The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design
Case Studies 

Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

*Nominee 

Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)

Duesseldorf

Germany

Contributed by 
Matthias Bauer
Project for Public Spaces
 on 
July 6, 2005
January 3, 2018

Public promenade/ esplanade with square

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

This project is easily one of the most successful waterfront transformations in Germany or anywhere else in Europe. As in so many other cities, this place used to be a wide urban expressway along the river, effectively cutting the city centre off from the riverfront. Finally, in the 1990's the authorities decided to put the expressway into a tunnel and create a new promenade on top. The new esplanade was designed by local designers Fritschi, Stahl, Baum on a very tight budget, as the cost of the tunnel kept rising and the budget for the public space was cut frequently. The design solution is therefore fairly simple and sometimes a bit rough, using straightforward contemporary design throughout. However, the simplicity, boldness and consistency seem to be the reasons for the success.

There is a lower level entirely paved with tarmac (which is not as ugly as it sounds) which is used by skateboarders, inline skaters and cyclists. Several simple and temporary restaurants/ beer gardens with colourful awnings in front have been integrated into the flood wall (permanent structures are not allowed due to flooding). The upper level has two continuous rows of plane trees with benches in between.

The southern stretch is wider and has a sloping lawn down to the river. The northern stretch is more urban and features a re-designed square (Burgplatz) with steps down to the river. This is the place where people congregate in summer, sitting on the steps and watching the ships on the river pass by.

The neighbouring area, Duesseldorf's not-so-old post-war "Old Town" is Germany's largest and most vibrant nightlife area. The new promenade now allows for extension of the evening and night-time activities straight to the river. Thereby, the scheme creates new connections from the city centre to the river. The whole stretch of waterfront is almost completely pedestrianized now.

It is also important to mention, that the scheme manages to extend the promenade southwards under a rather appalling expressway bridge leading further to the newly gentrified harbour area. In order to achieve this, the architects have placed a modern new theatre building right under the bridge to enliven the dark uninviting space under the bridge and to encourage passers-by to go further.

The new waterfront is lined with residential and office buildings - most of them were in place already before the promenade was created. Unfortunately, not all of them have active ground levels.

As the designers have put it: "To see and be seen, to watch other people, is the most important reason why people gather in public spaces - not fancy design features."

Access & Linkages

Easy access for pedestrians. Many people nearby use the space, for example office workers and employees of nearby government buildings. Car access is very limited and restricted; the promenade itself is largely pedestrianized, apart from some very small access roads. There is a subway/tram station nearby.

Comfort & Image

Seating on benches under plane trees, clean and well-maintained, safe, no vehicles in sight.

Uses & Activities

Activities on the promenade include: strolling, cycling, inline-skating, beergardens and restaurants, open-air-cinema in summer, sunbathing, and occasional public events (markets, exhibitions, concerts).

Sociability

Vibrant, active, definitely a meeting place. You will find both visitors and locals here.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Related Links & Sources

Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
Rheinuferpromenade (River Rhine Promenade)
All images are contributed by Matthias Bauer.

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

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The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design