Hidden development potential in small towns: performative experiments as a contribution to the mobility turnaround for improved land use in Baden-Württemberg, Germany


  • Lorenza Manfredi Baden-Württemberg Institut für Nachhaltige Mobilität (BWIM), Hochschule Biberach
  • Verena Krappitz Baden-Württemberg Institut für Nachhaltige Mobilität (BWIM), Hochschule Biberach


sustainable mobility, Germany, urban experiment, temporariness, public space




Since the 1970s, exceptional situations have been repeated in rapid succession and have plunged us into a long climate, environmental, energy and health crisis that also affects institutions, professions and the modern project itself (Doglio: 2021). "Being in crisis" requires a rethinking of intervention methods: we must not limit ourselves to not limit themselves to temporarily remedying the most acute effects, but rather must do justice to this permanent state of crisis (Reckwitz: 2022).

If certain functions in urban development are called into question in the future due to drastic transformation processes, this enables a discourse on the opportunities inherent in this permanent intermediate state. How everyday practices and spaces can be integrated into this change in a relational way has hardly been tested, especially in small towns.

The current debate on the adaptation and reuse of buildings whose previous uses have become "obsolete" - e.g. churches, garages or shopping centers (Rettich, Tastel: 2020) - needs to be transferred to open spaces and potential infrastructure areas. This is particularly promising for areas reserved for stationary traffic: changing transport choices and mobility behavior, remote working conditions as everyday practice and seamlessly coordinated mobility chains suggest that the release of these areas for more intensive uses will become an option in the future. In contrast to the large urban centers, yield pressure in small towns has so far been less direct, but here too, growing competition in land use is becoming apparent (Spalek, Meyer et al.: 2023). Due to the particularly high proportion of private transport, it can be assumed that the availability of ‘liberated’ areas in small towns can have a proportionately greater impact than in the denser centers and can be read as an opportunity for participatory and public welfare-oriented developments.

In a model project, the Baden-Württemberg Institute for Sustainable Mobility (BWIM) is developing performative actions that are dedicated to exemplifying such space potentials. This involves systematically testing the role that performative experiments can play as a transformation tool to trigger desirable developments. The context is a region with a highly fragmented settlement and landscape structure, small and medium-sized towns and urban peripheries. The aim is to address changes in everyday practices in small towns as well as thematize global crises such as the climate crisis. 


Doglio: 2021

Reckwitz: 2022

Rettich, Tastel: 2020

Spalek, Meyer et al.: 2023