Impressions from Frankfurt, by Elsi Kauppinen Pioneer into Practice 2014
Based on my first impression of Frankfurt, it would be quite difficult to believe how many people live here. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, not crowded by cars and with lots of greenery. Of course the city centre is incredibly busy and full of life, but it has a wide car-free zone. Thanks to the really good public transport system, air is much fresher than in many cities with less than 1/10th of Frankfurt’s population. Only “strange” thing for me is the relative lack of bicycles and bicycle routes – in my opinion a cosy city is filled with bikes and biking roads (my preferred mode of transport).
Frankfurt seems like a work-oriented place; many come here for business. Still the city maintains its village-like charm, where people are relaxed, enjoy the green parks during weekend and have a beer with friends at evening. When the weather is good, old men hang outside and enjoy the daily newspaper, some gossip and a beer. In fact, people are really friendly and engage in conversations with strangers (which is unheard of in Helsinki). If you get your map of the city out even for a moment, somebody is already offering help. The usual cold attitude of people living in big cities does not luckily apply to Frankfurt. So the atmosphere can feel like a small town, but the city is packed with all the perks of a modern international city (abundant culture and food, good public transport).
Frankfurt is very international: Ethnic restaurants are abundant and offer a lighter diet in comparison to quite heavy German and regional Hessen food (where the most common vegetables are beer, apple wine and potato). Nevertheless, there are some regional dishes which are worth of trying out (such as the “music” inducing sour milk cheese, Handkäs mit musik).
For a good view of the city skyline, go to the railway bridge close to Ostend called “Deutschherrnbrücke”. At evening the sun sets behind the city and gives a nice view. This is also a good area for jogging or for a walk, with more trees and less crowds than closer to the city centre.
Frankfurt’s museum scene is one of the largest and most varied in Germany. Today, Frankfurt has around 60 larger and smaller museums and exhibition halls of different sizes, from general art museums to small specialist collections. 26 museums conveniently located in close proximity to each other and within walking-distance of the city centre form the heart of Frankfurt’s museum scene. The Museumsufer Frankfurt (Frankfurt Museum Embankment) located between Eiserner Steg and Friedensbrücke comprises 13 museums by the river alone and just as many and more in the vicinity.
Some of the most interesting (=fun!) museums to go to this far have been Museum of Communication (Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt) and German Filmmuseum (Deutsches Flimmuseum). The experience in the Museum of Communication may have been enhanced by live disco music from the 70’s and a drink in hand during the Nacht der Museen-Event. In the Filmmuseum you can test the green screen and see how you look like when being attacked by a giant mantis.
From Kamil Wojdylo, Participant of the Summer School 2013
What will happen if you bring a diverse selection of young and ambitious researchers to one place and ask them to discuss, socialise and learn together for the next 14 consecutive days? What if you provide them with the necessary knowledge, experienced and dedicated coaches and, most importantly, a lot of coffee? What if you challenge them with a problem so difficult that no one has managed to solve it yet, although many have tried?
Local leaders of the one very climate-friendly city decided that their city could perform even better. To do so they came up with the brilliant idea to set a very appealing and ambitious goal. They said, “We as a whole community of this city will consume less energy – let’s say half of what we are using now. To make this goal even more ambitious and more appealing the other half will be entirely delivered by renewable sources. And we will have achieved that before 2050”. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Fortunately, someone had an even more brilliant idea to bring into this city a bunch of PhD students from all over Europe and baffle them with this problem.
The city, I am talking about, is Frankfurt am Main (1). I was one of the lucky chosen ones who arrived on the 15th September at the Frankfurt Central Station to start my two weeks adventure during this PhD Summer School that had the mysterious subtitle “Making Transitions Happen”. I was ready to help and, incidentally of course, ready to have a good time.
“…we were applying our freshly acquired skills into practice…”
But what did I do there in particular? – Together with other young and joyful researchers I was mostly dedicated to absorb knowledge. We were listening to many inspiring lectures, were discussing in numerous coaching sessions and were taking part in guided tours as well as excursions to a variety of industrial sites. All these activities, provided to us in the first week, were supposed to make us prepared to be able to achieve “making transitions happen” for Frankfurt and, who knows, where else in the future. So, in the last couple of days of the Summer School we were applying our freshly acquired wisdom into practice and, by working in groups, we proposed potential solutions for the above mentioned challenge.
“Which network do I want to be the part of? Where am I in a big picture?”
For me the Summer School was about sharing ideas and inspiring each other. I sensed that throughout the whole event participants had a true joy. It arose from the fact that, despite that we were from different universities, had different disciplines, had different nationalities; we were all in a life moment of the big step into the academic world. On day 4, during an academic knowledge session, Professor Fred Steward said that everyone needs to find his or her own network of people and try to fit in that network consciously. Which network do I want to be the part of? Where am I in a big picture? After the Summer School I can raise these questions more confidently and even dare to answer some of them.
“I think we did our bit to make Frankfurt reach its inspiring goal”
Coaches, speakers and other invited scholars and professionals did a great job by taking us through the fascinating and diverse subject of Transition Theory. Thanks to local leaders we had also an opportunity to implement and test the theories. Though we had little time I think we did our bit to make Frankfurt reach its inspiring goal. Maybe next time when I am at the Central Station I will take one of the city’s on-demand vehicles (2) to visit the newly transformed Mainzer Landstraße (3).
PS: Thanks to Stuart Bowles and Chris Mazur for valuable feedback on this blog entry.
(1) You can read more about its “Masterplan 100% climate protection” here.
(2) Read more about winning project
(3) Read more about Audience Award Project
From Didi van Doren, Participant of the Summer School 2013
Transforming Frankfurt into a carbon-neutral City
Didi van Doren describes her time spent in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, during the Climate-KIC PhD summer school and discusses how the city aims to reduce its carbon footprint, and will act as a role model in the near future.
During my first evening I met 35 other PhD students who were also participating in the programme. Together we formed a diverse and multi-disciplinary group. Our different skills had been brought together in order to transform Frankfurt. Our group consisted of, amongst others, civil engineers, lawyers, urban planners, landscape architects, economists, a landscape architect and a traffic engineer. We were briefed about Frankfurt’s carbon neutral objective and the group assignment that was due at the end of the summer school: We had to develop a master plan regarding a certain sector or a niche project.
Aspiring to be carbon neutral by 2050
We were advised that the transition to a sustainable energy system for Frankfurt will consist of two avenues:
1) Improvements in energy efficiency must lead to a 50% reduction in energy demand
2) The remaining demand for energy must be provided by renewable energy sources
Over the course of my time in Frankfurt, I became aware of the many challenges that must be overcome in order to attain this goal. Frankfurt is an important financial centre and traffic hub. Consequently, green spaces in the city, which are important for human wellbeing and climate mitigation and adaptation, are under pressure. And traffic congestion is becoming an increasingly pressing problem that must be tackled in order to reduce carbon emissions. Other key challenges include the retrofitting of residential houses and motivating the industry sector to become more sustainable.
It can be said that having 100% renewable energy in 2050 is an ambitious goal. Yet, in light of predicted rising energy prices and climate change, attaining this goal can be considered essential for human and economic development.
Our innovative ideas
At the end of the first week many innovative ideas had been developed, including the creation of an eco-district in the city, the transformation of old office buildings into sustainable housing blocks, and the creation of a centrally co-ordinated mobility system for the city.
We were also able to learn more about the challenges that can arise in the transition to a carbon-neutral city through a lecture by the Professor whose transition theory we had been studying throughout the summer school: Professor Frank Geels. His lecture was very interesting and it was great to discuss the challenges with respect to the transition to a low-carbon energy regime.
Exploring the City
The programme consisted of many other activities such as a barbeque and a boat trip through the Rheingau, a famous German wine region. It was great to see the landscape of the region that we had been studying the entire week.
During our time in Frankfurt we also visited many interesting places including JUWI – a German project developer in renewable energies from the Rhein-Main-region – and the Industriepark Höchst, where Provadis School – the Summer School host – is also located.
Frankfurt will act as a role model
During our final day in Frankfurt we presented our master plans and niche projects to the municipality of Frankfurt. It was fascinating to hear every group’s plan and approach to the issue. Within less than two weeks, all groups had been able to come up with innovative ideas that could contribute to the transformation of Frankfurt to a carbon-neutral city. We were able to provide the municipality with a set of ideas and recommendations that had the potential to overcome the challenges that the city faces.
When I left the city, rather than seeing challenges, I saw many opportunities. Having experienced the determination of the municipality in having 100% renewable energy in 2050, I am convinced that this goal will be achieved. By committing to an ambitious goal like this, Frankfurt will act as a role model and will hopefully inspire other cities to reduce their carbon footprint.