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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