2013), Issue 4
265 - 286
G. J. COATES
The university town of Freiburg, Germany has a well-deserved reputation as the European capital of environmentalism and sustainable architecture and urban design. The city is perhaps best known for the development of two model sustainable urban districts, Rieselfeld and Vauban, both of which integrate multi-modal transportation linkages, ecological storm water management, low-energy passive solar houses, combined heating and power (CHP) systems, mixed uses (both public and private), local schools and a variety of shops to meet everyday needs, thus reducing greatly the need for private car ownership. The focus of this paper is on Vauban, a mixed-use district of some 5,100 residents, which has been built on the site of a former French military base. Unlike Rieselfeld and most other European sustainable urban districts, Vauban grew from the grass roots up and was largely designed and developed (within city guidelines and with technical assistance provided by the city) by many Baugruppen, small ecologically and socially progressive homeowner cooperatives organized under the auspices of the Vauban Forum. Members of each Baugruppe worked with their chosen architect to design their own apartments and housing blocks as well as their shared outdoor living spaces. The result is a community that is socially cohesive and architecturally diverse. Excellent light rail connections to all of Freiburg, as well as car sharing clubs and extensive walking and bicycle paths, offer Vauban residents everything they need for everyday life without owning a car. In addition to pioneering new patterns of user-developed ecological urban design, Vauban also has been a leader in setting new low energy standards for buildings in Freiburg as well as for the rest of Germany. Based on a review of the literature, interviews with selected architects and residents as well as on-site observations by the author, this paper presents a comprehensive description of Vauban as a successful example of participatory design and development, as well as social, economic, architectural and technological sustainability.
Baugruppen, biophilic design, ‘car-free’ living, carbon neutral building design, child-friendly urbanism, combined heat and power systems, design for social diversity, ecological storm water management, participatory planning, Passivhaus and Plusenergie®