Wuppertal: the urban context

As part of the ideas competition for the “EnEff.Gebäude.2050” funding initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi), the “Solar Decathlon goes Urban” entry by the City of Wuppertal was awarded first place. On this basis, Wuppertal applied to host the next European Solar Decathlon and was accepted in January 2019. The organisation team from Wuppertal for the Solar Decathlon Europe 21 (SDE21) includes the University of Wuppertal, the Wuppertal Institute, Neue Effizienz, Initiative Utopiastadt, Stadtwerke WSW and the City of Wuppertal.

The SDE21 will be carried out in an urban context for the first time. The energy revolution is brought down to the neighbourhood and reflects the current and future focus of architecture and the building industry. The efficient refurbishment of existing buildings is becoming more and more important compared to new buildings and will be the main task of architects and engineers. Instead of planning and designing buildings from scratch, work will be done on existing buildings and housing solutions for specific urban situations will be developed.

The Mirke district in Wuppertal is an example of this situation. Approximately 800 buildings from the Gründerzeit and from the 1960s to 80s characterise the streetscape of the former workers’ quarter.

Typical street scene in the Mirke quarter, Wuppertal

Due to the age-related population decline and lack of immigration, vacancies in the area of commercially used space are not unusual. The neighbourhood is characterised by low rent levels and a multicultural society. The damage caused by the Second World War has also created some curious architectural situations over the years, but these show great potential for urban densification. In recent years, efforts have been made to revitalize the Mirke Quarter, to increase the attractiveness of the quarter and to manage the energy transition in the reurbanization trend. The foundation of various initiatives and the creation of an urban development concept are essential activities to achieve this goal.

The SDE21 event complements this concept very well. Solutions for energy systems in urban areas and concepts of measures for urban densification are the focus of the competition and should generally be in line with the challenge of European cities. This is to be achieved by refurbishing, converting or reusing existing apartment buildings and by revitalising cities. An important part of this is the consideration of social scenarios and the urban challenges of today and the future, as well as the links with building research. A combination of the urban planning challenge with social, economic and ecological aspects can provide a solution for urban development and redensification. The aim is to transfer the most suitable solution for the selected circumstances to other countries. Due to the representative building stock of the Mirke Quarter, which is similar to many German and European cities, an easy transferability is expected.