top of page

Neighbourhood within Army Base: Campbell Barracks Redevelopment Project

The way we design and structure neighborhoods is strongly linked with their character. The character of a neighborhood influences the built forms and the character of the built form influences the neighborhood. As a result, when the times call for a change in character, a difficulty occurs.

Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, 2018

Campbell Barracks, located in Heidelberg, Germany, were built by the Nazi forces in 1936. By March 1945 the allied troops had taken over. From that point onward the base was used as a “pit stop” by the US army. Most troops that relocated permanently with their families were generally hosted on site.

The base closed in September 2013. The army’s departure led to abandoned facilities, job losses, fall in trade for shops, restaurants and energy providers. The neighborhood that surrounded the Barracks had lost its main characteristic and was facing a lot of problems. To make matters worse a big immigration wave inevitably caused the rise for job and housing demands to extreme levels. The dissatisfaction of the citizens was rising by the day.

Then a solution was proposed. Merging the Barracks with the Mark-Twain village. To this end the majority of the barracks would be refurbished and its exterior spaces would function as recreational parks. New cheap buildings for housing, offices, and a school would also be built. The aim was simple, to turn the barracks and its surroundings into an affordable family neighborhood.

How will the old structures coexist with the new?

The first new residents moved into the renovated dwellings in the southeast of the district in summer 2016. Since then the project has come a long way and it seems that it will be able to solve the aforementioned problems of the city.

Masterplan of the new neighborhood, 2014

Examining the case of the Campbell Barracks a few points come to notice. The architects of this plan offered a practical solution that utilizes the previous use of the buildings.

After all, even before closing down, the barracks hosted the families of the soldiers. They also seem to have wanted the barracks to be tied organically with the rest of the city. The spaces did not turn into dead galleries. Instead they were redesigned to host everyday uses. Hence, there wasn't as much attention paid to preserving the historical aspect of the barracks.

Therefore, it was of imminent importance to give the barracks a new meaning, to allocate housing spaces to beforehand unused and forgotten areas. As a consequence, the term of creating an in situ community can be followed throughout the concept.

The usage concept for the conversion areas of Campbell Barracks and Mark-Twain village Heidelberg's southern outskirts are “structural-oriented”. Thus, the usage concept lays the groundwork for largely implementing the Heidelberg guidelines for conversion and their sectoral goals for action in the city's south.

Model of the proposed IBA project "The Other Park", a place for the new community, 2022

The concept distinguishes four basic types for the freed-up areas:

  1. Residential areas

  2. Commercial areas (with and without an optional residential component)

  3. Areas for public needs as main uses (inhabitants desired spaces for food coops)

  4. Recreational areas (public green and open spaces)

The interlinking of all areas instead of compartmentation due to the existing zoning map allowed for a fluent master plan, where the re-used building was not only defined with each other but with city districts as well. Thus, the Campbell Barracks and Mark-Twain village should be integrated into the city planning as a “new” district of Heidelberg.

Participatory Process : Planning and Dialogue

The most crucial pillar is that the entire planning process is conducted in collaboration with citizens from the start. The city prepared conversion standards in close collaboration with citizens as early as 2012.

Citizens are invited to forums, workshops, district debates, and neighborhood excursions on a regular basis. Children and youngsters have their own formats. All public opinions and suggestions are recorded and incorporated into the next step of the process. The city of Heidelberg wants to ensure that the new quarters fulfill the demands of new inhabitants, as well as local residents and other user groups within urban society, through this extensive procedure. The goal would be for all actors to be highly identified with the generated results.

In order to create a sense of community and not devalue the building structure, a prior acquaintance with the area through The Urban Art Festival (METROPOLINK) was concluded. Specific site elements were newly interpreted by invited artists, who were chosen deliberately with few connections to the site’s history.

In collaboration with the International Building Exhibition Heidelberg (IBA), an initiative was formed and dubbed "PHVision". For eight days, the former US Army officer's villas in the housing complex became a focus for urban art and a test area for innovative urban planning.

Facade design: Bordalo ii, part of the METROPOLINK Festival 2018

The Campbell Barracks development in Post-Modernist Architecture not only deals with designing an affordable neighborhood but also reshaping the historic significance in the present context. The involvement of individuals along the process resulted in developing an architecture that enhances the essence of the communities. Thus, it corresponds to the goals of sustainable urban planning and the regeneration of community aspects.


bottom of page