Hamburg, March 7, 2017. Can new technologies make the history of Hamburg’s Cathedral Square come alive? And can cultural storytelling and innovative services make the square more attractive? To find answers to these questions, researchers at HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU) are collaborating with the Archeological Museum Hamburg (AMH), the digital network Hamburg@work, and eCulture.info to examine the revitalization potential of this central site in Hamburg’s city center.

Hamburg’s Cathedral Square used to be the site of Hammaburg fortress and was the city’s intellectual and cultural center for centuries. In the middle of a highly frequently business district – between Mönckebergstraße and Speicherstadt – the square is at present only being used as a transit zone. A project financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the scope of the research program “Innovationen für die Produktion, Dienstleistung und Arbeit von morgen “ (“Innovations for the Production, Services, and Work of Tomorrow”) is now examining the potential for revitalizing the square. A data-oriented survey and analysis of the square will provide the basis for modeling various usage scenarios. Finally, the project will evaluate measures for the subsequent development and prototypical implementation of service proposals and assess their ability to be carried over to the revitalization of comparable places.

Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer, Director of the CityScienceLab at HCU Hamburg: “We are delighted that the examination can now begin at Cathedral Square. We see great potential in further developing the CityScopes developed by MIT following the success of the ‘Finding Places’ participation procedure in the context of the research project with partners from research, culture, and digital commerce.”

Prof. Dr. Rainer-Maria Weiss, Director of the Archeological Museum Hamburg: “The Archeological Museum Hamburg has thoroughly researched and revised the history of the Hammaburg and the beginnings of our Hanseatic city. The exciting findings of this research are now to come alive on site in the heart of the city. Together with HCU Hamburg, we are exploring new avenues of cultural storytelling and testing the extent to which smart, digital archeology and history can fascinate visitors and passers-by.”

Qualitative and quantitative survey of the use of Cathedral Squarel

A primary focus of the joint project is to intermingle qualitative and quantitative research approaches: a survey of current uses of the square by means of qualitative methods and their visualization, as well as analysis, on interactive city models, the so-called CityScopes, which are fed with digital data in order to create as comprehensive an image as possible. The interplay and potentials of culture, tourism, mobility, and trade for a revitalization of small-scale districts are in this way studied in the form of a prototype at Cathedral Square. A particular part will be played by the usage and incorporation of cultural injections to the square, while asking how needs-based business models tailored to local conditions and smart services could look in the district, and whether they could make a substantial contribution to reviving squares.

Uwe Jens Neumann, Managing Director of Hamburg@work GFM mbH: “Our responsibilities in the project involve both the inclusion of digital commerce companies into the future development of services, as well as communication in the network. The goal here is to strengthen the sustainability of the results of the project.”

Jens Bley, Initiator of “Smart Square”, eCulture.info: “In this network of outstanding partners, the role of cultural storytelling, that is, the use of innovative digital narrative forms in the context of a digital city, will be scientifically examined with a practical orientation to make the square more attractive. The findings from Cathedral Square are intended to be capable of being regionally, nationally, and internationally carried over to other squares and districts.”

Development of innovative cultural and service offerings

Furthermore, “cultural injections”, multimedia installations by the Archeological Museum, connect the square with its specific history and bring it to life. Various scenarios for the square will be developed using a variety of actors, neighbors, users of the square, and service providers and, building on this, a range of digital services compiled from the areas of culture, tourism, mobility, and commerce. Here is where new technologies offer a way to make the square much more attractive for various user groups and at the same time strengthen the local economy for the long term. Repeated measurements of how the square is used and CityScope models of the actions to be taken will identify changes in the course of the project and indicate interdependencies. This is intended to identify indicators that can be used to operationalize the change in Hamburg’s Cathedral Square and review the (re-)vitalization of the place on the basis of individual factors.

A pilot project that is sure to catch on

The various procedures and their evaluation will flow into a tool box intended to enable other public places to be revitalized later on, especially through locally relevant cultural storytelling. The research project offers great potential for gaining new insights by means of data-driven modeling of urban scenarios using digital city models, and by combining quantitative and qualitative data. Hence the project will conclude with the development of a systematic process to enable the methods developed for Cathedral Square to be applied to other small-scale districts.

The project partners

The CityScienceLab team at HafenCity University has been actively supervising the digitization of the city of Hamburg for nearly two years now. The interdisciplinary perspective of the researchers from the CityScienceLab and the eCultureLab at HCU Hamburg will be supplemented in the “SmartSquare” project with the expertise of the Archeological Museum Hamburg, the digital commerce network Hamburg@work and eCulture.info.