Making Structural Change Happen
At the “tu! Hambach” project week in Morschenich-Alt, researchers and residents came together to work out solutions for a village which was supposed to be razed, but which will continue to exist after all – right at the edge of an open-pit mine.
The location: A special place. The atmosphere: Relaxed, but focused and creative. For one week, a wide variety of individuals came together in the village of Morschenich-Alt to talk about the situation and opportunities for the people and villages close to the edge of the open-cast mine.
The organizers’ high expectations for the event were fully met: A project week in Morschenich-Alt was to bring people together – this was the idea of the Temporary University Hambach (tu!) from June 17 to 24. And the event was well-attended: by researchers and students, local politicians, citizens from Neu-Morschenich, activists and refugees living in the region, and interested members of the public. The attendees on site worked on 70 different projects, discussing problems and possible solutions, developing ideas, and opening up new perspectives. The projects ranged from university courses to walks through the village and excursions to the open-cast mine.
Seating everywhere, two tents, pavilions, a market stall, signs and posters, handmade signposts, a coffee bar – the event site around the Morschenich daycare center looked friendly and inviting. “Morschenich-Alt turned into a lively meeting place during the project week,” said Professor Agnes Förster, head of the Chair of Planning Theory and Urban Development at RWTH Aachen University.
RWTH's REVIERa transformation platform, together with Neuland Hambach, organized the “tu! Hambach” event. It was hosted by the municipality of Merzenich; local partners are Forschungszentrum Jülich (more specifically, the BioeconomyREVIER initiative for structural change), FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences (Department of Urban Planning, Transformation and Process Design), and the LVR Institute for Regional Studies and Regional History (with its “Stories of the Rhenish mining area” project).
“It was fascinating to hear so many different persfrom civil society, from local actors, associations, municipalities, and higher education institutions,” said Prof. Förster. Bianca Hohn, project manager at Neuland Hambach, was also impressed by the project week’s spontaneous encounters and conversations: “It was quite surprising to us that so many different stakeholders, first and foremost people from the region, came to attend our event.” Having a mixture of people from various backgrounds allowed many different points of view to be heard, for example about the future of the church in Morschenich-Alt. For Neuland Hambach, it was also extremely valuable that they were able “to engage in such intense discussions beyond the workshops and the organized program.”
The hosts were also highly satisfied with how the event unfolded: Honestly: I was a little nervous beforehand that nobody would come,” says Lennart Schminnes, structural change manager for the municipality of Merzenich: “That the event was so well received, that it was so lively and harmonious, exceeded my expectations.” The project week has also led to concrete results, he said. For example, Schminnes, together with FH professor Isabel Maria Finkenberger, invited people to a seminar on the dilapidated infrastructure of Morschenich-Alt – engineers, technicians and many citizens accepted the invitation and worked out solutions, for example for the treatment of water.
Organizers and participants alike agreed that the TU Hambach format should be continued, whether in Morschenich-Alt or elsewhere. “We have started something special together,” said Professor Förster, “and I'm quite sure we will find ways – and locations – to keep it going.”