• Thomas Sevcik, Arthesia
  • Matthias Barthauer
March 22, 2022

Urban Evolution

How are our cities changing and what potential can we exploit? JLL and the strategy boutique Arthesia, which specialises in narratives, have joined forces to address the future questions of our cities. Thomas Sevcik, founder of Arthesia and mastermind of Wolfsburg's Autostadt, and JLL researchers Helge Scheunemann and Matthias Barthauer jointly developed the white paper "Urban Evolution" on this basis.

New use types in the city

Athens, 1933. It was here that the international urban development congress passed the Athens Charter with its strict division of uses into areas dedicated to living, working and leisure within urban structures. This model has shaped our cities for over 70 years and in view of the huge population growth combined with the dramatic increase in motor traffic, this concept has appeared to be a sensible approach.

But has this one guiding light really been the underlying concept for our cities throughout history? Certainly not, as their growth and prosperity began long before. In the pre-industrial city, the centres emerged at the crossroads of trade and communication routes, and social and economic life took place in public squares, streets and other such places typically used for trading purposes. Above all, buildings fulfilled a multi-functional purpose: properties in which people lived, worked and traded at one and the same time. The sign maker, gunsmith and bag maker produced their goods in the city, and sold the goods on-site immediately. Production took place in parallel with trade, and the word monostructure did not yet exist.

Even before the Leipzig Document of 2007 - officially entitled the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities - there had been a return to pre-industrial urban structures. The use-demarcated city came under the microscope and the concept of sustainability found its way into future-oriented urban development for the first time. In short, today’s model is the mixed-use and sustainable city with short distances. Yet it took ten years before urban land use planning created the legal basis for allowing higher density construction and a broader mix of uses in the form of the urban district, where this had previously been strictly prohibited by planning law.

The city of the future will not be defined exclusively by city centres, but rather the city’s full potential will lie outside the core area in the ‘in-between city’ (Zwischenstadt). This refers to everything which is neither the city centre nor a classic green suburb. In many cities such as Cologne, Berlin and Paris, this is traditionally located outside the historic railway ring line. Important infrastructure such as airports and ports and also large office and logistic zones form part of this in-between city.

There are two specific developments which will increasingly influence our cities and their real estate markets over the coming years: the location of manufacturing companies in the city under revised conditions, known as neo-manufacturing, and the new industrial production of food, known as vertical farming.

In terms of a multi-functional cityscape, they present interesting utilisation options which are relevant for property developers and investors, and also for public sector decision-makers.

These new use types are also extremely important in view of the socio-political discussions on the topic of resilience. These focus on an improved supply function in special situations, certain elements of self-sufficiency and near- and reshoring, i.e. the return of value-added activities from Asia or other countries back to Europe or even to one's own country, onto the agenda of Western countries. Local production and supply are once again gaining importance, a relevance reinforced by the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The new use types are particularly relevant to goals 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and 12 (responsible production and consumption).

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