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FindingPlaces.hamburg - Urban model to identify areas for refugee accommodation in Hamburg

Photos: Walter Schießwohl

The equal distribution of asylum seekers in the city of Hamburg poses major challenges to the city’s urban domain. Hamburg has already provided 39,000 places for asylum seekers, the purpose of the project is to help finding suitable areas for another 20,000 accommodation.

The CityScope, an interactive data based modeling system, consists of two 2 x 2 meter tables: On one table, a model of Hamburg can be seen in an overall view with previous refugee accommodations. Presented on this model are existing and planned facilities of the initial reception and the follow-up accommodation. Additionally, all district and neighborhood boundaries and important orientation characteristics such as the Elbe, Alster and Bille, are featured as well.

The scale of the Hamburg model allows only a rough analysis of the area. Therefore, another model is proposed to be zoomed on the scale of the neighborhood, showing streets, existing buildings and parcels. Additionally planning frameworks (for example, the plan designation of an area) are shown on a screen. The HCU developed a cartographic data base, where potential public open spaces, as well as hard and soft criteria for each plot are presented. This multilayered information can assist in finding other locations for refugee accommodation in preliminary assessment stages. Together with various decision makers, each parcel could be analyzed and checked for feasibility.

By replacing different data blocks on the Cityscope, it will be possible to increase or reduce the number of refugee accommodation at individual locations. These real-time changes, initiated by decision makers, will have a direct impact on different parameters in the model, such as the number of accommodated asylum seekers on the entire city area or the number of refugees per district.

The aim of the project is to promote a citywide dialogue which deals with the question of how to accommodate the present refugees and those who are expected to arrive in 2016. It aims not to discuss only individual sites, but to promote a discourse in the context of different interests (residential / commercial / conservation) and legal planning requirements. This also allows citizens to contribute their expertise and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the given proposals.

Starting in mid-May 2016, open discussions with professional moderation by the “steg – Stadtentwicklungsgesellschaft”, a private urban development and communication company, will be held at HafenCity University at regular intervals. These will take place in cooperation with the coordinating staff refugees and the Senate Chancellery of the City of Hamburg.

Official Project Website (German)



January 18th - 22nd 2016

In January the CityScope will once more focus on Rothenburgsort.This workshop will provide students with a hands-on opportunity to develop an advanced tangible-technological platforms for urban planning, design and architecture. The platform supports decision-making in an evidence-based process, accessible by both experts and non-experts. HafenCity University (HCU) faculty, researchers and students, in association with MIT, will use the Rothenburgsort neighborhood as a case study to test and develop the platform on real-life subjects, such as housing shortages, innovation and entrepreneurial development, urban mobility, walkability, quality of life and more.


September 3rd – 8th


As part of the cooperation between MIT and HCU the first urban model of this kind was built in an interdisciplinary student-workshop using Lego bricks as well as traditional materials. On a surface covering more than 2 m2 the model displays parts of Hamburg-Rothenburgsort, which is currently in the focus of prospective urban development. By placing optically tagged Lego bricks simulating different building types on the CityScope, changes to the city are visually revealed in real-time by changing color-codes projected onto the pieces. Thus different variables such as the walkability, access to jobs, housing or open space can easily be measured.