Ida Pirstinger

Ida Pirstinger (2013), Gruenderzeit City 2.1 - The Redensification of Gruenderzeit Districts a Model for Internal Urban Expansion, Institute of Design and Building Typology; 1st reviewer: Hans Gangoly, 2nd reviewer: Christoph Luchsinger; 265 pages + cataster 165 pages + 2 blueprints, German.

Many people consider a family home in the countryside as the most feasible equivalent of an ideal form of living. The fulfillment of this desire is accompanied by suburbanization and urban sprawl causing environmental, infrastructural and economic consequences. On the opposite we see a growing tendency back to the city and at the same time the deficiency of an appropriate inner-city residential living situation. These complex issues of urban development and population growth are quite relevant economic aspects which burden many growing cities and urban areas. Redensification of urban centres as a growth and sustainability strategy often seems to be in opposition to maintaining existing parks and recreational areas. Nineteenth century areas of urban expansion - the so-called Gründerzeit Cities - are generally considered livable urban residential areas within European core cities and are widely deemed worth of preservation today. Their social diversity and cultural as well as economic variety complies with all characteristic qualities of urbanity exceeding solely building density and therefore lead to accepting high population density. To what extent and under which premises the redensification of these perimeter block developments provides reasonable potential for internal urban expansion and may thus contribute to a diversified city centre housing accomodation is researched in this thesis using the example of the medium-sized Austrian city of Graz. The “Gründerzeit” districts of Graz are predominantly closed perimeter-blocks with leafy courtyards free of buildings and thus provide a highly accepted identification feature. The issue of compatible spatial density in the urban environment and the appropriate strategy for redensification will be investigated by the comparison with other cities and by matching different forms of building extensions in the reference quarter. Requirements and frame conditions for a high-quality urban living environment in redensified quarters can be derived from surveys on residential value and satisfaction. As a basic principle existing qualities of the ensemble “Gründerzeit” perimeter-block have to be taken into account and preserved or even improved despite densification. If there are unavoidable interferences compensation must be made. Not the architectural modification of the individual building is the focal point of considerations but the entire perimeter block as a viable urban element which is worth being preserved in its typological basic framework. Contrary to the limitation to a single building this approach does not only provide the advantage of greater technical, infrastructural and energetic synergies but is much better suited for design considering the architectural nature of the townscape affecting building block typology. The result is a model for a circumferential upward extension of perimeter-blocks which provides additional inner city residential space, offers an alternative to the family house and leaves green areas untouched. The applicability is not limited to Graz, but can be transferred to any city with similar perimeter-block typologies and other courtyard forming building compositions. The attainable quantity by means of circumferential upward extension is determined by rating and listing the building stock as well as evaluation of exemplary designs and is available as a field book for Graz.

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