Saturday, 10 November 2007

Berlin named as City of the Year

Berlin named as City of the Year
by Frank McDonald

Berlin has beaten Amsterdam and Barcelona to win the Academy of Urbanism's European City of the Year award, for its outstanding achievement in remaking a city that was divided for nearly 50 years. Frank McDonald , Environment Editor, reports.

The Great Town award went to Kilkenny city, with St Andrews in Scotland and Winchester in England as runners-up, while the Great Neighbourhood award was won by Grainger Town in Newcastle, ahead of London's Soho and Temple Bar in Dublin.

The academy's other two Urbanism Awards crowned Buchanan Street in Glasgow as the Great Street, defeating both O'Connell Street in Dublin and London's Regent Street, and Sheffield's Peace and Winter Gardens as the Great Place, ahead of Quayside in Newcastle/ Gateshead and London's South Bank.

The awards were announced yesterday at an Oscars-style presentation in the Dorchester Hotel, London. Academy chairman John Thompson said it was "fantastic to be able to honour Berlin because it's still a real city of opportunity, a city that's being reborn yet again".

It was "great to have an Irish town coming through in this year's awards, especially Kilkenny which is coming to terms with economic growth without losing its wonderful character and humour", he said, adding that the awards for Newcastle, Glasgow and Sheffield were also well-deserved.

Adjudicators from the academy visited every one of the 15 nominees for the awards.

In the case of Berlin, they noted that it was now rediscovering and reinventing its unique sense of place, and aiming to achieve social sustainability through innovative urban renewal.

"The remaking of a city that was physically and politically divided for nearly 50 years, and subject to radically different architectural and planning traditions, could have been overwhelming. But the commitment shown in responding to these challenges is a story of outstanding achievement.

"Berlin is both rediscovering and reinventing its unique sense of place and identity. The fundamentals of plan and form incorporating green spaces, water and nature are being reinterpreted with both an eye to the past and the future. It is also an affordable city in which to live and work, a place that offers a high quality of life."

Amsterdam was seen by the academy's adjudicators as a well-managed city, with a proud tradition of urban planning and huge ambition for the future, particularly along its waterfront, with an urban plan and form that are still shaped by the need to control water.

Barcelona was described as a city with a strong local character, a clear vision of its role as the capital of Catalonia and an equally strong design culture and civic leadership.

But there was concern that emerging high-rise development is more redolent of Benidorm.

In last year's Urbanism Awards, Edinburgh beat Dublin and London to take the European City of the Year award. Other winners were Ludlow (Great Town), Glasgow's Merchant City (Great Neighbourhood), Marylebone High Street (Great Street) and London's Borough Market (Great Place).

Frank McDonald is a founder member of the Academy of Urbanism

© 2007 The Irish Times

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