A very different model of development

On the outskirts of Munich in Germany, an entirely new part of the city is being built on green fields, a new urban extension called Freiham. The 190 hectare development for 25,000 people is still under construction although already people are moving in.

Street corner
Still under construction, but already a coffee shop, hairdresser and food store have opened in this part of the development

Around 900 of the approximately 11,000 planned apartments will be built by GWG Städtische Wohnungsgesellschaft München, the Municipal Housing Company. The demand for subsidised apartments in Munich is high and those who need one of the many being built, are encouraged to apply online so that they can benefit from living in a new and green extension to the city.

What about the place? The architecture is modern. The accommodation is mostly in low to medium rise flats (three to six storeys), and with minimal parking above ground, there is lots of room for greenery, linear parks and squares. Residential neighbourhoods are grouped around publicly accessible courtyards with trees, places to sit and for children to play.

Pavement outside building
Frequent buses already serve this area, and will take you to the metro station

Freiham is specifically designed as a green and pleasant place for walking and cycling and for using public transport, and this has completely shaped the way the place has been built. It has been deliberately situated abutting the existing urban area and therefore is easy to connect to existing suburbs via footpaths, cycleways, streets and of course, public transport. That said, of course Freiham has its many of own public and commercial facilities.

Municipal facilities for all – within walking distance

Path with building works in background
The new housing is linked by streets and paths to the existing urban area

By building apartments as opposed to low density suburbia, many more people will live in a small area. The advantages of building like this are that a wide range of educational, retail and recreational amenities are close to everyone. Less space has to be devoted to the car.

But are these local facilities actually materialising? They are. There is a large education campus, supermarket and smaller food store, a DIY store and a hairdresser; other shops are on the way. Cafes and other local businesses are up and running. A new sports centre with a skatepark, gym, swimming pool and sports field is available to all, and parks and squares are being planted.

There are playground for different ages. There is currently a supermarket, a pharmacy, home improvements store, coffee shop, and more even though the place is by no means finished.  The idea is that people from other parts of Munich can use the new facilities too, making use of the excellent public transport or travelling on bike or on foot. Thus the new district is integrated with the existing urban area, in terms of continuous streets, sustainable transport links, civic amenities and places to visit.

Metro and bus links

A new Freiham S-bahn station on the S8 metro line has already been built for the new development and there is another stop not far away (Aubing) on the S4 metro line.

Frequent buses are already run right through the area to bring you to the station or further afield, with bus stops planned and built early on so that they are ready to receive buses and encourage passengers.  With the growing influx of new residents, the Munich Transport Company (MVG) is actively expanding bus lines 57, 143 and 157 to serve the new part of town so that people can move in without having to use a car.

Two quite different models

Freiham and a typical example of a large greenfield housing estate in England are compared:

This is an entirely different way of building on green fields compared to England. Could we do it? Should we do it? What should we make of this model of development and can we learn from it?