Festplatz Neu Ulm, a neighborhood for the 21st century
In 2017, the Bavarian city of Neu-Ulm launched an idea competition for revitalizing one of its neighborhood. DGA and partner architect Waldemar Wilwer took the chance to reflect on what makes a neighborhood.
The goal: Located just outside of the old city wall, the buildings of Vorfeld are converted American barracks which enjoy greenery but little else. As the city experiences demographic growth, our task was to envision a densification which would include housing, production and commercial uses.
Our concept starts with a bold move. An American-inspired urban grid echoing the site’s history is applied on the neighborhood. It forms an infrastructure of paths and blocks where the densification can happen over time. The grid is abruptly cut along a respectful distance of the existing buildings and around all the existing trees. This move enables to preserve the greenery which makes the site so pleasant and makes every block unique.
At the center of the grid lies the Festplatz, the public square. It is the first element to be built.. The new Vorfeld resembles the gothic new towns established in pacified areas of Europe in the 13th century, of which the French Bastides are a good surviving example. These non-fortified new towns were organized around a prominent market square. Peasants who moved there became free men and took part in the democratic management of their town. Urban growth was organized inside “macroblocks” which housed a wide range of programs including housing, production or exchange functions.
Vorfeld’s macroblocks consist of a plinth for light productive, commercial, social and other non-residential activities, surmounted by free-standing housing buildings.
This simple and rational scheme creates a dense inner-city feeling on the ground floor, combined with airy openness above the plinth.