Urban planning
The Garden City Drewitz in Potsdam

Drewitz, Potsdam’s Garden City
Drewitz, Potsdam’s Garden City | Photo (detail): © Adam Sevens, Pro Potsdam

More green, more residential comfort and less carbon dioxide emission: the prefab estate Drewitz is being turned into a garden city – and by 2050 perhaps will be the first emission-free neighbourhood in Potsdam.

A pivotal first step was the transformation of the oversized main thoroughfare into a park. Just a few years ago, the Konrad-Wolf-Allee, a noisy traffic artery, crossed through the quarter, bordered by parking lots and slab-construction monotony. Today, the decommissioned street has become Konrad-Wolf-Park and at the same time Drewitz’ living, green centre. Ornamental cherry trees and roses, fountains and seating areas, and paths enjoyed by residents: the park creates connections between people on their way to work or shopping – or simply enjoying their leisure time in green spaces right at their doorsteps.

Garden City Drewitz Garden City Drewitz | © Benjamin Maltry, Pro Potsdam The district of Drewitz in Potsdam’s southwest arose in the late 1980’s as one of the GDR’s last urban development areas. Here, on a surface area of 38 hectares, about 5,500 people live in 3,000 flats. In 2009, the municipal real-estate firm Pro Potsdam commissioned various planers to develop a concept for the large-scale housing estate’s energy-related modernisation and remediation. A proposal resulted that went even further: the conversion of the prefab estate into a garden city.

The Potsdam city council agreed and between 2011 and 2013, the quarter’s traffic lane was transformed into a park. Carsten Hagenau, managing director of the firm Projektkommunikation Hagenau GmbH, has co-developed the concept from the outset: “Through the conversion of the Konrad-Wolf-Allee into a park, we removed the through-traffic from the estate and in doing so not only reduced the CO2 emission, but also the exposure to noise and particulates.”

Awards for the “Green Slab”

The park is currently being expanded into a green cross by means of a transverse axis. The stated goal is to develop Drewitz into an emission-free city district by 2050. One important element here is reduced hearting consumption in energy-remediated flats. Moreover, one does not necessarily need an auto in Drewitz, as the quarter is very well integrated into the public mass transport system. New tenants of one-room flats are even given a year’s ticket for the municipal transport system free of charge. Carsten Hagenau: “To date we have been able to conserve 952 tonnes of CO2 per household annually through the creation of the park, renovated and remediated flats and the declining number of vehicles per household.” The emissions balance will continue to improve since the renovation and remediation is continuing, and in addition, starting in January 2017, Drewitz will be supplied with green, i.e. CO2-free, district heating.

Garden City Drewitz before/ after Garden City Drewitz before/ after | Ulf Böttcher and Adam Sevens, Pro Potsdam In 2014 the garden city Drewitz was distinguished by the German federal competition “Kommunaler Klimaschutz” (i.e. municipal climate protection). In the same year, the jury of the Deutscher Städtebaupreis (i.e. German urban development prize) honoured the project. “The awards show that effective climate protection and high-quality urban development are by no means mutually exclusive,” says Carsten Hagenau, who is delighted about the exemplary character of Potsdam’s “Green Slab.”
Urban developers inform themselves on-site about the project on a regular basis, including experts from China, Finland, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan and France. Carsten Hagenau is convinced: “Our concept can be implemented in other quarters as well.”

Resident participation

Rents in Drewitz must remain affordable after renovation and remediation, but this too is part of the garden city’s concept. Likewise the community centre “Oskar,” which opened in 2013 in the neighbourhood school Am Priesterweg, provides space for leisure activities, entertainment and socialising.
Carsten Hagenau underscores the importance of Drewitz residents’ participation in the conversion of their quarter. “There were 64 public presentations just about the Konrad-Wolf-Park.” From children to seniors in retirement homes: Carsten Hagenau: “In the past there were hardly any children out and about on the street. Today one sees a great many, simply because they make use of the open and green spaces that have emerged.”

Garden City Drewitz Garden City Drewitz | © Benjamin Maltry, Pro Potsdam Citizens’ spokeswoman Kati Anton sums up: “The atmosphere has changed. Drewitz has become greener, more open, and more liveable.” But there is still plenty left to do. Thus, Kati Anton advocates that the tram drive only at walking speed through the green centre of Drewitz. After all, it is now a place where people encounter each other instead of cars.