The focus of our research is not on pure detached house areas, but instead on the areas of the “unplanned” suburban regions, also known as periphery, peri-urban zones and/or Zwischenstadt (Sieverts, 1997). These urbanised fragmented and hybrid landscapes characterise forms of residential areas “in which detached house areas are found next door to farming areas, where car showrooms, shopping centres, and stables are situated next door to little woods, criss-crossed by motorways and railway tracks lined with noise barriers, and where you cannot tell where one city or locality ends and another begins”. (Vicenzotti, 2011, p. 15)
The heterogeneous zones (Sieverts 2005, Hauser 2006) that are integrated into cities over time and that are currently being combined to form urban regions (ÖROK, 2015) are the subject of controversial discussion in academic and planning circles. Vera Vicenzotti reviewed the history of this discourse in her publication “Zwischenstadt-Diskurs: Eine Analyse zwischen Wildnis, Kulturlandschaft und Stadt” (2011) [The “Zwischenstadt” discourse. An analysis between wilderness, cultural landscape and city]. She categorises the countless views of the Zwischenstadt into three ideological patterns of opponents, enthusiasts and qualifiers. Within such a grid, Intensified Density operates at the level of the qualifiers: “The basic stance of the qualifiers is a positive assessment of suburbanisation processes and the reality of the urbanised landscape. Despite this essential recognition, however, it also detects deficits, particularly with regard to possibilities and conditions of urbanity and quality of life […]”. (Vicenzotti, 2011, p. 87)
Selected project areas are investigated and evaluated with quantitative and qualitative methods as part of the Intensified Density research project. The spatial analyses of the potential areas, the sociocultural environment, existing buildings, and real-world needs to be fulfilled by the specific selected places are performed by surveying qualities, infrastructure, buildings, stocktaking, etc., in some cases on location. Demographic data and empirical research, for example from the study of quality of life indicators in the city of Graz, are also incorporated in the analysis.
These data are used to derive general criteria for redensification, for utilising free areas within an existing development and to analyse spatial and social redensification potentials. The aim is to identify potential locations and sites, primarily leftover plots or unused building land in suburbs / Zwischenstädte / peripheries that are of relevance for the questions under examination in the research project.
Due to the basin topography of Graz, the Zwischenstadt or “peri-urban space” is shifting southwards into the open Graz-Leibnitz Field. To the north, the river Mur limits this area topographically to the access roads Weinzöttlstraße and Wiener Straße.
Until the mid-19th century, the suburbs of Graz, the Murvorstädte, as they are known, including Geidorf in the area around the Leechkirche and Guntarn-Hof by the Leonhardkirche, Jakomini around Jakominiplatz, St. Leonhard, Gries around Griesplatz, and Lend around Lendplatz, were very rural in terms of their development. The rural building structure is still visible in the cadastral municipalities of Graz and in the districts of Liebenau, St. Peter, Waltendorf, Ries, Maria Trost, Andritz, Gösting, Eggenberg, Wetzelsdorf and Straßgang that were incorporated after the Nazis seized power in 1938.
The search for sites in urban Graz was performed by subtracting and limiting the potential area under review on a map of the city. Based on seven routes and multiple inspections of different parts of the city, a search was then conducted for sites, assessing them based on their potentials and classifying them as leftover plots, vacant lots, waste land, sealed surfaces, developed areas available for redensification. This also allows us to generate an overview of existing or utilisable potential areas in the area under examination.
In terms of planning, the selected areas were overlaid with existing infrastructure (centres, doctors/chemist’s shops, educational, religious, shopping, social facilities, local food shops) and analysed. For each route, around 1–4 plots were selected for more in-depth consideration, depending on their available potential based on our criteria.
The key criterion for choosing sites was a centre or potential centre in the immediate surroundings. All infrastructural facilities required for everyday life, e.g. public transport links, chemist’s shop, doctor, food shop, educational facility, etc. should be within walking/cycling distance. The surrounding area was to be heterogeneous and display mixed use with residential areas – not a purely residential/commercial or industrial area – and thus have different social and economic potential for joint use of industrial/commercial waste heat, for example. Furthermore, the site was already to be developed in terms of infrastructure (electricity, water, sewers, etc.). Also, the site was to be a waste or leftover plot with sealed surfaces (car parking spaces, old building, etc.) and no larger than max. 3000 m². Sites with buildings available for additional storeys, e.g. car parks, etc., or vacant lots, do have great potential but are not considered for our research project at this initial stage.
The city has a sufficient supply of sealed surfaces showing adequate potential for redensification so that there is no need to seal any existing green areas.
In this study/field research it evolved that the city has a sufficient supply of sealed surfaces such as tarmacked car parking spaces (not in use 24/7), single-storey or two-storey buildings (including car parks) that could be increased in height, etc. As such, there is adequate potential for redensification so that there is no need to seal any existing green areas. Graz must act when it comes to protecting green space in large parts of the urban space. Numerous (mill)streams crisscross the city that could be a positive factor in terms of quality of life but which are currently unkempt and thus unattractive and in urgent need of revitalisation, also with regard to climate change and constantly rising temperatures in the city. There are also large areas classified as building land. The closer the edge of the city, the larger these areas and the fewer vacant lots are available. The majority consists of open development that appears disordered and unplanned and in need of action in terms of urban development.
Hauser, Susanne. 2006. Ästhetik der Agglomeration. Zwischenstadt, Band 8. Wuppertal: Müller + Busmann.
Nilsson Kjell, Pauleit Stephan, Bell Simon, Aalbers Carmen, Sick Nielsen Thomas, Hg. (2013). Peri-urban futures: Scenarios and models for land use change in Europe. Berlin: Springer.
Sieverts, Thomas. 1997. Zwischenstadt: zwischen Ort und Welt, Raum und Zeit, Stadt und Land. Braunschweig: Vieweg.
Sieverts, Thomas und Forschungsprojekt “Mitten am Rand–Zwischenstadt. Zur Qualifizierung der verstädterten Landschaft. 2005. Zwischenstadt
– inzwischen Stadt?: Entdecken, Begreifen, Verändern. Wuppertal: Müller + Busmann.
Vicenzotti, Vera. 2011. Der “Zwischenstadt”-Diskurs: Eine Analyse zwischen Wildnis, Kulturlandschaft und Stadt. Bielefeld: transcript.