TXLplus – Smart Green City in Berlin

Cities are the epicentre of economic and social activity. Urbanisation is a global megatrend: More than 50% of the world population live in cities and many more are expected to join. In fact, Berlin should lead by example and evolve into a smart green capital. At GVS10, Prof. Dr. Meinhard von Gerkan, founding partner of gmp Architects, presented his vision for TXL+ – the new Smart Green City in Berlin Tegel. Ecosummit 2011 will feature several sessions investigating how we can transform any city into a Smart Green City.

460 Hectares Free Urban Space in Berlin

Today, TXL is an airport with a famous global brand. At the same time, TXL is a small city and economy within Germany’s capital where people eat, drink and shop before flying. More than 15 million passengers move through the airport Tegel into and out of Berlin each year. On June 3, 2012, airport operations will be shut down in Tegel and transferred to the new airport Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) in Schönefeld.

The result is 460 hectares (4,6 KM2) of “free” high-quality, urban space close to Berlin’s city centre, next to a small forest and beautiful lake (Tegeler See). This is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Berlin’s city planners, architects, companies and citizens to jointly create a new vision for the city of the future. We should use this urban space in a smart way that supports the long-term economic and ecological prospects of the entire city, our country and the planet. And we should involve the best companies in the world in this megaproject.

Berlin urgently needs a competitive advantage in the global competition for attractive company locations to create jobs and tax income. However, another industry and technology park, as currently planned by Berlin’s Senate for Urban Development according to its urban development plan (Flächennutzungsplan), will not serve as a sustainable competitive advantage for Berlin. First of all, such an industry and technology park competes with local, national and international factory and office location clusters. Second, due to the lack of an underlying location USP companies have to be allured by expensive tax breaks and subsidies. On the other hand, modern cities that blend working and living through intelligent mixed use concepts create demand by providing high-value quality of life that corporate and private residents are willing to pay for.

Do we have the option to build the smart green city in another area in Berlin? 4 arguments support the idea of positioning the model future city in Tegel:

  • TXL is a strong brand and TXL+ will be a strong brand, too. Starting the marketing of TXL+ in summer 2011 at TXL enables 15 million passengers to learn about it until summer 2012.
  • There is no other comparable free urban space within Berlin offering the necessary critical mass in terms of size. 460 hectares are large enough to accomodate 40-50.000 residents (depending on density) plus a similar number of daily commuters working inside and living outside of TXL+.
  • This critical size is necessary to motivate companies to invest in the development and production of new green products and services needed in the city of the future and to benefit from economies of scale. For example, 1.000 shared electric city cars for 30.000 drivers is a very attractive deal for the city car maker.
  • The natural habitat and forest next to TXL+ can best be enjoyed by residents and visitors if TXL+ is a smart green city and not just an industry and technology park.

Consequently, I recommend expanding the current land development plan of creating an industry and technology park in Tegel in favour of building the smart green city TXL+. Building a small model city of the future and embedding it within the existing big city is a smart strategy for Berlin to sustain a long-term competitive advantage. The big city will be able to learn from the small model city by copying and expanding its best practices. The best strategy for the new model city is to be future-proof by being smart and green.

Long-term Smart Green City Strategy

TXL+ should follow a long-term smart green strategy with the aim of creating a state-of-the-art working and living space that is sustainable and eco-friendly and uses the latest smart and green technologies, products and services. TXL+ shall function as a role model for the megacity Berlin and the rest of the world.

The smart green city in Berlin should be developed in 3 phases: First, renovate and upgrade the existing Terminal A building and convert the Terminal of the Future into a Smart Green Campus, opening planned for early 2013. Second, build TXL+ as a Smart Green City around the Terminal of the Future. Third, transform the whole city of Berlin into a Smart Green Capital by integrating the best practices of TXL+ into the rest of the city.

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