Questions and Debate in Project Management

Reassembling a Proposition for Future Activities (16.1.2017)

The seminar Project Management in Urban Design (winter semester 16/17) was concerned with the Summer School »Building a Proposition for Future Activities« that took place in September 2016. The students enrolled in the seminar re-constructed the Summer School’s on-goings by applying an approach we refer to as project archaeology. This is a technique for reading structural traces of projective processes and that allows multiplying the directions of a project’s time and content vectors (Dell 2017) 1 .

The following text presents excerpts from a panel discussion that offered students to speak to actively involved participants and share insights into participants’ experiences with the Summer School. The panel brought together Bernd Kniess, Mareike Wierzoch, Maryam Jafari, Thomas Littmann, Christel Lühmann, Horst Oberquelle, Anna Kreuzer, Frederike Faas, Finn Jessen, Judith Blum, Nicolai Lang and Florian Böttger. In discussion, the involved actors related different aspects and perspectives of the Summer School as well as individual experiences with Building a Proposition for Future Activities.

Anna Kreuzer: 2 To start, we would like to recapitulate the three blocks of questions that we are discussing today. The first is concerned with the experimental setup of the Summer School, self-building and involvement. The second addresses the kitchen as meeting space and, in particular, the question in how far the differences of intercultural practices played a role in the Summer School. And the third relates to questions around participation, collaboration between the various groups, different actors, the available resources and how they were used as well as the preparation and post-production of the Summer School.

Thomas Littmann: 3 I would like to ask a question myself. What I wonder is: Bernd Kniess has mentioned in the beginning that there were very different visions as to what such a Summer School can result in. This very much touches on the whole conceptual framing. We are an association, PH [he points to the sign in front of him] does not mean ‘pedagogical high school’, but ‘Poppenbüttel hilft’. And while we as association were of the impression that the Summer School would yield preliminary planning work, perhaps even produce relatively concrete plans, HCU assumed a more process-oriented approach. As Bernd mentioned, ‘we wanted to experiment with the process and represent it in all its nuances so that we can draw on these experiences. These are two very different conceptual approaches and I would be interested to hear: What is your motivation to take part in the Summer School? Is it more this planning-conceptual aspect or the process character?

Bernd Kniess: 4 Perhaps I may clarify the approach again. Where the experimental setup is concerned I feel I should respond first. This experimental setup was concerned with the idea of the community building. We were confronted with the idea to plan and build a community building with refugees and perceived this as a mode of engagement that involves or rather builds on the recognition that the actual problem of those in particular who are accommodated in initial reception centres for refugees is that they are not allowed to become active. That’s the first point. The second point is: We’ve all come a long way, literally we’ve had to travel an hour on public transport from the city centre, per way, that is: Poppenbüttel is far out of the city proper. Poppenbüttel, furthermore, is one of the locations of the framework programme ‘Accommodation with the perspective dwelling’ by fördern&wohnen, the city’s main public service agency accommodating refugees. The other locations are similarly far out in the fringes. Perspective dwelling says it all, essentially we are concerned with dwelling. This is of course partly due to the framework of paragraph 246 that regulates the possibility for making exceptions for accommodations and for passing permits for planning solid buildings. So we literally have a solid framework that poses the question: okay, what are those who will live there do? This is besides the question of how many there will be. What will they do apart from dwelling, where will they become active and where are possibilities for becoming active? What we picked up from Poppenbüttel hilft and your idea was actually this very point: it’s not about us building the houses and letting people live there and – put simply – then there will be social space management and then that will all work out. On the contrary, for us becoming active, not just in terms of the actual building process, but already during the planning process, is vital. And the question that we’re concerned with ever since that idea came up is: how do we actually do that? These considerations formed the Summer School’s basis; we have tried through three Takes to bring together these different approaches of the three groups – students, refugees and industrial school students – in one situation. And to do this without reducing or switching off aspects of planning that for us however doesn’t aim so much towards the design or rendering, but more towards its opposite, opening up, building on broad research and then transpose into three structural approaches that we wanted to discuss, with the discussion being part of the overall concept. This comes down to three things. Firstly, what does that entail for self-build techniques, i.e. for engineering, architecture? What building systems are eligible that can be erected fully in self-build processes or alternatively, in terms of expansions? The model Grundbau und Siedler (2013) 5 would be expansion, a concept of which we have developed three over the Summer School. And we wanted to engage in techniques of self-building in the context of our actual needs. Secondly, the idea was to concretely build in this display, in this wooden display and around the tables and the wood house that required protection from rain and so on. That meant to accept our own requirements and demands within these two weeks as an occasion to build all these things. Thirdly, the mini golf course had to be devised, designed, planned and built. Eventually, it all had to be brought together in this display, in showing and communicating and speaking about it in the context of the final day. The decisive point is that the plan that is normally an object on the wall gains spatial traction and starts to take effect within and of the whole situation that we have created. It equally means that we have become part of the situation on a number of different levels. That was our experimental setup. Perhaps this serves to explain the development of our undertaking. Its further development is what we are now concerned with: is such a procedure useful or would perhaps a concrete architectural mis-en-scène be more productive in order to push the project? That is the question.

Frederike Faas: 6 So what I gather from what has been mentioned is that there were discussions and exchanges during the cooking sessions and dinners. Could all those who were involved in cooking and eating together give a few examples about what you have talked about?

Finn Jessen: 7 We talked about things concerning the actual work that we’d done on the day. We discussed what the problems were, but also talked a lot about personal experiences, especially as we’d become befriended over working together. So it was both, private and project-related issues, highlights and steps to be taken the next day, what had to be done.

Maryam Jafari: 8 What I found really surprising in the kitchen was that one day while I was washing the dishes, one of the students from the university came and wanted to help me. I was overjoyed! Because I remember he told me: „It’s impossible for me to eat when I see someone else washing up.“ I will never forget this sentence. In that place, in the project, the people were all trying very hard and it was really great, it was wonderful for me to come to a country and not know anything about that country and not know anybody there, to then meet and become familiar with such great people. They have a really kind heart. It was wonderful.

Judith Blum: 9 What kinds of obstacles were there for refugees to participate? Were there any specific obstacles or restrictions?

Thomas Littmann: The problem is that refugees in Hamburg (and elsewhere) are managed. They are managed by official institutions, in this case fördern&wohnen. Fördern&wohnen is an organisation that very cautiously tries to innovate, but really takes the position: we follow clearly outlined processes according to which the refugee is more an object than a subject. That is our experience with fördern&wohnen. Of course, this plays a particular role in such participatory processes. Bernd Kniess has just mentioned that Poppenbüttel is way too far out of the city centre. As someone from Poppenbüttel, I surely see this differently. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Poppenbüttel is a highly attractive location with leisure spaces and green spaces, as you can glean from house prices, for instance. No other location for refugee accommodation is closer to an 18-hole golf course, just to mention such details. But this causes fears and concerns on the part of fördern&wohnen that once these houses and flats are available, there will be a run on them, that everybody wants to be housed there. Fördern&wohnen reject anything that could possibly amount to a privilege. This is why there were not inclined to see refugees from other accommodations participate in this process. That makes it very, very complicated. We have now entered productive discussions in this regard, but at that point in time it was considerably more difficult, I have to say.

Judith Blum: That’s one thing, but what made participation for refugees in particular so difficult? Were these the times that they had to be back at their accommodation? Were these the three appointments per day that they had to attend?

Maryam Jafari: You’re asking why we couldn’t come every day to the Summer School? My answer is, as I told you before, we got familiar with this project in our German class. And so during the Summer School we had class. I was really interested to come every day. But if I didn’t attend the class, I would loose the certification at the end. That’s why it was very important for me to manage time in a way that enabled me to go to the class and also go to Poppenbüttel as well. And some days we also had an appointment during the time of the Summer School, but because it was so far away from our place, because we were living in Bergedorf, it was a huge distance. For example if I had an appointment at 12 o clock and I wanted to come in the morning, then I wouldn’t be able to come back in good time for the appointment. And if I wanted to go after my appointment, I wouldn’t be able to have useful time in Poppenbüttel. It was reasons like these that I wasn’t able to go every day, but the days that I was there, I really enjoyed it.

Frederike Faas: Where do you live, and how far did you have to travel to the Summer School?

Florian Böttger: 10 I’m from Bergedorf, so I had the same distance as you. Two or three times I stayed with a host family in the neighbourhood, quite spontaneously actually, but usually I went home. One and a half hours more or less.

Bernd Kniess: Since the international students are not present, perhaps you, Mr. Oberquelle, could tell us about those who stayed with neighbours from Poppenbüttel?

Horst Oberquelle: 11 I think there were 18 participants, students from outside Hamburg, who stayed with host families in Poppenbüttel for two weeks. From all I’ve heard from people that was a great experience, to have guests who were so engaged, who marched to their work place every morning more or less on time and returned late in the evenings. We didn’t have to provide meals, however, because they organised everything themselves. They put on breakfasts, had lunch and dinner on site. We still have a very cordial relationship to our guest, Carolina, who came from Brasil and currently studies in Portugal. I have just sent her a link about the opening of the Elbphilharmony. She wrote back: ‘Wow, I must try to get tickets.’ And so we have invited her again to stay with us. That was almost like finding a new family member. It was a great experience and that holds for many of us. Hosting these 18 people free of charge in our neighbourhood was Poppenbüttel hilft’s contribution to the Summer School. Nobody had to search and book rooms in hotels or in youth hostels. And it worked out really well, which is something that we need to acknowledge: it is relatively easy to integrate these foreign guests. We had enough offers to host people.

Mareike Wierzoch: 12 That raises a few questions: Was there any kind of timetable for the Summer School at the beginning? Did you establish a construction management position for these various projects? Or was it completely democratic in the sense, let’s see where we get, without setting a concrete aim so as to remain open for the process?

Finn Jessen: Well, we from the Industrial School 19, if that process took place before the Summer School happened, have not participated in it. We actively met for the first time with the students and professors on site and then started to support the project.

Bernd Kniess: We principally had these three Takes that we only roughly described. The task was really the process. It is thus actually really well described when you said: It all went hand in hand. That is exactly what has to be endured initially. There is no plan at the beginning. There are these three Takes, that’s the iterative procedure, I approach the project while I’m doing it. The Mini Golf course is a relatively concrete project in itself, but it is completely irrelevant whether there are four or eight or twelve lanes. The interesting part is this display. You find yourself on a parking lot and look at this container with a basis for a kitchen. That’s it. A few chairs. And then the agenda emerged: okay, we need to eat, let’s have a coffee, and then there’s this video in which you guys are going shopping and Dominique gets lost in front of the coffee shelf. And where you buy bread rolls. Then you return to the parking lot. We need tables, the coffee machine is being installed and so on. The material and the tools arrive and off we go. And yes, Alexander had an idea, but it wasn’t the object, it was the structure. He had no idea as to how it should look like in the end. What he did, however, was to give you and us the support structure (archinet 2017) 13 that we could build on. And how far we’d get was actually irrelevant.

Finn Jessen: Regarding the construction management – but I can only speak for my department Mini Golf – at one point it became clear that we had three main actors. Myself, and I think that was kind of expected from me because I was the only concrete builder present, another key actor was my colleague Lucas, a carpenter, and then we also had a student specialist who mainly focused on the design. We continuously sat together and the student also worked hands on. And of course we also delegated sub projects and tasks. Perhaps we could say that we had foremen – I wouldn’t say construction manager, but foremen as found on construction sites and others who took on tasks and put them into practice together with the team. I don’t know how this was organised around the container.

Florian Böttger: We had material, wooden boards, that was pretty much the only material we worked with. We also had wooden planks. And in terms of process, when we arrived at the construction site on the first day, we spoke with Alexander and didn’t really know at all what we were supposed to do. So we asked him and he said: ‘Well, we’re constructing scaffolding around the container.’ Okay, a scaffolding. We’re not allowed to go on top of the container, but we’re constructing scaffolding around it? So we didn’t really understand that in the beginning. And Alexander had this structure in his mind that we would build long supporting beams using the boards, arrange these somehow around the container and connect them with the container so that the whole structure would be stable. Over the process of the project we would then start to fill this structure, for instance build in a kitchen area, a small workshop, build a food tent or a space in which we can eat etc. So while he did conduct these tasks, he also let us work relatively freely. For example, on the first or second evening he said: ‘Think of one detail in your flats. How would you build this yourself?’ And that could be anything, from the work tops in the kitchen to the space above the windows. And so the students and industrial school students came up with concrete ideas as to how we could fill these individual panels within the scaffold, how to design the kitchen area, for instance.

Horst Oberquelle: I would like to add one aspect. On enabling. I think what was central was that the district or the city of Hamburg offered money so that this Summer School could be realised. And that the whole realisation in terms of finance not only was managed by HCU or its employees who organised the shopping and documentation but also worked out really well, including the final accounting. Without this money the whole thing wouldn’t have worked. And it is an art in its own right to acquire such support.

Christel Lühmann: 14 There are particular budgets that can be used for such activities. And we were also really happy to support this project, especially because it presented a completely novel approach. So there was an openness on our part as well as the opportunity for funding it. And of course, as for any financial support, we always have conditions and regulations that we have to follow and consider. So there had to be a bid and this bid had to be justified and it had to be judged on our part, but that went well and so I agree that this worked out really well.

Horst Oberquelle: In addition to the money, the project was also provided with material. Fördern&wohnen has provided a whole range of material, workshop container, tools and all kinds of other useful things. Without these materials nobody could have got engaged.

Bernd Kniess: Part of this setup is timing as well: the container with the tools and the material had to be there by Monday morning. So we had to plan and discuss in advance: what do we put on the list, on the order. What Mr. Oberquelle says is right. Fördern&wohnen has provided the things on our list without any further questions.

Christel Lühmann: I think what will be exciting now, especially for the community building, is actually: how will this pan out, develop further and how will elements or experiences from the Summer School be implemented into the construction of the community building? I think that is an exciting question. We have just spoken about the things that had to be principally formally clarified, prior to the Summer School. That will probably multiply when tackling the actual community building. The whole planning process for the community building, the implementation and construction of the building, all that. It will be a public building and for a public building there are of course infinite regulations and provisions that will accompany the whole process. Of course we cannot continue to work with such short-term procedures as we did during the Summer School, i.e. we need to plan in good time how the project can be implemented. We have this regulation called ‘building with cost-stability’ that was developed because there have been projects in Hamburg that became incredibly expensive. The Court of Auditors engaged with the question how such cost explosions could happen and then devised and established risk factors that we in the administration were to avoid by all means in the future. This regulation is a thick document with provisions that have to be implemented when the public pays for the construction process. Just to give an example, self-building and creative designing and planning processes are certainly not the subject of it. So it will be very exciting how we can come to the table and drive this process together; I’m sure that will be a really interesting experience.

Bernd Kniess: We also have to discuss the question of ownership and operation. Before we haven’t agreed on these aspects, there is little sense in coming together in order to discuss the structure of a project because it is exactly these points that need to be clear.

Thomas Littmann: I would like to add a sentence, just so that you see the dimension correctly. Such a project that tries to approach refugees in a different manner by way of common activity has not been seen in Hamburg before. You can be sure, and other discussions in the political realm have shown this, that some have watched us closely and would like to see it falter. Hence we have, especially in Hamburg, a real political responsibility to make the project a success. We as a civil initiative are very much conscious of that. We have developed this project and approached partners, and that brings with it particular responsibilities that far outreach the project. The decision by Hamburg’s parliament who provide us with relatively generous funds states that there will be an evaluation about whether this project could be a model project for future engagement. And there are a number of refugee initiatives in Hamburg that have great interest in it, apart from the fact that a successful project opens up possibilities to build on for their own purposes. However, that also puts us under a certain pressure, I can’t deny that. For all who’ve seen the project from the outside – for my part, I live just a few metres away from the construction site and was able to observe the Summer School closely – what was palpable for the neighbours and still receives recognition in the neighbourhood is the unbelievably great atmosphere that was created. The industrial school students just have related in a rather sober manner how it all worked out, with delegating and organising work flows and so on. For me, the first day stands out as students and industrial school students at first stood around in two groups and couldn’t really relate to each other at first sight and nobody knew how to get going. And at one point, the industrial school students said ‘Okay people, let’s not stupidly stand around, let’s work!’. That really created such a drive for the project. So all who’ve seen that were really enthusiastic about it. Perhaps there aren’t that many district festivals in Poppenbüttel as in Eppendorf, but the final day of the Summer School created a really fantastic atmosphere. Just as many evenings did too. We also often sat with those who lived with us into the small hours of the night and downed another glass of wine. There were many positive experiences that showed that this form of cooperation, especially between groups who didn’t know each other before, can function really well.

Any urban design undertaking as open form requires the translation into an understanding of what is at stake as the project enters a new loop. As in the example of the Summer School, we continued as active participants in development plan negotiations. Although the structural order of how urban planning works remains intact, the summer school has credibly shown how new forms of agency can be made available. Continued partnerships between the UD research and teaching programme and key actors involved in the Summer School prove that the attempt to break open a seemingly closed process, such as building a house, has been understood: it worked and resulted not least in the city council agreeing to pay for the cost of construction (600.000 EUR). The cost of construction was estimated on the basis of the building cost index (Baukostenindex), where groups 300 and 400 cover the building structure and technical facilities. All actors are now reassembled under new auspices and pick up negotiations for the upcoming phases of the realisation and uses of the community building. Where the existing modes of disciplinary practice are taken seriously, common spaces and open forms enable situations to emerge. Contingency may then no longer be considered a threat to a project’s existence; playing with contingency rather enables potentialities.

  1. Dell, Christopher (2017) Project Archaeology. In: Kniess, Bernd; Christopher Dell, Jules Buchholtz, Dominique Peck (eds.) (2017): Project Management in Urban Design. Hamburg Open Online University (
  2. As B.A. of Architecture, Anna Kreuzer started studying Urban Design in October 2015 to acquire new approaches to questioning and working with the urban. She was part of the seminar “Reassembling a Proposition for Future Activities” and worked with the materials from the Summer School “Building a Future Proposition”, reassembling them to carve out topics, such as the roleof cars and parking in Poppenbüttel in the context of the refugee housing. In the Debate, her role was to introduce and moderate the three blocks of questions: experimental setup, intercultural practices and collaboration.
  3. Thomas Littmann studied History and Political Sciences and taught from 1979-2003 in Comprehensive Schools in Hamburg. From 2006-2016, he worked for the Senate Chancellery of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Since 2015 he is the Chairman of the charitable initiative Poppenbüttel Hilft e.V. In making contact with Prof. Bernd Kniess, he helped lay the groundwork for the Summer School.
  4. Bernd Kniess is an architect and urban planner. Since 2008 he is Professor for Urban Design at HafenCity University Hamburg where he established the Master Programme Urban Design. He is interested in the negotiation of the contemporary city, whose planning principles he aims to diagrammatically describe and transfer into a relational practice as procedure. From 2008 to 2014 he directed the project ›University of the Neighbourhoods‹ (UoN) and was responsible for the development of a project curriculum. He conceptualised and organised the Summer School in cooperation with the civil society initiative Poppenbüttel Hilft e.V. He is a member of the North-Rhine Westphalian Academy of the Arts and Sciences since 2009.
  5. BeL (2013) Grundbau und Siedler, self-build housing. IBA Hamburg (
  6. After finishing her Bachelor in landscape architecture, Frederike Faas started the Urban Design Master at the HafenCity University. She attended the seminar Project Management, which was concerned with the Summer School in her first semester. In a group of three students she dealt with the topic of the kitchen during the Summer School. The group were interested in questions concerning the role of the kitchen as a meeting place – a place of communication and participation. Since none of these students had participated in the summer school, the panel discussion helped them to understand some of the processes.
  7. Finn Jessen from Hamburg has always wanted to be an architect and started vocational training as a concrete worker with Otto Wulff company in 2014, so as to literally build a solid basis for his future studies. He was motivated to participate in the Summer School through his interest in engaging socially and practically with refugees in the context of building together. His contribution to the Summer School consisted mainly in organising and working on the Mini Golf course, which corresponded with his qualifications and presented a welcome challenge to make use of his experience.
  8. Maryam Jafari was born in Afghanistan and grew up in Iran, where she began to study English. Her forced repratiation to Afghanistan led to the disruption of her studies. Having returned to Iran she continued her studies and started to teach English to Afghan students. Together with her husband she came to Germany in November 2015 where she was accommodated in Hamburg Osterrade. Since November 2016 she lives in Niendorf.
  9. Judith Blum studied socio culture at the College for Social Work in Luzern, Switzerland. Her particular interest in urban social development and planning of sustainable development processes led her to embark on the masters Spatial Development and Landscape Architecture at the Technical University Rapperswil. Her exchange year brought her to HCU’s Urban Design programme where she studied the conditions for participation of diverse groups in the context of the Summer School. In general, Judith is interested with themes that oscillate between urban planning and social culture. She is currently writing her thesis ‘When the nights grow louder’ on the noise conflicts of urban nocturnal entertainment.
  10. Florian Böttger is in the last year of his vocational training as a carpenter. He participated in the Summer School mainly because of his previous experiences with other group projects. He is convinced that coming together to engage in creative activity and work on a project is a great opportunity. He enjoyed being part of the Summer School, two weeks full of interaction, learning processes and fun, and would like to be able to take part in other such projects.
  11. Professor emeritus Dr. Horst Oberquelle is a retired information scientist from the University of Hamburg and actively involved as a treasurer in the civic society initiative Poppenbüttel Hilft e.V. as well as spokesperson for donations in kind. His involvement in the Summer School consisted mainly in the financial accounting and the civil society’s responsibilities towards the district of Wandsbek and Lawaetz-Foundation.
  12. Mareike Wierzoch was born in Hamburg and is a graduate in Urban Planning at HafenCity University Hamburg. She works in the department Urban and Landscape Planning in the district of Wandsbek since 2011. There, she is responsible for the land use development planning process Poppenbüttel 43 through which the legally binding planning rights for the residential development, the community building and a child care facility will be established. The land-use plan aims to put into practice and build the foundation for the approved buildings for the accommodation of refugees and asylum seekers following §246 section 14 BauGB (German Planning and Building Law).
  13. archinet (2017) Joanne Pouzenc interviews Alexander Römer: Building togetherness through architecture ( ding-togetherness-through-architecture-an-interview-wi- th-constructlab).
  14. Christel Lühmann has a diploma in Social Pedagogy and worked for the district administration Wandsbek. After 28 years in youth welfare services she moved on to the department social space management. She leads the section ‘Integrated social planning’, which aims to make a contribution to improving the living conditions of all those who live in the defined area. Against this backdrop, her interdisciplinary analysis of specific socially-spatially defined areas and their inhabitants feeds back into planning contexts.