Which Digital Strategies Strengthen Urban Spaces?

 

As guest professor for urban resilience and digitalization at Technische Universität Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF), Prof. Jochen Rabe occupies a special role among newly appointed professors at the ECDF. With 20 years of practical professional experience as an urban developer in Germany and abroad as well as experience in the private sector and in research, Prof. Rabe brings a completely new set of perspectives to the ECDF from which his colleagues can also benefit.

Born in Hamburg, Prof. Rabe studied at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge as well as at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, where he completed his Diplom in architecture and urban design in 1999 and his master’s in interdisciplinary design for the built environment in 2001.

It was particularly in his previous work on various research and implementation projects with the multinational and interdisciplinary consulting and engineering firms BuroHappold and Arup in England and Germany that Jochen Rabe focused on developing systemic solutions to complex urban problems. He also gave regular guest lectures at the ESCP Europe Business School at the Chair of Environment and Economics and he was guest critic at Technische Universität Berlin, Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, and the Manchester School of Architecture. Furthermore, Rabe was the responsible consortium partner in large-scale research projects such as BeMobility for the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

As professor for urban resilience and digitalization Rabe focuses on the ways digitalization will transform our cities. “Urban development is per se a cross-cutting topic and my goal is to research both how rapid digitalization is changing our cities and which digital strategies and technologies could strengthen urban resilience,” says Rabe. In the face of global challenges such as climate change, increasing urbanization, the automatization of labor, and the digitalization of urban systems, urban spaces are faced with major changes that raise economic, social, and technical questions. “By resilience we mean a city’s ability to respond to the challenges mentioned above, to develop, and to address crises without losing its identity. I look at how the planning of space and infrastructure needs to respond to these social challenges,” says the 49-year-old urban planner, whose favorite free-time activity is to explore the world of odors.

Transdisciplinary work is what Jochen Rabe does every day so he is especially delighted to be working with ECDF colleagues from more mono-thematic technical fields. His first cooperation project with Prof. Dr. Florian Tschorsch has already been authorized and will be funded by all six Berlin state housing associations. The goal is to use the relatively new blockchain technology, that has thus far been used primarily in the field of digital payment, for participatory platforms in urban and housing development. “Participation generally suffers from two problems: insufficient representation of standard participatory and co-determination formats and a lack of trust in those responsible. Blockchain technology could provide a solution because it handles datasets that are publicly transparent and democratically controlled by the large number of users without making a central control authority necessary. This raises important questions for our transdisciplinary research. How do we reach the public with new digital formats and if we could guarantee this, how do decision-making and planning processes change when direct democracy becomes ever more representative?” explains Rabe. (kj)