The Berlage


The Question of Land

Florian Hertweck

Many of the social and ecological problems afflicting cities are connected to the question of land ownership. The explosion in rents and property prices, social segregation and the functional depletion of entire city districts, increasing traffic and air pollution, the “gating” of whole building complexes, the reduction of public space and green spaces—none of these phenomena are new, but all are intensifying. They can above all be traced back to the fact that urban land is increasingly an object of pure speculation, subject to the laws of the market, and unequally distributed. This lecture will, in a first step, raise the historical-cultural dimension of the land question and present some main protagonists such as Henry George, Silvio Gesell or Hans-Jochen Vogel. In a second step, it will discuss the contemporary debate on land ownership, conditioned by financialization and the financial crisis of 2008. Although the topic initially has a political dimension, the question arises as to how architects and urbanists can respond to it. What instruments are available to us planners to respond to this question, which is essential for the social-ecological development of our cities? The last part of the lecture will present a selection of models and concepts on the land question, which range from fiscal measures to land use models to architectural-urbanistic approaches.

This lecture is part of The Berlage Sessions, a thematic Friday afternoon seminar series entitled “Architectures of Speculation,” which considers architecture’s historical and contemporary relationship to real estate speculation, from urban developments associated with nineteenth-century London, fin-de-siècle Paris, and postwar Rome; to land ownership, the spatial ordering of property, and buildings as financial instruments. Lecturers will include Gabriel Cuéllar, Patrice Derrington, Florian Hertweck, Forbes Massie, Andrew Saint, Davide Spina, and Alexia Yates.

Florian Hertweck is Professor of Architecture and Director of the Master's programme Architecture, European Urbanisation, Globalisation at the University of Luxembourg. His research and planning activities include design strategies for metropolitan regions, such as Berlin, Paris, Shanghai, Casablanca, Istanbul, the Greater Region, and more recently Geneva, where, together with Milica Topalovic from ETH Zurich, he led a consortium of planners and researchers in the elaboration of a territorial design strategy in the context of the Consultation du Grand Genève. In 2018 he curated, together with Andrea Rumpf, the Luxembourg Pavilion for the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale on the land question, for which he co-edited the accompanying Arch+ “The Property Issue. Ground Control and the Commons”. His three major publications are: Architektur auf gemeinsamem Boden. Positionen und Modelle zur Bodenfrage; Architecture between Aesthetics and Politics; the critical edition of Oswald Mathias Ungers’s and Rem Koolhaas’s The City in the City. Berlin: A Green Archipelago.

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