Dr Meier, the Überseeinsel urban development project is currently the talk of the town. Where exactly is the Überseeinsel?
The Überseeinsel is part of the southern section of the Europahafen, i.e. the former business premises of Kellogg’s. The entire southern section is bordered by the Europahafen to the north, and the River Weser to the south, and is a 41-hectare peninsula, meaning that it is surrounded by water on three sides. The US company Kellogg’s manufactured many of its products, including cornflakes, on 15 hectares of this section for more than 50 years, and there are still a lot of sheds and industrial buildings on the site. Kellogg’s closure of its production facilities in November 2017 gave rise to a new situation and the search was on for a sustainable concept for the future. Preliminary studies bore the working title ‘Europahafen - South Side’, but now we speak more fittingly of the southern sector of the Europahafen and of the Überseeinsel.
At the end of May, you signed an urban development agreement with Bremen City Council (represented by Dr Joachim Lohse, Senator for the Environment, Construction and Transport) to develop the Überseeinsel peninsula. This took place as part of a special joint meeting with the municipal deputations for the Environment, Construction, Transport, Urban Development, Energy, and Agriculture as well as for Economic Affairs, Labour, and Ports. Can you tell me about the content and substance of the agreement, including its specific plans and objectives?
The agreement sets out the rough framework for the next few years and describes the results of the urban development competition. As an investor, Europa-Immobilien GmbH also declares its commitment to the findings of the preliminary studies and gives a broad-brush statement of its construction intentions i.e. the type and scale of the buildings. The agreement also stipulates that childcare centres and a primary and middle school are desired, and that appropriate space will be made available for these. Finally, it gives a rough outline of the proportion of land devoted to living and working, relative to the proportion available for public use.
Were there any reservations or hurdles to be overcome when putting the agreement together?
There was a great convergence of interests among the signatories to the agreement, and the negotiation process was really very pleasant. This is remarkable actually as in business, agreements are usually thrashed out in an adversarial process, with interest-based bargaining and tough negotiations on prices. Luckily, this was not the case here due to the parallel interests of the Senator for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports and the Senator for the Environment, Construction, and Transport.
How much consideration is given to the master plan for the Überseestadt in the agreement?
The Überseestadt master plan is of course the basis, but didn’t originally have anything to say about the Überseeinsel peninsula. In this respect, our agreement is an update, but one that needs to be fleshed out further, as both sides are aware. The next steps are a framework plan to add substance and detail, followed by robust, detailed development plans for various zones.
Which architecture firms are involved and how was the competition structured?
The aim of the competition was not to find a single winner but to find a plan, with the intention of involving several firms in this from the outset. Six firms were initially invited to take part: two from Berlin and one each from Bremen, Copenhagen, Rotterdam and Vienna. We approached the project from an international perspective in the belief that it was critical for Danish and Dutch experiences and ideas from the field of seaport development to also feed into the project. Other interesting aspects come from innovative architectural practices in the Austrian and German capitals. Last but not least, we urgently need the local knowledge of Bremen that regional architects can provide. We then selected three architecture firms for our shortlist: the OMP Group from Bremen, COBE from Copenhagen, and SMAQ from Berlin.
What do the ideas look like in concrete terms?
The basic concept bears the hallmark of Berlin firm SMAQ. Another focus is brought into play by the Danish design, as a core element of the plans is the preservation of the Kellogg’s silo facility, which is seen as important in terms of urban aesthetics. This assimilation into the overall architecture on the Überseeinsel peninsula is an idea that we want to take from the Danish design – which is a good fit as the plans for the group of buildings at the head of the marina are also by COBE. It simply makes sense to have everything cast from the same mould.
Design by Berlin architecture firm SMAQ
© WFB/Christine Peters