urbainable – stadthaltig.

Positions on the European City for the 21st Century
Dessau | Exhibition | until November 22th, 2020

Its adaptability and innovative strength have made the "European city" a successful model since ancient times. But, is it still able to meet the great challenges of the 21st century, namely climate compatibility and sustainability?



The deficits of cities are obvious at first: they consume resources and fossil energy, emit climate-damaging gases, seal ground and generate waste. Cities are a burden on the environment and damaging to health, and are the scenes of social conflicts over the distribution of work, housing and wealth, for example. But would it be conceivable for the city to not only be part of the problem, but also part of the solution? In its title urbainable – stadthaltig, the latest exhibition by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, follows the hypothesis that sustainability and the city cannot be seen in isolation from one other. It addresses the role of the European city in the age of global warming, digitalisation, demographic change and the breakdown of traditional social networks.

urbainable – stadthaltig
5 September – 22 November 2020

Tue – Sun 11am – 7pm
€ 9/6. Free admission up to 18 years

The purchase of a time slot ticket is recommended.
Online at adk.de/tickets



The exhibition urbainable – stadthaltig consists of two parts. An installation of images by Berlin photographer Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk forms an urban panorama, which – supplemented by facts from research by the Institute for Urban Design and Planning at Leibniz University Hannover – introduces the subject and illustrates the potential for sustainable development offered by our cities. In the main part of the exhibition, 34 members of the Architecture Section of the Akademie der Künste and their guests show how this potential can be used in concrete terms. Their projects, visions and initiatives in the areas of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture and urban planning demonstrate a broad range of ideas for the city of the future, from design details to urban planning vision, from building technology to political discourse. The result is a kaleidoscope of concepts, a tour d'horizon into current European architecture and urban planning and that follows the pressing issues of our time such as digitalisation, mobility, the culture of density, or relation to nature, reuse and adaptation of existing structures as well as technical innovations.

Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Estação do Oriente railway station, Lisbon, 2016


The current show was planned and designed before the coronavirus crisis, but the experience of the pandemic has been incorporated into its implementation. The immense adaptability and creative potential of our cities are already becoming apparent. To exploit this potential instead of merely trying to correct the deficits of cities – that is the leitmotif of this exhibition. urbainable – stadthaltig is curated by Tim Rieniets, Matthias Sauerbruch and Jörn Walter.

Participating members
Fritz Auer, Thomas Auer, Klaus Bollinger, Michael Bräuer, Arno Brandlhuber, Winfried Brenne, Kees Christiaanse, Annette Gigon, Almut Grüntuch-Ernst, Guido Hager, Peter Haimerl, Thomas Herzog, Regine Keller, Karla Kowalski, Anne Lacaton, Pierre Laconte, Regine Leibinger, Hilde Léon, HG Merz, Günter Nagel, Florian Nagler, Irina Raud, Ian Ritchie, Matthias Sauerbruch, Jörg Schlaich, Helmut C. Schulitz, Thomas Sieverts, Enrique Sobejano, Volker Staab, Christiane Thalgott, Kjetil T. Thorsen, Marco Venturi, Jörn Walter, Wilfried Wang

Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Nothing to see here, Berlin, 2007


Intro Text Foyer     The major challenge of the 21st century is “sustainability”. Globalisation and digitalisation, as well as the climate and mobility transitions, are top priorities. At the centre of this challenge lies the city, where energy is consumed, climate-damaging gases are generated, most resources are swallowed up, ground is sealed and most waste is generated. They are the scenes of major social conflicts regarding the distribution of work, housing and wealth.
Has the “European city” model of success been exhausted or can it once again prove its adaptability and innovative power? Is it an obstacle on the way to a sustainable future or could it actually be part of the solution?
The exhibition consists of two parts: A text and photo installation on the many sustainability potentials of cities and 33 projects in the fields of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture and urban planning by members of the Architecture Section and their guests.
Tim Rieniets, Matthias Sauerbruch, Jörn Walter

Text Halle 1     Whether in the professional world, in the media or in political discourse – we are used to taking the many advantages of the city for granted, while emphasizing its shortcomings at the same time: the lack of affordable housing, the high level of dust pollution and other environmental toxins, the high cost of living, the noise, the stress, the dangers. The general opinion is that these problems have to be solved, if our cities are to have a future at all. At the same time, we easily overlook the benefits cities have to offer to its inhabitants every day, as well as the potential they provide in the development of more sustainable built and social environments.

Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Tree in front of firewall, Berlin, 2007
Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Paris, 2017
Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Former runway at Tempelhof Field, Berlin, 2017


Text Halle 1     Photographer Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk and the Institute for Urban Design and Planning at Leibniz University Hannover set out on the search. Using photographs and drawings for their intensive research they discovered a treasure trove of hidden potentials in our cities. The results of this investigation are as diverse, surprising and at times as contradictory as the cities themselves. It is a plea in favour of the urban sphere, which – despite all its deficits – already offers unexpected opportunities for change and reform today.

Text Halle 2     The members of the Architecture Section have long felt an obligation to promote sustainable architecture and urban development. Now – together with invited guests from Germany and abroad – they are presenting ideas, projects and experiences from their diverse practices for the first time in a joint exhibition. Their contributions cover the entire spectrum of sustainable design, from constructional details to urban planning, from building technology to political discourse. Some members take a critical look at the past and present, while others take a visionary look at the future. All of the projects share the continuity of change and a commitment to the common good. The exhibition is a kaleidoscope of various concepts, a tour d’horizon of the studios of European architects at the beginning of the 2020s.
This diversity is also reflected in the exhibition architecture, which was developed in collaboration with the members. It resembles a city – full of unexpected pathways and surprising discoveries. It resists the temptation to present patent remedies and simple messages, but instead hopes to encourage the visitor to engage with the future of our cities. As in the past, the renewal of the European city will be less driven by ideal concepts “from above” but more by the wide array of initiatives of its citizens.

Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk
Wrinkles of the City street art by JR on the corner of Breite Straße and Leipziger Straße (former Ministry of Building of the GDR), Berlin, 2014