The Conscious City (part 1)

by | Jan 10, 2012 | Uncategorized

Freiburg Photowalk

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. The “old town” is actually a carefully considered reconstruction, as the city was almost totally destroyed during WWII.


It’s the new year, and not just any new year. 2012. The end of the world. Or just a year of notable changes, depending on how you translate ancient Mayan. In any case, the turning over of the calendar offers a chance to wipe the slate clean; to self-reflect, to identify the wrong turns we took, and to chart a new course. So, we at Laurel Park wondered what sort of resolutions cities might make if they were inclined to do such things. If Sarasotans were to come together and speak with a collective voice for the common good, for the present and future of our entire city, what might we resolve to do?

Well, the beginning of an answer might be found in, of all places, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

Renowned for decades as one of Europe’s greenest cities, Freiburg has an important story to tell about post-war reconstruction, challenging conventions, innovating new directions in transport and energy, and maintaining its momentum to become an extremely liveable environment that combines tradition and modernity.

Freiburg was awarded the title of European City of the year 2010 at The Academy of Urbanism’s awards ceremony in London in November 2009. This prestigious award was voted by the academicians following a short-listing process, detailed study visit and a documented assessment report. In celebration of this recognition, the City of Freiburg hosted a study tour and discourse with the academy, producing a charter that advocates good practice in sustainable urbanism.

Known as the Freiburg Charter, the document details twelve guiding principles, four each in three categories: Spatial, Content, and Process. Taken as a whole, the principles suggest a city that continuously evaluates itself and adjusts its course to make sure as many people as possible can thrive without jeopardizing the quality of life of future generations. This, of course, is the very essence of sustainability. What makes Freiburg different than many other so-called “green cities” is that Freiburg puts its principles into action and has been doing so since it was leveled by bombs during World War II.

We’ll get more into all of this in follow-up posts, and we’ll also look at our fair Sarasota and ask how lessons learned in Freiburg could be applicable here at home, why such a charter is needed, and how it might help make Sarasota an even better place to live and vacation. For now, we invite you to think about the 12 principles, listed below, and to read through the whole document at your leisure here (it’s barely 30 pages with a lot of pictures).

The 12 Guiding Principles


1) Diversity, Safety, and Tolerance

2) City of Neighborhoods

3) City of Short Distances

4) Public Transport & Density


5) Education, Science, and Culture

6) Industry & Jobs

7) Nature & Environment

8) Design Quality


9) Long-Term Vision

10) Communication & Participation

11) Reliability, Obligation, and Fairness

12) Cooperation & Partnership