Ideenwerkstatt GKR's K21 vision
(Photo ArkitektInnen für K21)
Christoph Ingenhofen's S21 design
(Photo S21)
The station and the Schlossgarten plane trees
(Photo Oliver Lowenstein)

Stuttgart 21's Tunnel Vision

In Germany one building helped the Green's to their historic Baden-Württemberg election victory

Despite the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg voting 'Yes' in a historic referendum to building the controversial Stuttgart 21 underground station, conflict over the rail tunnel project is set to continue for many months to come. The city has also been one of the country's most dynamic sustainable architecture, engineering and research centres. The grand rail project casts a spotlight on this sector's relationship - while celebrated for technical innovation - with public participation in planning decisions about the fabric of their built future.

Demonstration Monday in March 2011 (Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
They were putting up billboards the evening I took the U-Bahn up to see the Weissenhof-Siedlung in the outskirts of Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, the small set-piece from ur-Modernism's heroic 1920's era. The billboards were large, a crane hoisting each into position, in front of the tract of land awaiting the arrival of building companies. A great hole was gauged out of the hilly land, a first act in Forum Killesberg, an upmarket real estate development going live. A succession of big name central European architects were paraded on the placards: Ortner & Ortner, BaumschlagerEberle and Britain's best known German architect, David Chipperfield, were listed, the former well-known regionally, if not to British eyes, aimed at wooing well healed prospective buyers to the apartments. Down the road, the Weissenhof-Siedlung, with buildings by Corb, Mies and Gropius seemed dwarfed by the surrounding, more recent, buildings.

A short time earlier I'd been at Stuttgart's railway station where the controversial plans to entirely rebuild the station area have triggered some of the largest protests in Germany since the fall of the wall in 1989. At the station protest groups were holding their regular Monday evening demonstration against the Stuttgart 21 (S21) project, one of the largest European city's infrastructure programmes which aims to replace the early twentieth century terminus railway station with an underground through station as part of the eastwards push in the EU's, National and regional Government's and Deutsche Bahn, (DB - the German rail company's) hi-speed rail infrastructure plans. There were young, old and middle-aged in the crowd, as speeches were made and music played, and police looked on. The project has been mired in controversy for the past few years, and reached a critical juncture with the ousting of the traditional party running Baden-Württemberg, the conservative CDU (Conservative Democratic Union), after 58 years by a Green-Social Democratic partnership in regional state elections ) at the end of March last year.

City Library21 by Eun Young Yi Architects (photo Wikipedia – Open Commons)
Although work has not yet begun in earnest on the main railway site to the north of the station, a corporate glass and concrete mid-rise non-place, with a seemingly symbolic threshold, Baden-Württemberg's Landesbank, as front of house gateway building, sits as the developments first act. Beyond, the building site proper started, with all the construction paraphernalia of a new millennium grand project. In the middle was a sole building, the new city library. A twenty-first century Modernist variant cube, by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, the concrete block is dotted with square windows, and as I passed it in the tram up to Killesberg I could understand the poor reviews that city locals had given it. People said it looks like a prison, and had dubbed it Stammheim 2, a dark reference to Stammheim prison on Stuttgart's outskirts where Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Fraction, lived out their last imprisoned years, before being found dead in their cells in 1976/7. I wondered, but didn't get round to asking, whether the implication, was that it was the books which were now imprisoned.

I didn't hear anyone begin to compare the divide running through the city to the extremes of seventies Germany. But S21 has polarised the city into pro and contra, pitting one-time friends against each other. A central narrative running through the S21 protests is how the democratic process has gone very wrong. This came to a head in autumn 2010, after a summer of protests in the large Schlossgarten next to the rail station, focused on that ur-passion of German's; their mythic connection with trees, woods and forests. The civic protests began intermittently and in small numbers in 1999, but it had only been a year earlier, when the DB's new head, Rüdiger Grube, announced that a decision on S21 would be made at the end of 2009, that the regular demonstrations in front of the station had begun. One October Monday evening a single person began a one-man protest outside the station. I am told the protests story by Hannes Rockenbauch, a young urban planner student, one of the earliest and key members of the opposition Kopfbahnhof 21 (K21 – translating as Terminus Station 21.)

S21 Monday protest
(Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
The station's already demolished North wing
(Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
Sitting in a student bar a few weeks before the regional elections, while drinking the local K21 support beer, Resist, Rockenbauch looks the part of the archetypal dissenting student; leather jacketed, a tousle of red hair and an easy, if intense, manner. Softly spoken and a son of an architect, he recounts the rise of the demonstrations, recalling how a week later there were four protestors, and in the next weeks the number had grown to over a hundred. At one of these police arrested a seventy-year old woman. This didn't go down very well and the following week the demonstration had swelled to over a thousand people.

For the first time the local newspapers wrote up the event. From that week on numbers began to snowball, with 3000 to 5000 people turning up. Winter gave way to spring and the Monday protests began to grow and grow, until there were huge numbers, rising to 60 000 by early summer. On July 26th the protests were on TV for the first time, when Rockenbauch and others occupied the station atrium. By this time, however, what had been a small group had solidified into an upwelling of Stuttgart and the surrounding region's citizen's from many walks of life.

The message wall outside Stuttgart station
(Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
On the long notice and information poster fence outside the station, amidst an endless sea of messages, statements and opinion, the evening I was there I noticed one which read, Beruf: Protestant. (Profession: Protestant.) I couldn't decide how intentional the play on protest-ant was, yet what seemed certain is that the K21 protestors haven't just been environmental and political activists.

They have come from the well-heeled professions, the middle and working classes, and from all age groups. Stuttgart and Baden-Württemberg, as the foreign media reporting the spring election unfailingly related, is the richest state in Germany and the CDU heartland. Although the Greens had already come out well in the previous municipal district wide elections in June 2010, becoming the strongest party in Stuttgart, the march election appeared transformative. The march Sunday result was  being cited as the beginning of the end for the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who pushed through the rail project despite the city’s opposition. According to Peter Conradi, one of the earliest (and highest profile) critics of S21 speaks of the election as a watershed. Conradi, ex-head of the German Architecture Chamber (Bundesarchitektenkammer) and SPD politician (who was a Stuttgart MP between 1972-1998.) and who is 79 this year, observed how “The middle classes and the upper classes, they’ve become sick of it. Stuttgart 21 has changed the city.”

Stuttgart Stations monumental foyer in the early twentieth century
(Photo: ArchitekInnen für K21)
The Greens, with their Governor, Winfried Kretschmann, (leader of the Baden-Württemberg federal state) have inherited a difficult situation. Negotiating a way out of the S21 contract could cost just as much as finishing the project, amounts which could spill over the billion Euro mark. Not only this but Stefan Mappus, the CDU's previous State Governor had also very recently signed the public buyout of the regions nuclear power stations.In the immediate afterglow of Fukushima, nuclear was unceremoniously sidelined by Chancellor Merkel's on the spot decision to temporarily close down the country's seven oldest nuclear plants. While I was in Stuttgart people were glued to TV's reporting the unfolding scale of the tragedy the other side of the planet. But no one seemed quite sure how the electorate would respond in the days ahead. Two weeks later and the CDU's rout made clear just how strong an impact events in Japan were in influencing the voters, with the unfortunate Mappus's nuclear buy-out now horribly ill-timed, though also another head-ache and financial millstone for the incoming administration.

Plane trees and camp in the
Schlossgarten (Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
What had so shocked Stuttgart's middle classes was how municipal, regional and national Government had ignored the democratic representations of the S21's opposition, and how nakedly they appeared to do so. In 2004, Wolfgang Schuster, the CDU Bürgermeister (city mayor) at the time had stated that the public would be given the choice about S21 if the city's contribution exceeded 200 million euro's through the form of a referendum. Three years later, in July 2007, details of S21's funding were announced, the project was to go ahead despite the city's contribution being well over Schuster's original threshold, with the public's choice seemingly forgotten. It seemed like a stitch-up. The Green party, plus the Verkehrs Club Deutschland (VCD) and the Leben-in-Stuttgart initiative worked together over the summer, getting in as many people as possible for a petition calling for a referendum. With nearly 70 000 signatures the referendum seemed likely, but then local politicians poured cold water on its validity arguing that since parts of S21 financing didn't come from city's public purse the petition couldn't go any further. Across town this didn't go down well, angering many across the different social groups. Conradi attributes the resistance to referenda's to the Stuttgart planners, and structurally, the German top down planning system overall. He remarks how in his view Stuttgart's planners, couldn't abide the decision-making process being taken away from them. "It's a top-down 'I know what is good for you' approach here. I know how city planning functions in committee. This was my field in parliament. My experience was, wherever there's jobs, money, investors, the planners decide in favour of this." A central focus of Conradi's political energies is geared towards reforming the top-down approach to planning, towards the Swiss referendum based model. "The SBB, the Swiss railways know that they have to show plans at every stage to the public, which have to go through referendums."

Rockenbauch, for his part, had run for a council seat on a one-man ticket in 2004, as the single member of the 'Lucky Non-party' and won, becoming the only council member (of 60) against S21. A year later he joined up with four other councillors from the radical Stuttgart Ecological-Social (SÖS) grouping. In 2008 there was an appeal, the first of three, while at the same time, the Oberbürgermeister (lord mayor) signed a contract with Baden-Württemberg State. Costs in the meantime rose, and in early 2009 S21 seemed in abeyance. Then a leaked secret report suggested the whole project questioned the economic rationale. By this time the citizenry was turning against the project; whereas in April 2008 those for and against split down the middle, by the end of the year this had shifted to 68% against. That autumn DB's Grube announced the rail company would decide on the committing to the project by winter while at the station demonstrations began. By summer 2010 it was a completely different story.

Tipi city in the Schlossgarten
(Photo Oliver Lowenstein)
One of the injured on Black Thursday
(Photo Spiegel)
Through the summer there was a festival atmosphere in the Schlossgarten next to the railway station. A tepee city had appeared, and several tree houses dedicated to defending the 280 plus threatened, two hundred year old plane trees nearest the station. Then on 30th September, the regional Government deployed riot police to break up the demonstrators. A twitter and internet school kids network, Parkschuetzer, a group protecting the park against S21, which Rockenbauch and some like minded friends had set up the previous autumn, was alerted, bringing out many young people, including 10 to 18 year olds, who blocked the tree cutting machinery and police cars. Within an hour there something like 10, 000 people had appeared. The police continued to try and clear the protestors, and began using water cannon, pepper spray. There were clashes and many people – the number is contested; officially 128, unofficially 300 plus – were injured. Two people were permanently blinded. If Black Thursday, as the late September day was quickly named, was intended to end the protests it backfired spectacularly. The pictures that flashed around the world were shocking, and threw the spotlight onto failings in the democratic decision making processes that had ended in the calamitous decision for the police’s show of strength. “It was terrible. I felt very sad,” said Conradi, who believed that Stuttgart demonstrations had been well policed up to that day. “That relation is over.” One day later there was a protest of 60 000 and a week later 100 000. Even so that Thursday night 25 trees were cut down.

The controversy spread almost instantaneously across Germany, many attending the post-Black Thursday protests came from all over Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel, attempting to diffuse the raised temperatures brought in a veteran CDU Baden-Württemberg political fixer, Heiner Geißler, to conduct a unique very public review of S21. During the late autumn/early winter weeks the 'mediation' review became a fixture of many German's TV watching habits. The two sides were shown talking through the pro's and cons of different aspects of the project. While perhaps not everyone's idea of scintillating television the nightly reports had many on the transfixed. When Geißler had heard the argument of the different parties he retired to prepare a report and recommendations. One month before the new year the report was released. But rather than reconciling the groupings, what's been termed S21+ the new series of measures did not seem to have pleased anyone. The report recommended the S21 go ahead, though the underground station plan should be expand with two additional platforms. Almost immediately K21 disputed whether there was enough space for this additional rail and station space. The trees, focus of so much emotional identification, would not die. Rather than being cut down they would be carefully uprooted and moved and then replanted elsewhere, though again, Stuttgarters may have been forgiven for asking how exactly this could be done with large two hundred year plane trees. There was to be a new round of stress tests, to ensure the tunnel engineering was as safe, effective and economic as had been claimed. The testing was to be overseen by DB, Geißler also recommended that part of the development site be handed over to a city-run public organisation, which would be developed, with community participation. S21+ was quite a change, said its advocates. But to K21 and their supporters the new S21+ plan seemed much too like the old one, and it didn't begin to address the root of the problem, that there ought not to be an underground development at all. Rockenbauch, for instance, says that he initially believed the mediation review would listen and consider all parties, though this isn't how, he, echoing everyone in the K21 camp I talked with, believes it turned out. Rather, expediency and taking the pressure out of the situation was the repeated – and probably inevitable - conclusion. Some pressure had indeed been released, but as 2011 began, the building works resumed again and the protests continued. By March what would happen at the looming election seemed to hang in the balance. And then on march 11th, two and half weeks before the election date, march 27th, the Japanese tsunami disaster happened, and in the next days the Fukushima nuclear emergency both gripped the world's attention and changed everything.

The underground S21 station (Image: S21)
Ten days before the election, and five days after the Japanese tsunami, I attended a talk put on by ArchitekInnen für K21, which was also hosting an exhibition highlighting an architectural and urban design alternatives to S21. The key message turns on not building the underground station. "Oben Bleiben" read the green two-tone badges that many people were wearing. ArchitekInnen für K21, like the main K21 umbrella opposition, envision a Stuttgart station, radically made over, though still a terminus, where trains arrive in one direction, and leave in the other. This is only part of the alternative vision, though one which, while integrating hi-speed, foresees a much more regional slant to the rail and transport infrastructure programme.

Talking a day earlier with a sassy, sharp New York architect who had moved to Stuttgart, after marrying into the region, and who was not directly involved in the S21 struggle between international and regional, the young architect observed how compared to London, where she'd been before, "London's pragmatism; solving problems and working as a team" was almost completely absent in the local architectural community. She described it as, 'from here, for here.' It was related to place, she said, stopping for a moment to assemble her thoughts, before continuing, "and a lot if it is related to being in a valley. There is no sense of a horizon." There was something which didn't quite stack up when she said this though; the tension between Stuttgart's world class internationalist engineering and hi-tech building companies, exporting and working across the world and a regional, arguably inward looking architectural scene. She had known about the calibre and internationalism of the engineers and had thought she'd find it in the architectural community as well. But, disappointingly for her, hadn't.

The S21 and Grand Magistrale route through Stuttgart and Filder tunnel (Image: Wikipedia)
Certainly, hills are a primary geographic feature of Stuttgart, and the city is indeed situated within the bowl of a valley, with the Neckar River running a few miles down valley. Hills, rolling into valleys, before climbing back into hillsides again, seem like a constant on many of the train routes out of the city and into the immediate Baden-Württemberg countryside. The city's current population is around 600 000, jumping up to 2.7 million for the Stuttgart region, which includes towns and villages within a ten to twenty mile radius, and 5.3 million for what's termed Stuttgart's metropolitan region. This bounded area, the fourth largest urban area in Germany, encompasses Heilbronn to the north and the medieval university city of Tübingen to the south, the many -ingen suffixed towns, Böblingen, Reutlingen or Esslingen, congregating along the various valley arteries, and large tracts of forested land, which turn southwards into the Schwarzwald (Black Forest.) Asking around some months before visiting, two people had separately remarked that Baden-Württemberg has the largest number of architects in the country, equal in number to the whole of France. The second part was probably true; there are 24,000, though checking the number with the regional state Chamber of Architects, this was corrected to second highest after Northrhein-Westfalia. What were they all doing, I asked? The majority are involved in domestic and small-scale commercial work, as German's all want to live in their own house. This down home provincialism was something a high-speed rail link to the likes of Paris, Vienna and Budapest might just influence. The marketing wing of S21 is branding the city as at 'the new heart of Europe', and one can see that a rail link could bring a more international breeze flowing into the city, though a few hundred kilometres west, the Eastern French city, Metz – through which the line also detours into - had launched their big new Pompidou East franchise museum with a similar 'centre of the continent' branding flourish.

Still a striking aspect of the S21 project is how the issues it raises turn on architectural, design, engineering and planning questions. More than this, however, S21 underlines questions about sustainable architectural culture, and how increasingly this culture isn't singular, but a spectrum of multiple approaches with choices in part related to a range of factors, priorities and values. Also, that the development and controversy is happening in Stuttgart of all German cities, carries a heft of resonances which add to the depth and contrast to S21 tensions and paradoxes. One measure of this significance is in Stuttgart's recent architectural history, which from the sixties onwards was one of the main European centres in which an early proto-sustainable architectural culture first took hold. One Baden-Württemberg state architect I met even claimed that European ecological architecture essentially originated from within a hundred mile radius of the city. To this day Stuttgart is one of the principal academic centres for architectural study in Germany, and even if that reputation has been eclipsed in the last two decades, by the engineering graduates it produces, its influence continues across continental Europe. Although such regional preoccupations with sustainable architecture may have declined, and become defined within far more technical interpretations, Baden-Württemberg remains in numbers at least a centre, with its 24 000 Chamber of Architects registered practitioners. Indeed sustainable architecture, and its many related industries, has hardly disappeared. Across Baden-Württemberg are practices which are influential within the international sustainability and building culture agendas. That Stuttgart is also the 'cradle of the automobile,' adds a paradoxical turn to this sustainable architecture history. "Yes, it's very strange," reflected Conradi at the poetic geometry of the connection. Although Germany is as keen on the car and on driving as any European country, it has also been among those leading the way in the development of rail and other integrated low energy transport options. While there are many in Stuttgart who view the privatisation of German
Visualisation of the underground station, and above
ground (Image: S21 )
The Grand Magistrale route – Paris to Vienna / Bratislava
and Budapest (Image: Wikipedia )
railways, as creating a rapacious profit motivated company, there are others who hail DB as a leading edge and dynamic transport company influencing how railways are a core part of Europe's sustainable transport futures. DB's freight subsidiary Schenker are trialling freight between Europe and China, and the plan for hi-speed ICE trains running through the channel tunnel between Frankfurt and London, are just two instances underlining DB's reputation for innovation and influence. With a pan-continental hi-speed rail network an emerging orthodoxy in the suite of strategies to green European travel modes, a through-station in Stuttgart on a route connecting west and east can seem, from afar, like it makes good sense, and that Stuttgart's protest is one city-wide mass Not-In-My-Back-Yard form of ostrich-like obstructionism. S21's slogan underlines speed, "schneller, bequemer, zukunftsorientiert" –
The  S21 underground station and light wells
(Image: S21)
Faster, More Comfortable and Forward-Looking. In Britain, as in other parts of Europe where air-travel issues are the first call of transport arguments, rail is the good option, with hi-speed very much a next thought in good transport alternatives. Stuttgart station is actually but one part of a much larger continental infrastructure and cohesion programme, the next stage in one of the EU's big TEN-T infrastructure programmes, the planned hi-speed rail corridor from Western to middle and one time Eastern Europe, from Paris, to Vienna, Budapest, and also Slovakian Bratislava. The Grand Magistrale, as it's called, integrates the new Stuttgart through-running station to unlock the perceived bottleneck and reduce high-speed train running times by nearly 30 minutes.

S21, you might have therefore have thought, with its many overlapping architecturally related issues, would be a spur and flashpoint for thinking and concentrating the mind on sustainable infrastructure design, urban planning and city development, a region with such a background in sustainable architectural culture, and a profusion of architects and engineers, would stimulate both discussion, action and a mushrooming of alternative design ideas. It hasn't of course been as simple as that. Meanwhile, for the wider community, the mixture of other issues prevail; that of due democratic process, converging with German-style privatisation, is at the heart of the issue. The whole architectural dimension, however, runs a close third.


The current Stuttgart station and crosswise the planned siting of the lightwells.
In the background the site for the Europa quarter can be seen. (Image: S21)
I was thinking of this, and what the differences might be, beyond geographic advantage, between the Killesberg site, and S21 site north of the rail station, afterimages of their two gouged out holes in respective parts of the city in the mind's eye, each reminders of how the engine of so much architecture, good, bad and indifferent, rests on the speculative calculations of real estate development. On the occasions I asked the first question about S21; why and where did it come from? - the subject always wound back to privatisation. The privatisation of the German railways, which resulted in DB, both one of Germany's largest and Europe's second transport company, has been ongoing through a series of staged reforms since 1994. Along with the reforms has come access to railway land that privatisation brought access to, and it is this access for developers and speculators, which K21 and associated organisations such as ArchitekInnen für K21, see as at the root of S21. The development of much of the DB's available land just to the north of the station is portrayed as a bonanza for investors and speculators gone wrong. The initial proposal, after fifteen years, hasn't gone to plan, in that the large second hundred hectare site out of three lots of land, the grandly titled Europa quarter, wasn't able, after all, to be sold to developers. Planned to be put up for sale in 2009, 2008's economic collapse and the subsequent recession put paid to private developers. Baden-Württemberg's municipal Government stepped in to buy up the land, which in turn it would sell on to developers. "This is a principal issue" believes one of ArchitekInnen für 21's organisers, Hamid Sahihi, "the goal of the S21 supporters was to get the railway area." What angers both K21 and the architects is unsurprising. The developers proposed schemes are exactly the same types of hi-profit, low architectural standards real estate aimed at well-off types, that went up in exactly the parts of the world, from Spain to the USA to Dubai, which were hit hardest when 2008's economic crash happened. The German architects have similar experience closer to home, in Eastern parts of Germany, where some of the post re-unification investment in what was Eastern GDR went into speculative development and 'investor architecture', that now lies empty all over the East of the country with the promised new buyers simply failing to materialise. They fear the same awaits development across the S21 land.

S21's planned new development areas, Europa, in the foreground, and Rosensteinviertel in background
(Photo: S21)
This wasn't the case at first. When Stuttgart 21 first launched in 1994, it was met with a positive response. The city's architectural community, particularly, were interested, and in the mid nineties the programme spawned a wave of theoretical student and architectural projects envisioning what could be done with a new central railway station. At times, during the visit to the city, which included meetings and interviews with a number of the city's architectural community, this early enthusiasm was raised by a couple of architects, seemingly to hint at doubt at what the turnaround in subsequent opinion might signify. S21 had been first launched as a one in a hundred year chance, four years after German re-unification, within a few months of, and for the K21 opposition uncannily close to, the privatisation of the German railway, which were also the landowners. Rockenbauch recalls going to the early meetings with his architect father, and gradually getting more and more involved. The City Government or Bürgerbeteiligung (public participation group) initiated discussions for envisaging the development. At first there were many good ideas about how to develop the land in relation to the station, "very solid" according to Rockenbauch, Conradi and Roland Ostertag, another respected and senior Stuttgart architect, were already critical voices, and after the first hearings about the station development the opposition voice co-elesced into the Leben-in-Stuttgartinitiative before morphing into Kein S21 in 1997. Although the first encampments turned up in Schlossgarten in 1999, S21 was not enough of an issue through the 90's and although parts of the regional Green party engaged with the issue during the first half of the naughties , this involvement became significantly more active from 2007. This was when the main actors, Stuttgart City Council, Baden-Württemberg Regional Government, the European Union, DB and the Regional Stuttgart body signed the binding agreements to fund the project.

Simulation of Ingenhoven Arkiteketen's S21 station
Frei Otto based experiment of the stations hanging
structures (Photo: Wikipedia)
The principal architectural decision had been taken a decade earlier. In 1997 Christoph Ingenhoven was announced as the competition winner to design the new station. Ingenhoven, based in Dusseldorf, belongs to a generation of German architects – others include Thomas Herzog and SauerbruchHutton - who have made continent-wide names for themselves by pursuing hi-tech approaches to sustainable building, the Ingenhoven variant is sometimes described as SuperGreen. More immediatelyresonant for the Stuttgart architectural community was that Ingenhoven had teamed up with Frei Otto, Germany’s post-war architect-engineer who had transformed architectural thinking about lightweight structures from his university of Stuttgart base through the sixties. Otto’s research at the Institute of Lightweight Structures focused on ‘the minima’, which involved surfaces of soap bubbles and other natural forms. This was long before computational form finding would enable the imagineering of hitherto impossible biomorphic forms, the influence of which continue to ripple out to this day. While Otto is at times referred to as a one-off ‘exotic creature’ in post world war II German architecture, there continues to be wave upon wave of Stuttgart educated engineers who go on to impact on architecture across the world. Often they are of the kind who both help realise the kinds of buildings that futurist inclined architectural theorists enjoy discussing at length while also ensuring the very same structures pass – say - EU building regs. The engineering teams for both Zaha Hadid’s extreme biomorphic building forms and much of the eco-tech work of Norman Fosters – eg, the new Reichstag parliament in Berlin,  the Gherkin and the influential Frankfurt eco-tech high rise office building - hail from these engineering departments.

A simulated detail of a light-well in the Schlossgarten
(Photo-image: S21)
Ingenhoven’s winning design placed the new station underground, with lines and platforms at right angles to the original track and platform layout. Though much of the station was invisible Ingenhoven envisioned the underground station being bathed in light through semi-ground level ‘light eyes’ or tubes, which were to emerge out of the ground across the Schlossgarten.

The station and light-wells
(Images: S21)
These glass ‘eye’ openings lighting the underground platforms, also created a parkscape grid of futurist if uniform sculpted air and light vents amidst the greenery and trees and families enjoying picnics. It was these elegant and watery flowing concrete column forms combined with the sunlight eyes which were the principle contribution of Otto, leading engineer colleagues, Buro Happold and Leonhardt & Andrae, as part of the team researching the considerable form-finding and structural load-bearing requirements. Ingenhoven himself compared the system to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia suspension columns, only in reverse. Above ground, the sculpted grid of light eyes is to extend across a paved new square area, Strassburger Platz, over the old station area, and above further sections of the underground platforms. Though the computer imagery may suggest a balmy parkland idyll it has been the work that began on preparing this part of the site, on the historic Schlossgarten, immediately adjacent to the station south side which required the uprooting and cutting down of the two hundred and eighty old plane trees, which brought passions to boiling point late last summer. The poignancy of those threatened old trees have become the emotional heart of the protests. For the sceptical architects, engineers and others, the light eyes, however, are not quite what they appear as in the computer renderings, and both K21 and ArchitekInnen für K21 have marshalled a host of arguments against the designs, not least whether and how the light eyes will actually function. The computer rendered imagery envisioning the station, drew many in; Rockenbauch amongst others, pointing to how such seductive imagery, have been one of the hardest parts of S21 to argue against. The fact that Otto, a Stuttgart architectural and engineering hero, was part of the team, was another factor which made criticism of the project difficult. Indeed for Ingenhoven, Otto and others on the team, the design was, initially at least, a considerable feat of engineering imagination and a prospective new chapter in the city’s international reputation for hi-tech engineering.

K21's simulation of the lightwells and Schlossgarten after
completion (Image: Fraunhofer Gesellschaft)
The S21 simulation of the station's eastern side meeting the
Schlossgarten after completion (Image: S21)
Stuttgart is, after all, well known as the hi-tech powerhouse of Germany. As ‘the cradle of the automobile’ and this hi-tech development carries certain ironies for S21, a project laden with eco-transport overtones. The international brands and companies which emerged from the automobiles parallel yet separate southern German invention by Mercedes-Benz and AG Daimler, along with Porsche, all build their cars in the immediate city limits, principally across the Neckar in industrial Bad Cannstatt. They are all head-quartered locally, along with many other companies reliant on hi-tech specialist skills, including Bosch and Siemens and many other smaller hi-tech companies. The city’s hi-tech reputation has drawn in other international companies. The likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM have set up their European bases in Stuttgart. Access to hi-tech expertise makes their thousands of high grade engineers, computer and IT specialists graduating from the universities attractive sources for these companies knowledge bases, while the transferability of their knowledge means computer software originally developed for automobile research feeds into architectural and engineering design and vice versa. The sophisticated levels of skills Stuttgart building engineers is partially explained by this by the interdisciplinary application of hi-tech knowledge across professional domains.

It is easy to speculate that such a hi-tech backdrop hardly undermined the rationale for both the tunnel solution and Otto's involvement in the through station design. On the S21 website even if the computer renderings of the Ingenhoven-Otto designs look beguiling, with the underground station sunk eleven metres underground and at right angles to the current terminus, the tunnels seem extraordinarily long, with the approximately 20 kilometre below ground west side approach a strange way, as one of the Kopfbahnhof 21 above ground alternative grouping, pointedly remarked, to make arriving in a city attractive. In 2003, after arguments had been growing for nearly a decade, Otto, would leave the project and for a while become a considerable thorn in its side.


The monumental entrance to Paul Bonatz Stuttgart station (Photo: ArkitektInnen für 21)
In the whirling profusion of arguments lodged against the S21 plan, much of that whirling centres upon design, and that of the new station against the old. There are capacity questions; can the new stations eight platforms really carry the amount of traffic claimed, let alone with stopping times. There are questions about the tunnelling from a technical perspective. Can it really be done? The tunnel design consists of 117 kilometres of railway running through 20 different tunnels, many under the centre of Stuttgart, including a 10 kilometre tunnel uphill through the Filder heights east towards Ulm. The tunnelling questions focus on safety in the uncertain geology, particularly through the city, as well as the effect on the bubbles of sedimented spa water Stuttgart is famous for - "the best this side of Budapest" as a friend put it - are also asked. There is also the heritage and tradition argument. Ingenhoven's design requires the removal of both of the two side-wings to the current terminus (the north side has already gone), a grand early twentieth century building, by Paul Bonatz, (1877 – 1956), well known in the German architectural world, as mixing modern with classical, though hardly modernist. The ninety year old station is monumental, emitting the aura of history and time passed, and has become for some a bona fide cultural monument. The consequence has been a surprisingly broad cross section of the regional and national and architectural great and the good as signatories to petitions attempting to save the building. Add to all these disputed issues is whether the new rail network will improve local and regional transport infrastructure remains completely contentious, the costs questions along with the development issues, and weaving through all of this, the issue of whether what is being decided upon is really democracy in action, or rather a case of the regional Government powers, a seemingly small political cabal, who, along with the business and industry partners in the background, seem bent on pushing the project through whatever the scale of protests and level of rising costs.

The stations eastern face next to the Schlossgarten today
(Photo: ArkitektInnen für K21)
Geißler's Stuttgart 21 Plus review revised the number of platforms to 10. Opponents are adamant that S21's claims that the platforms will be able to handle 49 trains an hour, doesn't stack up. DB's man, Egon Hopfenzitz, who was in charge of operational duties at the station until retiring in 2009, has gone public on how the platform capacity won't work. Though DB have stated the 8, and now 10, platforms can cope with an estimated increase of up to 18 million a year, this is tenaciously disputed by K21. The new stopping time for trains is apparently two minutes, what seems on the face of it a short time for people to get off and on trains when busy. "80% of passengers arriving in Stuttgart are either coming to Stuttgart or changing onto other trains," says Conradi, "Passengers have to go to other platforms, and this isn't enough time." At two other major German through rail stations, Cologne and Hamburg, four trains an hour per platform is the limit, according to ArchitekInnen für K21's Sahihi, doing some quick math, points out that eight platforms with up to forty nine trains an hour, would mean six trains an hour per platform. Stress testing of these times were carried out by a Swiss consultancy, SMA, but were not published because the results didn't indicate the timings would work, though through a Stern magazine article, they were made public. The S21 claim that nearly 30 minutes will be cut in journey-time to Ulm, the next sizeable city, but K21 argue how these timings fail to mention an average 18 or so additional minutes running time to Ulm that have accumulated in the intervening years since the hi-speed ICE trains were first introduced.

Just as questionable, from K21's perspective, are the tunnelling works. The digging is set to happen in unusual geological conditions in and around Stuttgart, and there are a string of safety questions. In addition to the questions about the long Filder tunnel, the ground conditions for the tunnel under Stuttgart also raise concern. The hardest geological strata through which the city tunnel would travel, is at its narrowest just at the point of
More Paul Bonatz Stuttgart station monumentalism 
(Photo ArkitektInnen für K21)
the new underground station. The station is also at right angles to the geological grain, so the building will form an underground barrier right in the middle of the layers where the spa waters sit. The geological substrata has been compared to Swiss cheese; rather than air bubbles, the bubbles hold the famous spa water, with K21 worried water will be polluted by the tunnelling. The tunnels depth is also considered shallow; 7 to 8 metres from ground level, there remaining considerable engineering uncertainty as to how well this stretch of tunnel engineering will work. The engineering companies have undertaken considerable stress testing, repeating their assurances about safety and cost, although over the spring of 2011, estimates about the water needing to be pumped has apparently more than doubled. But it was these questions about the tunnels engineering, which led Frei Otto to change his mind and walk away from the project, and then begin to speak up in public about the risks.

Underlining, indeed perhaps oddly entangled in the technical engineering argument, is the station as architecture, and as history, tradition and heritage. Bonatz, the station's architect, was an early twentieth century classicist and one of the founders of the Stuttgart architectural School. The merits of its imposing architecture have been revived, with some of those who are opposed to the rebuilding, describing the station as the best example of a terminus building in Germany. As one of an inevitably limited number of the great early twentieth century termini across Europe, Bonatz's takes its lead from forerunners, particularly Eliel Saarinen's 1914 Helsinki station. Built from limestone, the station imprints an austere monumentalism on the site, with two great colonnades at each end, between which a long line of classical columns deepens the sense of awe Bonatz wanted to imbue in the station. Ingenhoven's design, while doing away with the two side wings running along each edge of the rail platforms, maintains the imposing frontispiece, along with the clock tower asymmetrically placed to the south, Schlossgarten side. Has Ingenhoven been surprised that in Stuttgart, where in the aftermath of the World War II, an architecture connecting lightness, transparency and glass to democratic ideals evolved, has turned to defend a building which expresses none of these characteristics, rather a muted if still grandiose monumentalism.

Bonatz, who left Nazi Germany to live and work in Turkey, was taught by Theodor Fischer, together credited with founding the Stuttgart Schule, influential both before and - particularly - after the war. Some of those involved in the opposition are linked to this history. Conradi's father was taught by Bonatz, which has been an influence, acknowledging a personal commitment to the station. Conradi is known for his traditional architectural perspective, others who have come out for keeping the Bonatz building have been more surprising. Friedrich Wagner, an avowed Modernist who worked on Mies van der Rohe's University of Chicago scheme , has argued from the heritage perspective for keeping the station building. For their part ArchitekInnen für K21 make the case of how a rail terminus signals importance, a very visible sign of a metropolitan city. Peter Zumthor, the famous cult architect from neighbouring Switzerland, recently noted how he too liked the Bonatz building.

Tobias Walliser & LAVA's experimental K21 station deck (Image: ArchitekInnen für K21)
There is also, in this age of recession austerity, the expense. S21's costs have risen over the years, with rollercoaster figures quoted at different junctures. One budget estimate, some years back, stated 6.8 euro billion. Project costs have risen over the years, from 2.6 euro's in 1996, 2.8 euro's in 2006 and 4.1 euro's in 2009. In the autumn of 2010 the price-tag was 4.8 euro's, upon which DB's Grube noted that the rail company wouldn't go ahead on any budget over 4.5 euro billion, which brought on another round of cost cutting, principally, apparently, around the thickness and amount of concrete in the tunnel sections, resulting in 800 million euro's being shaved off the cost. Immediately after the elections, however, DB's lead S21 engineer, the respected Hany Azer, indicated that the cuts were unlikely to be realisable. A few weeks later, in late May, Azer resigned from the project. In July Das Spiegel magazine revealed documents which suggested that DB had internal budgets which ran higher than those publically stated, already two years ago the budget exceeded 5 euro billion.

If the budget seems exorbitant for many Stuttgarters, much of the Stuttgart business community are apparently aghast at S21 disappearing, citing the economic consequences for both city and region. DB argue that if S21 doesn't happen the consequences for other rail projects in the pipeline will be bad. Likewise Baden-Wurttemberg's captains of industry insist cancellation will damage the regions economic competitiveness, with major projects less likely to choose Stuttgart in the future. "Government and industry hate the idea of giving in to a referendum," said Conradi, and while in Stuttgart repeated hints were made about the cosy relationship between local industry, the regional Government, and building culture, as a major influence on architects and their reticence to voice criticism of S21. Just as money talks, so it also has the power to silence. One sixth or 4000 of Baden-Württemberg's 24 000 architects are based in Stuttgart. While many people in the city have an informal view, the vast majority of architects are keeping their heads down about going public with their views on S21. One architect having just spoken about the timidity of his colleagues added as a postscript thought: that 90% of building contracts come from the public purse, before leaving me to decide what degree of connection there might or might not be.

How the Ideenwerkstatt GKR roof deck would look as part of the adapted ‘above ground’ station (Image: ArchitekInnen für K21)
That few architects have spoken up against S21 isn't perhaps surprising, a fear of being on the wrong side as and when competition results are handed out, along with a certain distaste for the mucky stuff of political controversy, are well known architectural traits. The ArchitekInnen für K21 group doesn't include any of the current generation of major influential architectural players from the city, though Roland Ostertag was and remains part of the Stuttgart architectural establishment. He has provided drawings of an alternative terminus canopy. Another of the engineering companies, Tobias Wallisser's Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) and Transsolar, the climatic engineering company, have also come up with a hi-tech futuristic canopy quite as exciting as Ingenhoven's solution. Indeed the Ingenhofen design is these days being criticised for other reasons, it's shelf life: Amber Sayah, the Stuttgarter Zeitung's architecture correspondent telling me she thought it was "old fashioned and outdated." ArchitekInnen für K21's Sahihi's says their argument isn't either with hi-speed as such or a hi-tech station, but with the premise of the underground station and the dangers they believe are explicit to the tunnelling. Their small exhibition sought to highlight this. This may be a point of difference between the architects and those like Rockenbauch, who work with other hi-Speed opposition groups.

K21 and ArchitekInnen für K21's design imagining of the station-
Schlossgarten interface (Images: ArchitekInnen für K21)

There are others who pin the blame on the failure of any real master-planning for the city. “It comes down to a lack of vision of what Stuttgart’s future, should or could it be, with or without the railway project” says David Cook, an English partner in the city’s leading international practice, Stefan Behnisch Architekten. “Despite the wonderful opportunity afforded by the current debate no-one’s showing either a realistic vision, or outlining a convincing set of possibilities for the future of the city. There could be a vibrant planning concept which allows for the development of a thriving publicly orientated architecture, but there’s little discussion of this,” continues Cook, a potential planning showcase for Stuttgart has failed big-time.
Cook argues that there’s been and possibly continues to be an opportunity for a cross party think tank or foundation which could set and agenda which makes sense. He talks of formulating a set of goals through a series of seminars, which would be open, “not just to architects, nor the city fathers,” but to everyone, this will require leadership, particularly in the current overheated climate. “It would be encouraging if there was a vision which we could all buy into, that relates to quality, which recognises the unique city situation, which radically improves the city through healing a number of its current deficits. Perhaps this can be informed by looking and learning from the best of what’s happening in urban planning world wide.” Cook points to the southern Swedish city of Malmo, where the city fathers have travelled the world looking at projects to bring the best back to their city. “This is what you’d expect, when you have a tract of high value land right in the centre of the city, that you’d look at comparable projects, and attempt to come up with something which is not only convincing, but well founded and which actually appeals to the city as a whole.”

For their part both ArchitekInnen für K21 and S21 have embraced an urban planning design which does away with the busy double-lane inner-city road at the front of the stations main entrance, that currently cuts off the station from the pedestrianised heart of the inner city. At present travellers spill out of the main station and have to either wait at traffic lights or disappear into an underpass. Both plans envisage moving this traffic artery out beyond the area slated for development, and pedestrianising the crossover. K21 build on this, by envisaging activating the south park facing side of Bonatz's remaining station, turning it into a buzzing pedestrianised arcade, with public
Old and new of the east side of the station as envisaged by K21 and ArchitekInnen für K21
(Images: ArchitekInnen für K21)
amenities, shopping and cultural activities running along the side of the park. Their vision extends to the two remaining sections of the sites to be developed. The S21 plan envisages turning the Europa quarter, into a retail, office and up-market apartment area, mixed with some cultural related buildings, leading to the new library at its centre. ArchitekInnen für K21 think they are able to influence aspects of how this development is shaped, though do not envisage its being completely halted. They are concentrating their energies on the far side Rosenstein quarter which also stands empty, which S21 see as providing homes and work for up to 30 000 people. The type of development appears again to be luxury apartments, aimed at maximising returns on the land. K21's vision is for a far more community-oriented approach, which is paced to happen over a slower timetable than the S21 development, while also heeding the local ecology. As it is, Hamid Sahihi and his ArchitekInnen für K21 colleagues, don't believe that penthouses and luxury apartments will sell that well at lower ground valley level; those who are well off enough to do so, tend to move up the hill to places like the Killesberg development. Beyond the edge of their community oriented development, rather than more housing, the K21 opponents propose that the Schlossgarten is extended into a much larger park and wildlife area, reaching out to the Neckar. This, they also argue, would help with the pollution coming up the valley, providing oxygenating lungs for a city already suffering high levels of summer pollution.

You might think that a city and region with such high numbers of architects would be swarming with visions for alternatives. But according to the ArchitekInnen für K21 people, they are a very small minority. I was told by one, that the Chamber of Architects had stated in public ‘all’ architects supported S21, and had asked ArchitekInnen für K21 members not to wear badges and the like while in the chambers centre. Initially, this seemed odd, since this is the region where so much sustainability innovation has happened over the decades. Yet, not completely surprisingly for the country’s richest state the work ethic is very strong, and not stepping out of line seems entrenched, an embodied part of architectural behaviour. Most of the city’s senior architects who’ve been publically part of the debate, have come down on the side of the S21+. Arno Lederer, ( for instance, a highly respected senior figure in Stuttgart and national architecture argued recently that with careful, though expensive, adaptation S21+ could still work. There are different slants, though more architects than one might initially imagine, are apparently for the project, the technological challenge being an attraction as much as anything. There is talk of how both the political process and its communication has been very badly handled, and how the issue is more one of communication than that the whole project as badly faulty. Others are more circumspect, or roll their eyes, as if to say ‘it’s a minefield’, or ‘that’s a real problem Stuttgart has got itself stuck with.’

Yet, from the outside, I couldn’t help see the potential for architectural opportunity, particularly given Stuttgart’s sustainable architecture history. The best-known German architect of recent generations, Günter Behnisch, was from Stuttgart, joining aspects of the Stuttgart’s Schule tradition and the then new sustainable architectural agenda through the eighties and nineties. The Behnisch practice has continued with his son, Stefan Behnisch, now running one of the most successful German practices with an international – including US - reach. As the Behnisch partner, David Cook, outlined over the phone the potential for a real city vision is there, if it could be developed (though Cook also noted how despite many attempts at working in their own home town, the practice haven’t been successful.) Stuttgart’s dynamic engineering tradition continues in leaps and bounds and is right at the leading edge of sustainable engineering. For instance, possibly Stuttgart’s most highly regarded engineer, Jörg Schlaich, has developed a completely original upwind vertical tower which is in use in Spain, while the issue of climate engineering has also taken off amongst the city’s environmental engineering network. The most visible realisation of this work is Transsolar, around the work of Matthias Schuler, also working at an international level. One can’t help think that a different, more regionally-oriented transport plan can draw on this extensive engineering and architectural knowledge. A more regionally inflected transport plan could also require new stations across different parts of Baden-Württemberg, and since there are so many architects their creative juices might be set to work on projects, marrying the regions sustainable reputation to infrastructure. The ArchitekInnen für K21 people thought, strongly, that the faster/further society which S21 speaks to is actually yesterday’s dream and a more balanced, less speed-oriented approach to travel is more in tune with what people’s travel aspirations these days. Perhaps, and if so stations and transport infrastructure which worked with the grain of such a contrasting travel awareness could also be part of a possible future mix.

“In Stuttgart politics begins with nuclear power and ends with S21,” reflected one architect at the university while I was in town. The new powers running Baden-Württemberg have quite a situation on their hands. What happens next will determine the future of Stuttgart 21. A few days ago, on the 27th November the referendum was held, resulting in nearly a 60% majority in favour. This is unlikely to be acceptable to K21 grouping, who have vowed to appeal the issue further if, as has now happened, the referendum didn’t vote didn't vote 'yes' to stopping the S21 project. There are legal and judicial issues, which will have to be exhausted, particularly around the level of the quorum, how many people needed to vote. While Kretschmann, the Green Governor has committed to honouring Baden- Württemberger’s voter’s decision, the result remains tricky for the new Red-Green coalition proceed, with so much of their electoral power having come from the S21 issue. If, as seems likely, the S21 now begins in full, this will surely not be the end of opposition, particularly when the time comes – if it does - for the emotive issue of the plane tree felling. Still, the Red-Green’s remains tied. While the result gives the regional administration cover over the various S21 contracts that the previous administration had put their signature to, along with the heavy financial penalties of stopping the project, the politics of the next year will surely influence the fortunes of the Social Democrats and particularly, the Greens. Given the controversy of S21’s financial costs the budgets will also surely monitored by many, and if costs begin to rise, the furore will surely return. The same will also happen, if, as the tunnelling and other engineering work begins in earnest, problems and difficulties are encountered, particularly if they are the problems long forecast by K21. The apparent belief of some that the project is collapsing from the inside, with the summer announcement that Hany Azer, DB’s chief engineer - who oversaw the multi-level glass-palace makeover of the rail company’s flagship Berlin central station - quitting, as a sign of this collapse, may now appear misplaced. But one can’t help feeling there are many variables that means the project isn’t nearly out of the woods yet. At a wider level the immediate post election talk of the Baden-Württemberg election as being ‘historic’ and ‘the start of a new era’ for the Green party and German politics, has been dampened. The next months will signal whether the perspective that the march election marked the beginning of the CDU’s end, as one German newspaper argued was premature or not. Still, S21 can’t quite be called the root of their regional demise, Fukushima and the German people’s sensitive relationship with nuclear power, was central. Even if the notion that a railway station doesn’t bring down a Government is romantic, the referendum ought to usher in a period where much design, planning and architectural thinking related to infrastructure in Germany will come under fresh lenses. Whether Rockenbauch, the student politician, will have time to finish his thesis, - on, inevitably, participation in planning; and Conradi may also be able to foster a different, less top-down approach to planning are the wider questions to take from S21 and the referendum. The ingredients may still exist to inaugurate a revolution in how architecture, sustainability and transport are understood. Stuttgart, after all, has the architects, the engineers, the sustainability history, and also the transportation infrastructure case study, though this side of November 27th, this may seem less likely. How the Stuttgart architectural community position themselves in the post-referendum context will be interesting. How also the ArchitekInnen für K21 grouping and their architectural supporters, develop their critique will be a further signal, of whether a more fully-fledged alternative infrastructure design vision will emerge. As it is, what seems certain is that Stuttgart’s transport quandary surely isn’t over just yet. ol