On a street in a typical American suburb, every house has a driveway and a two-car garage. A new suburb planned outside Hamburg, Germany, takes a different approach: It’s still possible to drive home, but you won’t be able to park in front of your house. And most people will probably choose not to drive at all.
“It’s not a car-free neighborhood, but it’s a parking-free street,” says Darius Reznek, managing partner at Karres en Brands, a Dutch design firm that is working with Danish firm Adept on the project. “So there will be no cars parked on the street. Basically, we said that we don’t want cars to define the way streets look. We want to give respect to pedestrians and to public space, and not have it kind of cluttered with parking.”
The new neighborhood, which will build 7,000 homes and 5,000 office spaces on what is currently farmland, is next to a train station that takes commuters to the center of Hamburg in less than 15 minutes. Older developments nearby, built in the 1970s, are only housing. But the new neighborhood will have schools, stores, and offices that residents can walk or bike to within minutes. A green, parklike loop leads around the neighborhood. “The streets become much more recreative, and used as kind of shared living rooms [rather] than just for placing cars,” says Martin Laursen, founding partner at Adept.
For those who want to drive, there will be parking garages in the area, with ground-level space dedicated to other uses, from gyms to indoor farming. But the distance to the garages is just far enough that in most cases, it’s easier to avoid driving. “Even though you’re in a suburb, you have to walk 200 or 300 meters to your car,” he says. “So for everyday things, it’s easier to walk or bike.”
The designers are currently working on the master plan for the area, so the details of individual buildings haven’t yet been decided. But the neighborhood will be energy neutral, and when development begins in a few years, buildings will use the best technology available at the time. Because the area is prone to flooding, the designers are working with engineers to plan a system of canals, green roofs, and other green spaces that can absorb water to protect buildings when it rains. The neighborhood will also offer farming space for residents.
The development is expected to break ground in 2025, and while the first homes will be built not long after that, the whole project may not be completed before 2040. By that point, everyone living in the neighborhood might be driving an electric car. But the urban plan is about more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions; it shows how the public space on streets can be used differently. Cars are “not necessarily a bad thing,” says Reznek. “They just have determined, a little bit too much, the way our neighborhoods look in the past decades, and we wanted to change that.”