Good times and bad are real

The largest European trade fair for commercial real estate and investments is not exactly a showcase for high-quality architecture in the professional world. Is it still worth the effort to spend a few days at a real estate fair like this? A highlighted experience report with the clear answer: yes.

~ Karl J. Habermann

At the main press conference of the fair management there are the obligatory figures and data as well as an optimistic statement about the situation. Despite or perhaps because of the uncertain situation in the global economy, the trend towards fixed assets seems to give cause for cautious optimism in the real estate sector. Every year, Expo Real offers a wide variety of contacts between investors, project developers, economic development institutions from countries, regions, cities and municipalities, representatives from retail and the hotel industry, planners, architects and engineers from various fields. For an initial overview, it has proven useful to drift through the halls and be surprised with open eyes and ears. The first discovery follows immediately. Edinburgh, which has had a sisterly relationship with Munich for decades, is daring to appear at the Expo for the first time and has particularly lush, developable commercial space. Expectations are high, and so are the dangers thanks to the demanding topography. As usual, Munich occupies the center of Hall A2 and seems to have long since left the defeat in the Olympic competition behind. Just a few steps further, representatives of the city of Freising are clearly informing about the economic loss at the airport. The employees there have to be provided with inexpensive apartments and infrastructure, without being supported with proportionate trade taxes. The communities affected by the already decided runway extension are already represented on the airport's own exhibition stand and hope for noise-insensitive business prospects - the further training in problems of city, state and regional planning can hardly be more realistic. Students from the Technical University of Munich can rack their brains over (im-) possible solutions as part of a competition.

The trend towards joining forces regionally or under the term metropolitan region can also be observed increasingly this time. Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt are unwaveringly striving to strengthen Central Germany. In the network, even smaller cities are able to create agile offers. An attentive investor should therefore first consider getting involved in the provinces, if possible, before following the herd instinct in the already saturated metropolises. HafenCity Hamburg remains true to the motto of a broad-based, intensive information policy that runs over the years. The danger of an oversaturated office market is now being increasingly countered with residential construction. Only a balanced mix guarantees urban life.

Learning material for everyone involved

Thanks to an appearance by Minister a. D. Heiner Geißler temporarily no longer getting through. His Philippika against speculators and rampant capitalism only leads to restrained applause, but at least also to pensive faces. Geißler sees the way out of the crisis only in an eco-social market economy with clearly formulated ethical rules.

Morally strengthened, the search for tolerable architecture continues. At the red dot award-winning forum of the Federal Chamber of Architects and DGBN you can start to find what you are looking for. The trade fair appearances of the Netherlands and Switzerland are even more productive: Representatives of established architectural offices personally explain their latest projects using attractive models, plans and realistic renderings.

Compared to previous years, the attentive visitor can hardly hide the decline in the area of ​​appearances by Russia, Spain and the Emirates. "The wave is through," it says laconically in response to penetrating questions from the project developers, investors and banks present. Doha alone is steadfastly holding the flag high and, compared to the highly praised CO2-free city model Masdar City, can only come up with a far less spectacular urban renewal. Well-known British architecture and engineering offices ensure an architectural language with vernacular elements that is adapted to the location and the climate. Should we have learned the necessary lessons from Dubai? Hopefully! The efforts in this country to anchor energy efficiency and sustainability in everyday planning and construction are progressing, not least thanks to the efforts of the DGNB. About 50 projects were given certificates or pre-certificates at the fair. Michael Baumgart's appearance showed that one can and must go further here. His principle Cradle to Cradle propagates consistent thinking and acting in cycles and has already arrived in construction in the Netherlands (see db 6/2011, pp. 78-80). Baumgart's partner William McDonough is an architect and is trying to implement a first pilot project in the Park 20/20 project. Urban planning and architectural language, however, remain conventional. Aesthetics - as an essential component of sustainable architecture - has still not found its way into the many certification efforts. Only an even stronger mix of the fair with high-quality examples can remedy this: the fair appearances of the Netherlands and Switzerland provide good evidence of this. It should be clear to everyone that training centers for real estate should not be missing at an Expo Real. These are also present: Professors are available to answer questions about the main areas of teaching and qualifications that can be achieved. But you should also think about the financial possibilities of the students and improve the access to the fair - nobody will want to call the already reduced admission price of 85 euros in advance sales and 100 euros on site as tempting. Nevertheless: Hardly any school will be able to offer more practical object lessons than the real trade fair. •

The author is a freelance architect and specialist author. He lives and works in Munich.

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