Gert Urhahn
urban planner &
associate Urhahn Urban Design

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Raised in Essen, then the ‘Kohlenpott’ of Germany. At the age of thirteen I paid my first visit to Amsterdam. I knew then that's where I would end up. I studied Architecture and specialized in Urban Planning, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. As urban planner with the Spatial Planning Department Amsterdam I co-launched, the central IJ-riverbank project, then founded the agency Urhahn Urban Design. Now I have started to build up the international Working Group for Spontaneous City for the IFHP.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Le Corbusier, Fumihiko Maki. I can also recall an article in a Dutch magazine (FORUM or Housing TABK) in which two children from Amsterdam describe their daily journey to school, the one living in Buitenveldert, the other in Old-West. That's when I began to understand how important the relationship between man and city can be. I think the everyday life is what interests me most.

3. Best city

Amsterdam. A good city is compact, open and constantly changing. Or as the American writer Doctorow said "... the place where my imagination feels at home".

4.Most beautiful building

Oscar Niemeyers house Casa das Canoas in Rio de Janeiro. On terms of shape, colour and motion unprecedented with nature.

5. Most beautiful park or square

Copacabana Beach by Roberto Burle Marx in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Best public facility /
urban infill

The canals in Amsterdam: Generic and specific at the same time. Open for change and has it's own unique look.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

The Internet: it brings new momentum and creates unexpected opportunities.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

After Ready Made City and major area developments with a limited number of parties, opportunities will arise for small developments on a large scale.

9. About the future of cities

The real challenges lie in the metropolitan cities of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. European cities don't count anymore except for a few exceptions such as London. The best we can do here is being open, critical and innovative.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

The Spontaneous City: I am co-author of several publications on city and urbanity and recently on 'De Spontane Stad'.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

The more dominant the planning is the more need for a guerrilla in the city. It is a sovereign remedy against idleness, power and restraint of the established order. Sometimes it's purely about survival, sometimes the quality of life.