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Interview Martinsen- eco district Kronsberg: sustainability is a true challenge on the local level urban

Involved in the successful sustainable urban development project Kronsberg in Hannover (Germany), we asked Mr. Reinhard Martinsen about his vision on sustainable urban development processes in European cities.

Mr. Martinsen studied Architecture and Urban Planning. Between the years 1974 – 2007 he spent around ten years at the environmental department Hannover. In his last position he was European officer at the Lord Mayor’s Office, coordinating EC funded projects. During that time Hannover cooperated with over 25 other European cities on sustainable urban development. From 1992 - 1997 Mr. Martinsen was the leader of  the task force which worked in cooperation with the planning team on the conception of urban sustainable development in Kronsberg. 

About Kronsberg, the eco district

Kronsberg is an eco-district in Hannover built on 1200 hectares of mainly agricultural land on the city margins. The district is located in the south-east of the city and was the last remaining area in Hannover suitable for a large-scale building project. Kronsberg is in close vicinity to the countryside, yet it enjoys all the advantages offered by an urban neighbourhood; excellent transport connections, jobs, cultural, commercial and leisure centres and facilities. The EXPO 2000 World Exposition provided the perfect opportunity to apply this planning approach to the Kronsberg area. Martinsen: 'Because of the fact, that this was the first  sustainable urban development project of this size in Europe, a lot of actors had to be involved and therefore the process became very complex.' 

Sustainable urban development is a key issue in the effort to improve the environmental conditions and the quality of life in Europe’s cities. What are the critical factors in sustainable urban development processes?

Mr. Martinsen: 'Since the UN declaration of Rio in 1992, sustainability (and sustainable urban development) aims to combine the 3 components: economy, ecology and social culture. These components of sustainability have many  similarities but include also great differences. ' Mr. Martinsen: 'To combine all components in the frame of urban sustainable development is a great challenge to all actors, especially on the local level where you have to present concrete solutions that are supported by a majority of the city council. Moreover, it is also important that the ideas are accepted by experts, citizens and consumers. To me it is astonishing that after more than 20 years since the Rio declaration sustainability is  still - despite its complexity -  the leading vision of all major activities on local, national European and  international level. One of the critical factors in sustainable urban development is the deficit of knowledge among all actors involved. ' 

What are the success factors of the sustainable urban development project in Hannover Kronsberg?

Martinsen: 'First of all, a long lasting and stabile political majority in the City council of Hannover was a important success factor. It gave the 'experts' the necessary frame to achieve local sustainable results. Secondly, another success factor consisted of the general situation in Germany and perhaps the whole of Europe at the end of the previous century. In the late nineties, just before a new Millennium, the Agenda 21 inspired many officials and stakeholders all over the world to change their paradigm in favour of new sustainable developments. There was a great openness especially in European cities to try new solutions in favour of urban sustainability. All generously supported by urban development programs of the European Commission. This background encouraged the City council of Hannover accompanied by a long tradition of citizen’s participation to start with the Kronsberg housing area.' 

Why was the work of KUKA, specialised in environmental communication, so important in developing a sustainable quarter like Hannover Kronsberg?

Mr. Martinsen: 'The environmental communication agency KUKA made it possible to organise a planning and construction process for the new housing area in Kronsberg based on the sustainable development process. This planning process was very complex indeed; it involved over 36 different investors together with their architects, building companies and specialists for land use, water management, greening, energy, waste, traffic and others. The state government, the chambers of architects and craftsmen as well as consumer organisations all had be involved. KUKA offered training and information units in order to ensure the ecological standards during the planning and construction phase.'

How do you look back at the policy lab in Luxembourg? 


Mr. Martinsen: 'The policy lab showed great interest of possible participants and good experiences in the housing and construction sector and among architects and other experts. The participants of the policy lab represented all possible actors in a sustainable urban development project.'

For more information on the eco disctrict Kronsberg, please read the information available in the presentation and Mr. Martinsen’s background document. You find this information on the EUKN-website.