Berlin Declaration: Building Bridges

30 Years of the European City — Review and Prospects

Berlin Declaration:  Building Bridges

After the pre­pa­ra­to­ry con­ven­ti­on held in Bru­ges (April 2003), the foun­da­ti­on mee­ting held in Stock­holm (Novem­ber 2003), and its con­fe­ren­ce and Decla­ra­ti­on on Edu­ca­ti­on in Viseu (May 2004) the Coun­cil for Euro­pean Urba­nism (CEU) has held its first inter­na­tio­nal con­gress in Sep­tem­ber 2005 in Ber­lin orga­nis­ed by CEU’s Ger­man Chap­ter. At the end of the Con­gress the fol­lo­wing “Ber­lin Decla­ra­ti­on” was publis­hed:

De-indus­tria­liza­t­i­on, sprawl, increa­sing traf­fic, soci­al pola­ri­sa­ti­on, age­ing, the ener­gy cri­sis and shrin­king popu­la­ti­ons con­front the Euro­pean city with enor­mous chal­len­ges to their urban deve­lop­ment. Politi­ci­ans, inves­tors, experts and citi­zens’ initia­ti­ves in many Euro­pean coun­tries have tried a varie­ty of stra­te­gies to respond to the soci­al, envi­ron­men­tal and eco­no­mic chan­ges in the glo­ba­li­sed world with more or less suc­cess in their efforts. The­se dif­fe­rent expe­ri­en­ces need to be asses­sed and space given for a ran­ge of views, the exch­an­ge of best prac­tice examp­les, and final­ly the dis­cus­sion of the fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­on: What kind of city do we want to have? This is not sim­ply an aca­de­mic ques­ti­on but one that deter­mi­nes the ever­y­day life of cities and com­mu­nities.

Berlin’s urban poli­cy pro­vi­ded Con­gress par­ti­ci­pants with an exam­ple for other Euro­pean cities. The „cri­ti­cal recon­struc­tion” of the reu­ni­ted city’s tra­di­tio­nal urban struc­tu­re has pro­vi­ded a via­ble alter­na­ti­ve to post WWll moder­nist plan­ning in both East and West Ber­lin.

More broad­ly, we know that Euro­pean urba­nism should coun­ter­act urban sprawl, the deva­lua­ti­on of urban are­as and the soci­al, eco­no­mic and cul­tu­ral ero­si­on of cities, towns, vil­la­ges and the coun­try­si­de. Fur­ther­mo­re it should help to impro­ve the qua­li­ty of urban space, sup­port local iden­ti­ty, redu­ce soci­al gaps and save resour­ces. It is also import­ant to pro­mo­te efforts to hand­le our natu­ral resour­ces res­pon­sibly. For exam­ple, the Euro­pean city regi­on must try to les­sen its depen­den­ce on oil. Urba­nism is a key to the form of our future life, our eco­no­my, our cul­tu­re, and our socie­ty. So the future of Euro­pean urba­nism is import­ant not only for experts and spe­cia­lists; but for ever­y­bo­dy living in urban space and should invol­ve all the sta­ke­hol­ders in Euro­pean urba­nism.

The Con­gress demons­tra­ted that the fun­da­men­tal chan­ges to our cities, towns, vil­la­ges and coun­try­si­de requi­re us to build bridges in many are­as. We need bridges:

  • bet­ween Euro­pean cities, towns, vil­la­ges and the coun­try­si­de,
  • bet­ween all the sta­ke­hol­ders in urban deve­lop­ment,
  • wit­hin plan­ning, urban desi­gn and archi­tec­tu­ral pro­fes­si­ons,
  • bet­ween urba­nist insti­tu­ti­ons and net­works, and
  • bet­ween Euro­pe and the rest of the world.

1. Bridges bet­ween Euro­pean cities, towns, vil­la­ges and the coun­try­si­de
The streng­th of Euro­pe lies in its cul­tu­ral varie­ty, in the rich­ness of its cities, towns, vil­la­ges and coun­try­si­de and its cul­tu­ral land­scapes. Cities and regi­ons are in com­pe­ti­ti­on with each other, but at the same time they need mutual coope­ra­ti­on, in order to be able to com­pe­te world-wide. The exch­an­ge of expe­ri­en­ces about the deve­lop­ment and recon­struc­tion of Euro­pean cities is of out­stan­ding import­an­ce but this exch­an­ge has not yet deve­lo­ped enough. The CEU can act as a medi­um to make it pos­si­ble to inten­si­fy the exch­an­ge of expe­ri­en­ces and ide­as in the field of urba­nism wit­hin Euro­pe in ways sum­med up in its Char­ter.

2. Bridges bet­ween all the par­ti­ci­pants in urban deve­lop­ment
Dis­cus­sions on urban deve­lop­ment issu­es often take pla­ce in a very iso­la­ted way bet­ween dif­fe­rent sec­tors and groups. Dif­fe­rent sta­ke­hol­ders have their own lan­gua­ge and their own cen­tral ide­as. The exch­an­ge of ide­as bet­ween dif­fe­rent groups is still under­de­ve­lo­ped. The CEU can be a medi­um for ide­as exch­an­ge bet­ween dif­fe­rent sta­ke­hol­ders, in the dia­lo­gue bet­ween poli­cy makers, admi­nis­tra­tors, eco­no­mists, soci­al sci­en­tists and other urban experts, bet­ween prac­tical plan­ners, urban desi­gners, archi­tects, land­scape archi­tects, sci­en­tists in various fiel­ds, inves­tors, real esta­te mana­gers and com­mu­ni­ty groups.

3. Bridges bet­ween archi­tec­tu­ral, desi­gn and plan­ning pro­fes­si­ons
Experts in urban desi­gn, plan­ning and archi­tec­tu­re are divi­ded into many dif­fe­rent blocs. When it comes to urba­nism such blocs are not very hel­pful. Above all, CEU says, through its char­ter, that archi­tec­tu­re and plan­ning must be decisi­ve­ly sub­or­di­na­ted to urba­nism. All the urban pro­fes­si­ons need to work toge­ther for the impro­ve­ment of city regi­ons, peri­phe­ries, exis­ting sub­urbs and his­to­ric city cores. The CEU sup­ports urba­nism that con­siders city regi­ons as a who­le but works at a fine grain and a human sca­le.

4. Bridges bet­ween urba­nist insti­tu­ti­ons and net­works
The Coun­cil for Euro­pean Urba­nism (CEU) belie­ves that only with others can we work on urba­nist issu­es in a con­struc­tive way. That is why the Coun­cil for Euro­pean Urba­nism stri­ves for coope­ra­ti­on with net­works and insti­tu­ti­ons which care for urba­nism expli­cit­ly or impli­cit­ly. We want to coope­ra­te with asso­cia­ti­ons in the fiel­ds of archi­tec­tu­re, urban desi­gn, land­scape plan­ning, city and regio­nal plan­ning and urban deve­lop­ment, with govern­ment insti­tu­ti­ons, with sci­en­ti­fic insti­tu­ti­ons and net­works, with asso­cia­ti­ons and insti­tu­ti­ons dea­ling with real esta­te, as well as with com­mu­ni­ty initia­ti­ves and non-govern­men­tal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. Such coope­ra­ti­on should put joint objec­tives to the fore, and allow dif­fe­rent views to be dis­cus­sed con­struc­tive­ly wit­hin the con­text of the approach advo­ca­ted in our Char­ter.

5. Bridges bet­ween Euro­pe and the rest of the world
The CEU stands as a part­ner with orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and move­ments that pro­mo­te urba­nism in the rest of the world. We intend to con­ti­nue to work in clo­se col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the Con­gress for the New Urba­nism (CNU) in the USA espe­cial­ly to pro­mo­te joint efforts in the after­ma­th of hur­ri­ca­ne Kat­ri­na in New Orleans and its regi­on. We also sup­port the deve­lop­ment of urba­nism move­ments in other parts of the world, as for exam­ple in Aus­tra­lia and New Zea­land, and the Move­ment for the Israe­li Urba­nism (MIU).

Pro­po­sal in the after­ma­th of Hur­ri­ca­ne Kat­ri­na
The city regi­on of New Orleans has been lar­ge­ly des­troy­ed by a natu­ral dis­as­ter — this is a lar­ge-sca­le human tra­ge­dy. We decla­re our soli­da­ri­ty with New Orleans and its peop­le. It will be a great chal­len­ge for ever­y­bo­dy to recon­struct this city. We pro­po­se to erect a trans­at­lan­tic bridge of spe­cia­lists from the United Sta­tes and Euro­pe, to sear­ch for ways to res­to­re the city of New Orleans wit­hin the urba­nist frame­work of our Char­ter. Fur­ther­mo­re we sug­gest the orga­niza­t­i­on of an inter­di­sci­pli­na­ry Urban Con­gress with CNU and pos­si­bly other orga­niza­t­i­ons in future, in order to con­cen­tra­te efforts and to dis­cuss stra­te­gies for rene­wal. Indi­vi­dual mem­bers of CEU also offer sup­port in regio­nal and soci­al plan­ning, water manage­ment and hou­sing con­struc­tion.


Inau­gu­ral Urba­nism Award
During the Con­gress, the CEU made its first Award -The CEU Award for Achie­ve­ment in Urba­nism — 2005 to Dr Hans Stimmann, Direc­tor of the Ber­lin Sena­te Admi­nis­tra­ti­on for Urban Plan­ning.

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