Redesigning the Leopoldplatz Square
The redesign and reconstruction of the Leopoldplatz Square took place between 2011 and 2013. The aim of the process was to explore solutions to existing conflicts on the square and to jointly find a way in which all space users would feel comfortable at Leopoldplatz without excluding certain groups.
The Leopoldplatz is a square located in Berlin-Wedding, one of the poorest boroughs in Berlin, characterized by high unemployment and a large migrant community. In response to rising levels of conflict that had increased since 2009 / 2010, a petition and a round table discussion moderated by District representatives was organized. Subsequently, a participation process and an integrated action plan were introduced in 2010. The motto of this process, "History meets cultural diversity - Shaping a place for all", reflected the complexity of the issues facing Leopoldplatz.
The action plan included a structural redesign of Leopoldplatz Square and the organization of many different events involving volunteer workers, such as a Christmas market, the “Fête de la Musique” or Iftar-dinners. The goal was to organize the co-existence of different user groups and not to exclude any of them. Safety, or the perception of safety, could also be improved through cooperation with the borough’s administration and the police. The establishment of a space management team, “Team Leo”, providing mediation services helped to resolve existing conflicts.
- Western Europe
- Cultural vibrance
- Urban development and infrastructures
- Urban renewal
- Urban design
- Crime and violence prevention
- Citizen engagement
- Framework strategies and plans
- New regulations and political arrangements
- Public participation
- Voluntary agreements and contracts
- Mediation and conflict management
Background and objectives
In 2009 citizen protests and petitions demanded the need for change at Leopoldplatz Square. Residents complained about noise levels, roaming dogs, rubbish and increasing drug-related crime threatening community safety. At the first community consultation in 2010 involving more than 250 residents, the participation process was launched.
During the discussions, stakeholders explored solutions to existing conflicts on the square. A key objective was to jointly find a way in which all space users would feel comfortable at Leopoldplatz without excluding certain groups or moving them into other areas of the Berlin city center. At the same time it was agreed, the aesthetics of the square should be improved in order to appeal to new user groups.
This consultation process led to a revised integrated action plan, Ein Platz für alle - Gemeinsam einen Platz für alle gestalten (A place for all – creating together a place for all). The plan required the square management team to assume responsibilities for social work, coordination, communication and mediation.
Community members concerned with drug and alcohol issues, together with drug and alcohol users, were involved in the concept design, negotiation of new rules and defining the social needs for the new space.
The guiding principles of the plan are:
• Residents, families, young people and visitors should feel comfortable on the square
• Addict user groups won’t be displaced
• Drug trafficking has to be addressed.
To improve the quality of life at Leopoldplatz Square, four main areas of action have been identified:
• Cultural revival
• Beautification through redevelopment measures
• Street workers have been employed for a peaceful coexistence of different social groups as well as conflict mediation
• Improved safety
The redesign and reconstruction of the square took place between 2011 and 2013:
20 May 2010: a preparatory workshop was organized with representatives of the administration (representatives of relevant borough offices, the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, and the police) to confirm the content as well as the legal and financial framework for further developments of the process.
26 May, 2010: a workshop was held with a broad range of representatives, including residents, associations, interest groups, and various public authorities.
22 June, 2010: approximately 100 people participated in a citizens' forum that presented the progress of the plan. Citizens were encouraged to offer criticisms and suggestions which were evaluated by the borough administration and the city planners.
23 / 25 November, 1 / 3 December, 2010: children and young people were given an opportunity to present their ideas to the city planners.
In October 2013, construction work concluded and the square was officially inaugurated in the presence of local residents and other stakeholders involved in the redevelopment process. The space management team were tasked with ensuring the newly designed rules for utilizing the square were correctly observed.
Financing and resources
The project received funds from the federal-state program “Aktive Zentren” (Active Centers)
The construction and redevelopment costs amounted to approximately 1.8 mil. €.
Results and impacts
The large size of the square (approx. 3.2 ha) allowed the division of Leopoldplatz into different areas. Accordingly, the space in front of the Old Nazareth church was defined as a place for events and markets, and includes a new fountain. Since 2009, a large market operator, who also operates numerous other weekly markets in Berlin, has operated a market with an emphasis on quality and organic products. Since 2012, a public fasting (Iftar) in Ramadan takes place on the Leopoldplatz in front of the Old Nazareth church. The event has the patronage of the Mayor and is open to Muslims and those interested in Islam. In the middle of the square, a newly designed area for families including a playground is planned.
Barriers and challenges
The need for regulatory measures on the Leopoldplatz is still required. Church communities, kindergarten-leaders, residents, citizens and "Team Leo" identified several on-going problems including urinating in the public space, stray dogs and garbage. An increased (weekly) on-site presence of legal authorities (police and administrative officers) is required.
In 2013 as support from the public order decreased, stakeholders developed other preventive measures to avoid the reoccurrence of unacceptable behavior in the square. In the autumn of 2013, a space management team was established to work with the community. Its task was to support the diverse user groups in regulating the space, as outlined in the integrated action plan. The development of practical cooperation between police, the public order office and the space management team assisted in the implementation of regulating the space.
Additionally, social workers from “Team Leo” ensure on-going communication and mediation with substance dependent individuals. Conflicts are addressed directly and negotiated with the user groups through agreements. The aim of mediation is to secure the cooperation and engagement of all stakeholders at Leopoldplatz.
Lessons learned and transferability
The equal treatment of all square users is an important principle in the implementation of the newly defined square regulations and has led to positive behavioural changes and peaceful coexistence of the different user groups. Problematic user groups were invited to participate in the planning process and have not been excluded from the square now the renovation process is complete.
Mediation through the space management team is still necessary after completion of the works. Some problems have arisen in the course of the implementation. For example, in regards to waste disposal, additional trash cans were needed to improve cleanliness of the green areas. Self-regulation, supported by the space management team, has proven to be successful.
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