This project is the winner of the competition “Create.NRW”, offered by the North Rhine-Westphalia Department of Trade and Industry on behalf of the European Union.  Within three years, the project office will develop strategic concepts for structuring the Ehrenfeld district spatially and conceptually  – and will successively transform the former “working-class neighbourhood” into a centre for young international design.

1. Design Quartier Ehrenfeld / Creative urban space in Ehrenfeld

The awareness that cities and economies (can) grow like biological organisms forms the central motivation for our project to develop a district in Cologne into a stage for young, creative designers which brings new/alternative categories into play such as: urban design, sustainability, quality, links to the location’s history, regional economies, new living and working environments, neighbourhood, ethics of economies (and of politics) and the “nature” of growth. The author of the project assumes that small-scale and sensitive urbane and socially interactive planning of the “city” will help it survive on a long-term basis and generate it (insofar as a city generates freedom), and that creative micro-economies are the development engines for a European city to flourish on a sustainable basis.

2. New work: New living and working environments as the foundation for a new wave of start-ups

The general consensus is now that new jobs will not be created in either the manufacturing or service industries, but solely in the creative sector, in smart, small companies which employ technology in an imaginative way; because (mass) production will be automated further; all aspects of administration will be taken over by the computer, and the Internet will make many services superfluous. On the other hand, it is precisely the new technologies which enable design and production to be implemented on a differentiated and customised basis, in other words to manufacture products in small batches, and to create niche products and products for new requirements in a manner which saves on resources. Of course jobs will also be created in this dynamic process which are not directly entrepreneurial in nature and can be offered by the Ehrenfeld location.
The network will provide a basis for independence and decisive competitive advantages; together people will establish exciting small companies to manufacture new products in which, for example, the users can be involved, and new product fields which will, as it were, be “cultivated” jointly: “Made in Cologne Ehrenfeld” - the new design stamp, the new “brand”.

3. Designing a city / a community

The Ehrenfeld location, its profile and its small-scale, post-industrial and intercultural infrastructure make it predestined for innovative, experimental and creative development based on SMEs, design, innovative technologies, alternative marketing, communication and tourism.
Our undertaking is to develop Ehrenfeld into an example of a dynamic centre for young, international and certainly also experimental, non-conformist design, with its own sustainable identity in the medium term (principles: ecology, gender, integration, intercultural orientation). Designers from various nations who embrace these objectives are to be concentrated and promoted here. Graduates of local, regional and national German design universities are to be encouraged to settle here. They will be advised, assisted and promoted. Post-graduate training, start-up consulting and workshops on relevant new fields of design will be offered, joint ventures launched, and joint use can be made of new technologies. The designers will utilise the opportunities of the “social creative community”. International designers will be invited to establish branches or partnerships here after they have perhaps been able to gain experience and make contacts here as a scholarship holder or as a “Designer in Residence”. Graduates of both local and regional universities connected with design, as well as, in particular, the Euregio universities in Aachen, Eindhoven and Maastricht, Antwerp university and in Barcelona and Istanbul, cities twinned with Cologne, are to be involved in the Ehrenfeld cluster, to some degree in partnerships with German designers or with their own branches, and become magnets in this location. The tendency should be to encourage all innovative, creative people and organisations to establish themselves here and to profit from the existing infrastructure and the future potential and mutual assistance, the collective marketing strategy and the joint ventures. The spirit of the community, in turn, will provide the basis for designing the image of the Ehrenfeld creative district.

4. Creative training environment in Cologne/Ehrenfeld

The plan is to develop a dynamic start-up district and a centre of excellence for design. Professional know-how will be conveyed to young designers in the form of consulting / coaching, economic, commercial and tax-related training, topic-related workshops, and information on subsidies, including credits and venture capital: these are all measures which prepare people to succeed in launching a company of their own. The offering is geared to a wide range of young designers from the following fields: industrial design, interior design, fashion design, web design, graphical design, communication design, game design, set design,
light design, green design, IT design, design services, design management, design training, exhibition design, design publications, new technologies, model making, handicrafts and arts and crafts (ceramics/jewels). Interrelated neighbourhoods will be founded, start-ups and spin-offs will be promoted, networks will develop organically.
Ehrenfeld’s development potential is also ideal in terms of education and training. The ecosign Akademie für nachhaltiges Design (Academy for Sustainable Design) will be accommodated here in a refurbished factory and offer a novel type of campus. It is also planned that a branch and permanent facility of the Verein für Bildung von Kindern und Jugendlichen im Hinblick auf Design, Architektur und Stadt J.A.S. (Association for Educating Children and Young People in Design, Architecture and Urban Settlement J.A.S.) should be established here. The Jack in the Box association will provide further training for challenged people in the fields of handicrafts and design.

5. New integrative, dynamic strategy

Awareness of the need for economic and social change is a prerequisite for the project – change towards more humane capitalism, using resources sparingly, the intelligent use of new technologies, sustainable urban development including alternative models for living and working, in other words also social sustainability, a new and innovative body of entrepreneurs who act responsibly, a new orientation towards quality (of processes, products, etc.), the joint or “cooperative” use of facilities and resources and infrastructure, a new job system, a participative fundamental approach and autonomous definition of objectives. The Ehrenfeld creative district concept stands for all of this: There is also a touch of Kristiania and adventure, because an alternative concept – the “creative immigration country Ehrenfeld” – requires the protection of a biotope, an experimental stage and the opportunity to “win over” – space, buildings, areas and, of course, people: in other words, the city. 


Extract from the judgment of the jury under the chairmanship of Professor Claus Leggewie:

Design Quartier Ehrenfeld
“The project stemming from the office of Sabine Voggenreiter, Cologne, focuses on expanding the Ehrenfeld district into a dynamic centre for young, international design. Among other things, it aims to draw up a strategy for developing the area covered by and content of the Ehrenfeld district by means of spaces, temporary use of the facilities and offerings for new living, and working environments for creative people. The modules include attracting international designers who, it is planned, will establish branches and partnerships, start-up consulting, cooperation with universities to utilise the location, a designer trade fair in conjunction with the Passagen festival, and cooperation projects with cities that are international design centres.
In the jury’s opinion the project is aimed at collecting and concentrating the creative power of a district. It wants to take advantage of the potential offered by designers and other creative people to develop the location, and to create new jobs and a forum to enable people to provide each other with stimulation by exchanging their ideas.
Focus will centre on close cooperation with urban developers.
Thanks to the know-how of the organisation responsible, the project seems suitable for attracting international attention.”





Winning project of the state-wide competition "Create.NRW" for the cultural and creative industries

Project author: Sabine Voggenreiter


Christine Drabe



Design Quartier Ehrenfeld
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