Vom Industrieareal zum Stadtteil: Zürich West - Räumliche Transformationen - Planungsprozesse - Raum(um)nutzung

  • Change from the industrial area to an urban district: Zurich West - Spatial transformations - planning processes - conversion in use

Thissen, Fee; Selle, Klaus (Thesis advisor); Wachten, Kunibert (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

In: PT_Materialien 34

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2015


The thesis 'Change from the industrial area to an urban district : Zurich West. Spatial transformations - planning processes - conversion in use' deals with the development processes of inner city wastelands using the example of the development area Zurich West. To understand the complexity of the change processes, three perspectives were considered and put into relation: 1. spatial transitions, 2. planning processes and 3. types of land use, land use change and and spatial appropriation. With the structural transition from a Fordist to a post-Fordist economy in the eighties, many industrialized countries were faced with the retirement or migration of industry. This change resulted in the regional - infrastructural and functional - transformation of former industrial regions in a lot of cities. Due to the abundance of redevelopment projects, documentations and literature are extensive. Still, the current scientific debate mainly comprises partial approaches that analyse individual aspects and processes. To expand the knowledge of the dynamics and trajectories of regional change, it is necessary to capture the long-term processes of such urban transitions.The processes of change in Zurich West will therefore be investigated over a period of twenty-five years starting about 1990. The examined case study defines a development area in the West of the city Zurich, which has undergone manifold changes through political, economic, spatial and social restructuring - changing from a former industrial area to a new district of Zurich.The consideration of the urban development of the area is based on literature and documentary research, on interviews with urban planners and architects and the use of the method ‘mapping’. Guideline-based interviews with experts from politics, economics and planning, combined with a continuative review of the literature, served to understand the complex planning processes. The question of how spaces in Zurich West are converted and appropriated by local actors, has been investigated by means of narrative interviews with contemporary witnesses. Based on the methods a) participatory observation, b) mapping of everyday spaces and c) vignettes will be shown how the use of public spaces changes with the transition of the area.Regarding the relations between the three perspectives, it can be demonstrated that various conflicts and blockades can become apparent in such processes that limit or prevent their desired success. This includes that political or even ideological interests can block the development of an overall planning and potential structural changes. It can be demonstrated that a planning frame ‒ which was missing in Zurich West as a result of political battles that created inertia ‒ is needed to prevent spatial and functional fragmentation.Furthermore, it can be concluded that economic interests overrule aims and principles of urban planning and impair their realisation. It becomes apparent that there is a need for other regulations for public actors to control the development of public districts on mainly private property. The experiences made in Zurich West exemplify that informal deals between private and public actors were of great importance. They 1. occurred between partners who contributed private property or investment to the co-operation and 2. released intransparency, since important parts of the negotiations took place closed-door whereby open discourse was undermined.In addition, it can be concluded from the research that ‘option spaces’ can unfold due to blockages and ‘non-planning'. In Zurich West a variety of temporary uses in particular released a pulse on the following processes of change and initiated a subtle conversion of the former industrial area. Although Zurich West in fact transformed into a new district of Zurich, the density of interaction in the publicly available and accessible open spaces remains low.In order to learn from the experiences gained in Zurich West for similar planning tasks, further approaches and questions based on the main findings of this research were phrased. They refer to a) the spatial transition understood as overall planning, b) the urban objective to implement mixed-uses and the question of its realisability, c) options to regulate private development projects, d) public participation in cooperative plannings, e) temporary uses as urban catalyst and f) the use of public spaces. The dissertation closes with the question to what extend changes in planning tasks ‒ with which ‚urban planning’ is confronted with the development of inner city wasteland ‒ have an impact on the role of urban planners. The considerations lead to the conclusion that the redevelopment of inner city wasteland results from the interaction of many actors. Urban planning ‒ ideally ‒ takes over the leading and mediating role as ‘reality-conscious team player’ on a par with other actors.


  • Chair of Planning Theory and Urban Development [212110]