URBED were invited to take part in the Architektursommer Rhein-Main Lab involving 8 architecture and design practices from across Europe. This culminated in a week long residency in a temporary pavilion in Goetheplatz in the centre of Frankfurt, designed by Ian Shaw.

URBED was involved with the ASRM Lab 2014, and visited problematic and neglected urban and semi-rural spaces in order to explore ‘the regional city’. This involved a workshop ran over 4 days with participants visiting various sites, discussing with local practices and planners from the different regions the constraints and issues facing each area. Visit the ASRM 2014 project here.

The ASRM Lab 2015 led URBED to take a different approach, occupying the ASRM Lab pavilion in Goethplatz where the public were invited over 3 days to take part in constructing a plasticine model of Frankfurt. Whilst taking part in the construction, they were asked to highlight the areas of the city they found particularly interesting and creative in shades of red and yellow. The idea was to get a view of the city from the people who lived there, helping us understand which areas were seen as vibrant from a bottom up approach, whilst also helping the public view their own city under a different lens.

A time-lapse video of the event by PeopleStaring can be seen below.

Why the Offenbach Block?

Frankfurt is actually a conurbation of six cities and, on the southern bank of the River Main, lies the City of Offenbach. This once the focus of the city’s Jewish community and is now home to a large Arab community.

We became fascinated by the large urban blocks of Offenbach enclosed by a grid of streets but retaining the older geometry of field boundaries and plot divisions from a time when the area was rural. These messy urban blocks stood in contrast to the looming presence of the European Central Bank being constructed over the river. The Offenbach blocks were full of life, ringed with shops and cafes below apartments housing a wide range of people. Deep within the blocks could be found all manner of activities, workshops and garages, artists studios and warehouses all alongside more housing. It seemed to us, as outsiders, that this was the interesting part of the city, and was likely to be where new ideas, creativity and start-up businesses would emerge, rather than the shiny towers of the banks and corporate offices. The Offenbach Block was the building-block of the creative city.

In the modern world of tech start-ups and the weightless economy cities have become reliant on their creative class. Those that can foster a strong counterculture and a diverse economy of creative business will become magnets of young people, energy and investment. This has profound implications for the way that we plan cities, places that were once dismissed as ghettos or backwaters could become more important than shiny business parks and office blocks. The Offenbach block or the Northern Quarter block could be the building block of a whole new economy.

Inside the pavillion…