Monday, July 2, 2007

New use for an old airport

Messestadt Reim served as Munich's airport until 1992. When the airport was moved to a northern location, the city had a chance to propose a new use for the old airport area - a huge growth opportunity for Munich. This city has a dense urban form with very little real estate opportunities near the city center. What is remarkable about this development is the approach that was taken to plan and develop the site - putting the land and the landscape first. Messestadt Reim is located in a unique plain and meadow landscape at the foot of the Alps, and the new development celebrates the features of this landscape type in many ways.

Planning this new development included some critical decisions to integrate work places, homes, education, commerce and recreation. The Munich Fair, the convention and trade center for the city was relocated here. The next step was to put in all the infrastructure and utilities, including all the landscape elements. Today as I walk through the site, construction still continues on some of the phases, but the development has a complete feel, because the trees and landscaped parks, and plazas have had a chance to mature and become a part of the new residents and workers. This complex is incredibly well planned, and its features include district heating, use of a third of its energy from renewable resources, and green roofs on all flat surfaces. Stormwater is efficiently managed on the site, and residents have great quality of life without having to own cars. Two train stations, buses and trams serve the complex efficiently.

I am most taken by the elements of the landscape and their manifestation as part of the development. The plan includes simple elements like oaks, pines, and birches.Hedges define spaces and create rooms in the landscape. Large areas are managed as meadows - reminding us of the airport that used to be.
I walk upto the highest point on the site and see incredible vistas around me - the forests, the beach area, the new eco-high school with its green roofs. Meanwhile, construction continues within the framework of the landscape that was installed as part of the first phase of the project. Plantings follow the airport grid. The beach and water body was created as part of the first phase to have local recreation opportunities.
Plots for community gardens are planned into the development and have been successful in attracting gardeners. The development charges a fee for the plot and there is a waiting list now for new plots.

Most of the landscape is filled with grasses and perenniels, there is very little grass that is mowed beyond the seasonal mowings of the meadows.

There are hints of the wide airport runways- long vistas and great green corridors that give residents opportunities for many active and passive recreation options.
Kids have taken over this area and created their own hide-out!
Very simple courtyards serve as bike storage areas, and small play areas for younger kids.

These flats have just been constructed, yet the trees were planted a couple years ago.

Wonderfully creative play areas dot the development.

The local kindergarten's play area ....
Bike paths connect every part of the development as well as link to greenways that connect to the city center.
The main part of the development includes a large plaza with a grove of pine trees - very simple, yet quite elegant.
There is also space for a farmers market and local products at the train station plaza.

It seems to me that this development works because there is a lot of consideration given to choices that people could make as part of their daily lives. The landscape amenities play into this focus in a huge way, providing many recreation and quality of life elements that make families choose this development. Messestadt Reim is a case in point of how critical quality landscapes are to urban life.

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