Lößniger Piazza – space for community!

Conception of a mixed-use, participative & inclusive space

The planning of the new quarter wants a central town square. This offers great potential for public life and community in the neighbourhood. Commercial uses concentrates there as well.

Figure 1: Lößniger Piazza & planned distribution of uses in the Lößniger Straße urban quarter (source: BUWOG, 10/2020).

We now want to fill it with life through a utilization concept! To this purpose, we start with an analysis of the requirements that should be placed on the square. The guiding principle of a mixture of uses is essential for us, as well a participatory, connected and inclusive community. Based on the planned functions, you can then, in the second part, see the transfer of the concept into space on four sketches.

Requirements for the Lößniger Piazza

To design the space, we revisited all the articles published here so far. So we could identify requirements for the space from the perspectives of the different student groups.

Figure 2: Utilization concept. Own illustration.

Spaces for the community

In our two previously published articles “Where are the people between Südvorstadt and Südost?” and “Rethinking neighbourhoods: Overcoming polarization through participation!” we highlighted the importance of a connected community. Built structures are an important influence in shaping opportunities for participation in the living environment. As proposed in the second article, we will establish a community center; as well a non-profit repair workshop and a citizens’ office . This creates open spaces for self-organized projects and networking. Also the citizens’ office will strengthen communication channels to the city and property management.

The article “Activities for Everyone – Creating a Sustainable Mix of Uses” proposes a “venue for theater, dance and cinema” and an art gallery. Following this, we want to establish a “cultural arena” on the square. This will enable various such formats through appropriate interior design. The cultural arena should also provide spaces for the neighbourhood: Space for theater and music rehearsals, painting and more. Close networking with the community center makes sense. Also following the suggestion of our fellow students, we want to create an area for legal graffiti.

Public places and traffic routes

In the article “Quarter Lößniger Straße – yesterday’s mobility?” another group of students dealt with the requirements for traffic and the design of public spaces in the new quarter. They highlighted massive existing deficits in terms of spaces for pedestrians and cyclists in the surrounding area. Also, infrastructure for resting, such as benches and tables, is currently rare. Furthermore, according to the fellow students, the new public square should be barrier-free and create places for everyday encounters. An example for this could be the playground equipment.

Regarding to non-motorized traffic, the importance of the new main axes was emphasized. Especially the new cross-connection between Südvorstadt and Südost, which is to lead from Tarostrasse across Lößniger Piazza. We would also like to create further alternatives to the car with a non-profit cargo bike rental service. This can be integrated into our planned repair workshop. Sufficient parking facilities for bikes are also necessary.

Figure 3: Cargo-Bike-Community in Oldenburg (status: 24.01.2021).

Shopping and Gastronomy

The group of students behind the article “Activities for Everyone – Creating a Sustainable Mix of Uses” analyzed the site in terms of needs for grocery stores, retail and restaurants. The results: first, more of a café instead of going out in the evening. Second, there is a great potential for retail and the need for a grocery store. We want to take over the latter as a corner store and link it with a “Späti”. Possibly one owner could run both. Two stores will consider the retails. Above these, workshop spaces for production should create the conditions for an owner-managed and handicraft or artistically oriented retail. Finally, we would like to establish a small weekly market on the square. It will bring regional fruits and vegetables to the neighbourhood every week. Small areas for stalls on the piazza should be available.

Figure 4: Farmers’ market in Cologne (status: 23.01.2021).

Integrated ecological design

The importance of climate- and environment-friendly design was highlighted in “Nature – Here & Now“. Contributions to biodiversity and urban climate can be created not only in the directly adjacent city park. The development and the public square can also promote important ecological functions. Green roofs, street furniture and facades, street trees, wildflowers and raised beds are useful and necessary contributions. Animals and plants living in the urban space should be considered in the selection of planting and green design.

Figure 5: Vegetable Gardening on the roof (status: 23.01.2021).

Flexible & connecting architecture

The architecture of the adjacent buildings should support small-scale uses and remain flexible for following uses. The building structure must also promote the connection of the various uses in the community. The described spatial linking of production workshop and retail is a good example for this, also the passageways between the repair workshop and the community center. The exterior design of the buildings of the social and cultural institutions should also have an open effect on the public. Finally, a use of the roofs seems to be profitable: the mentioned greening including raised beds, the integration of table tennis and the installation of solar systems.

Spatial use concept

We now want to bring the derived requirements into the area. To illustrate this, we have drawn four sketches: an integration of the square into the surrounding infrastructure, the utilization concept for the piazza and two detailed plans for the two central facilities of social and cultural life: the community center and the cultural arena.

Pathway connections

Let’s start with the connections of the piazza to the new neighbourhood and the surrounding area. We have designed the piazza as a car-free zone to strengthen the space for pedestrians and cyclists as well as for direct social encounters. A traffic-calmed area on the south side (see Fig. 6) serves only as access for necessary journeys, for example rescue operations. There are no parking spaces. The square is reserved for pedestrians, except for the bicycle lane. The bicycle path runs in both directions on the north side of the square. Means from Lößniger Straße diagonally to the new S-Bahn crossing (see Fig. 6). In this way, the new neighbourhood can be crossed on autonomous bike paths. This provides a fast connection between Südvorstadt and Zentrum-Südost.

The planning of interconnected underground garages for the individual buildings will be the main access for car traffic. The delivery traffic for the retail trade can also take place via this. The access for the underground garages is located in the southern access road to the piazza (see Fig. 6), which is regularly open to car traffic between the access road and the main axis Kurt-Eisner-Straße. The adjacent Lößniger Straße to the west also provides a nearby access.

Figure 6: Traffic routes in the new quarter. Own illustration.

Design concept for the piazza

The center of the piazza will primarily function as a meeting place for the residents of the surrounding neighbourhood. The aim is to cover needs of different generations. There is a small playground for children, table-tennis, benches and tables (see Fig. 7). These can also serve as a place of retreat for workers from the surrounding offices during their lunch break. The square is lined with trees that create a spatial separation from the rest of the square. In summer they provide shade and help to improve the urban climate. Between them there is also space for stalls of the mentioned weekly market. Wildflowers can be planted in the middle of the long bench on the east side and in the raised beds along the sidewalks on the south side (see Fig. 7).

Surrounding facilities and stores

The community center will be located on the north side, exactly at the junction between the park and the piazza. Right next to it the repair workshop – they could be organized together. The repair workshop is also located directly next to the bike lane with its cargo bike rental. The cultural arena will be located in the single, large building on the south side (see Fig. 7). For certain events the pedestrian zone in front of it can be used. More on both the community center and the cultural arena later.

Figure 7: Utilization-concept Lößniger Piazza. Own illustration. (Click on the picture for a bigger illustration.)

For food supply, as described in the requirements, a small supermarket with connected “Späti” is available. Both are positioned on the east side of the square (see Fig. 7); the supermarket is designed as a corner store. In front of them the majority of bicycle racks. Gastronomy also finds its place in the piazza: in addition to the bistro on the west side, there is a small café with outdoor seating on the east side. Owner-operated retailers can lease the other commercial spaces on the north side. Both will have a workshop on the upper floor. This gives local craftspeople the opportunity to produce their products and sell them directly on the ground floor.

There is a parcel station so that residents can send parcels without having to use commercial space for a post office. Other special features of the Piazza are the information boards that provide information about the history and former uses of the site. This creates a link to the past, which is quickly forgotten due to the destruction of old buildings and the redesign of the piazza. They can be found among others on the east wall of the bistro. A facade directly beyond the community center is designated as a public graffiti wall. This gives local artists the opportunity to immortalize themselves on it and participate in the design of the neighbourhood.

The community-center: space for networking

Now more about our community center. With this center we would like to create an open place of togetherness. Here and in the adjacent self-organized repair workshop, volunteers and a few employees can coordinate social life and initiate community offerings. The structures should exist in a way that all who want to can contribute their own projects at any time. In addition, the citizens’ office within the community center should promote the exchange with house and city administrations.

Figure 8: Community-cafe in Lüneburg (status: 22.01.2021).

In order to emphasize the openness of the space, we decided on an appropriate design: open window fronts, outdoor areas facing the park and piazza, plenty of space for community time and projects, an open kitchen and, on the 1st floor, rooms without an assigned function that can be used in a self-organized manner. The open kitchen is especially suitable for cafés and cooking evenings for the community. The raised beds will provide fruits and vegetables for cooking. These are located both on the roof of the community center and in the adjacent park. Especially in summer, the outdoor seating can be used for this purpose.

Figure 9: Detailed plan of the community center, first floor. Own illustration.

The Cultural Arena: Diverse offers and a place for trying out

The cultural arena takes up three floors, of which the first floor is undoubtedly the main feature. Here, a large room will provide space for a wide variety of cultural event formats. On the upper floors, similar to the community center, there is space for self-organized projects, such as theater and music rehearsals.

Figure 10: The ballet dancers of the Leipzig Opera as guests at Tapetenwerk (status: 21.01.2021).

Although it is directly accessible from the street, this huge space is equipped with soundproof walls, excepting the west facade. There, sliding windows replace the thick walls, allowing an audience to take the adjacent green spaces for an event on warm days. On the first floor, artists can collaborate for a wide variety of formats. Only removable or modular furniture composes the space. They can be moved or folded at any time (e.g., the tables that can be fold against the walls, the slide-out stage or the retractable screen). The local residents will donate the audience chairs. Based on a concept of sharing, this focuses on personal identification.

Figure 11: Detailed plan of the Kulturarena, first floor. Own illustration.

Without real rooms, the second floor is designed according to the same principle. However, easily dismantled “blocks” store the furniture (eg. drums) and sliding walls can open up different combinations of rooms. In addition, there is a checkroom and sanitary facilities.

Outlook

We are confident that our conception of the square will open up the spaces that the new quarter needs in addition to its classic functions of living and working: spaces for a connected neighbourhood and community, for cultural offerings and for self-organized concerns. And the square can become a central place not only for residents of the new quarter, but also for the larger surrounding area: due to its accessibility and the proximity to the park, the cultural arena as well as shopping- and gastronomy offers.

We would like to see some of these ideas in the real development process. However, it remains to be said that in a project of this kind, broad, representative participation must precede such a conception. Participation in the design of a space creates a stronger personal identification with it and thus better conditions for neighbourly appropriation.

Figure 12: Neighbourhood party (status: 08.02.2021).
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