Students develop Ideas for the City of the Future

1,700 first semester students at Leuphana University Lüneburg show off their inventiveness - More transparency and Participation are in demand - Winning teams travel to Malta and Brussels

LÜNEBURG. The city of the future brings together different generations, is environmentally friendly, has a high quality of life and focuses on its citizens.  That is the vision for the winning teams in this year’s “Opening Week,” the traditional prelude to the winter semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. 

The almost 1,700 first semester students at Leuphana had the assignment to develop an ideal image of the fictive city of Leinwig in the year 2050. For five days they worked on this project, thinking about future trends, creativity technology and urban development questions. They formulated their own conceptions of a city in the future and discussed them with numerous international guests and experts from politics, the sciences, and public administration, including Leuphana Professor Daniel Libeskind, Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz, and Malta’s Education Minister Evarist Bartolo.

The jury of experts awarded prizes for the most outstanding proposals. Two groups came out ahead. Team 21 developed an image of a city defined by citizen participation, solidarity between the generations, and the protection of resources through the shared use of consumer goods. They arranged their ideas into a music performance which they composed and sang themselves. Team 36 designed a city of the future that would provide for itself, be family friendly and operate as a transparent communal democracy.

The winning teams can expect to go on a special trip. Team 21 received an invitation from the Maltese Education Minister, Evarist Bartolo, to visit Malta.  Team 36 will travel to Brussels in the coming year to attend a joint EU-China Summit.The audience award went to Team “My super sweet 16” which gave an impressive shadow play about responsibility in civil society. The team members called for a strong local economy, lively participation from all citizens, and access to education and culture for all generations and social classes.

More than 110 teams, each with up to 15 members, joined the effort to formulate new urban visions. In developing their proposals, students drew from courses on campus as well as from an online platform hosted by the Leuphana Digital School and developed by the Lüneburg start-up company, cadena. They presented the results of the work through self-made video clips, whose maximum length was limited to 90 seconds. The jury praised the students’ “exciting ideas” and spoke highly of the great creativity the first semester students displayed. It was not easy to select the prizewinners from among the many very good contributions, thus everyone should be very proud, according the unanimous opinion of the board.  Members of the jury included Rebecca Harms, parliamentary floor leader for the Greens in the EU-Parliament, Reiner Nagel, chief executive for the Federal Building Culture Foundation, Dirk-Ulrich Mende, Mayor of the city of Celle, the future researcher, Parag Khanna, and Carsten Siebert, managing director of the Barenboim-Said Academy. According to Holm Keller, the organizer of Leuphana’s Opening Week, the competition attained its goal: “The new students developed their own visions for living together in in the civil society of the future while working as team to produce a convincing film. We were impressed by the rich ideas, creativity and commitment of the students. They will surely profit from them during their studies.” Bringing their own ideas to life and helping shape the society of tomorrow, these are the expectations that the university sets for its students, according to Keller. For this reason, interdisciplinary engagement with pressing social questions matters so much at Leuphana. Hardly any other university campus offers student so many possibilities in this regard.

The Opening Week at Leuphana University Lüneburg counts as one of the exceptional events in and around the university of this old Hanseatic city. In previous years, first semester students participated in a large start-up competition or developed guiding principles for a new health care system, for example. During another Opening Week, artists from many different countries used the Artotale event to transform the city of Lüneburg into a street art exhibition.

Leuphana University Lüneburg sees itself as a public university for the civil society of the 21st century. Its university model is unique within Germany and has received many awards. Approximately 8,000 young people study at Leuphana.