Changes in a city often emerge from the sidelines, from inhabitants who strive for change. Change that is either prompted by an aesthetic, a functional or a philosophical drive. And though these developments often seem strange, far-fetched and totally unrealistic in the eyes of the mainstream, they can be the cradle of innovation. And so I joined the ‘Stadtwandeln-Tour’ in the district of Bockenheim to get a feeling of the Frankfurter fringe. And it was a very good choice, the fringes are stirring.
Urban gardening (beehives, insect hotels and a vegetable plot) and green roofs can be found near the Senckenburg Museum. A central square is being refurbished by locals with plant containers, picnic tables and comfortable benches for senior citizens. Need advice on energy efficiency and buildings or want to join a car-sharing project? These are housed one of the world’s first large passive building projects. Climate friendly taxi service? Look no further, the bicycle-taxi garage is down the road. And the quaintest of projects is Botanoadopt: Orphaned plants found on the street are given a second chance. You can adopt a plant, but this comes with an obligation. Once adopted the organization expects you to send a photograph twice a year to show that the plant is thriving in your care. A creative attempt to promote the value of botanical life.
On the boundary of the city districts Westend and Bockenheim lies the former nerve center of the Goethe University. The University is however moving to Westend and Riedberg. A city development project which will have a huge impact on the demographics and thus the atmosphere in Bockenheim as students and researchers move away. Buildings are being destroyed to make way for something new. The ‘something’ is however very unclear as the ‘Kultur campus’ which was to be established here is as yet not really taking shape. The city and regional politicians are postponing the necessary financial decisions.
Several local initiatives are attempting to influence the decision makers. The Bockenheim community center struggles for affordable housing, as the Westend price levels are creeping over the borderline. There is an active lobby for the preservation of the old university buildings. The Senckenburg biodiversity and climate research center is housed in one of the ‘old’ campus buildings which was not destroyed in the general overhaul. It is one of those buildings that you have to learn to love: a functional concrete structure designed by campus architect Kramer in the fifties. This building was ahead of its time when it comes to sustainability. The exterior is covered by brise-soleils, a concrete grid that breaks the rays of the sun to prevent over-heating of the rooms in summer. An apt spot for climate research.
What a inspiring insight into the city’s narratives and happenings, I think I’ll join the Bornheim tour too.
More information about the walk can be found here.