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Munich - motorways and circular ring road

Street Life: Munich (Germany)

The future takes (its) place in 2001 - Munich Circular Ring Road

Ingrid Breu, Anna Hogeback

With a length of only 28 km the circular ring road in Munich serves as the city's principal motorway. Due to its key function for the whole city and its economy the ring road is of exceptional importance.
Vehicles on this arterial road travel ca. 2.7 million km every day. As an urban thoroughfare it interconnects major city districts thereby acting as a principal relief road for inner city neighbourhoods and residential areas. For companies the circular ring road has become a coveted business location and one of the city's top addresses. However, for people living next to the circular ring road it has turned into a major nuisance cutting through entire neighbourhoods in some areas.
In June 1996, shortly after introduction of the municipal referendum, the citizens of Munich voted by a slim majority in favour of further development of the circular ring road. 
Apart from the planning work providing extensive tunnel construction projects an urban upgrading programme was adopted for the years 2001 through 2005. The programme is especially aimed at those areas alongside the ring road which cannot be effectively protected by tunnel construction.
A planning study for urban and open space development has provided a number of new ideas as well as a framework of actions to be implemented step by step in coordination with the requests of the resident population.
The aim is to outline, interpret and develop the available structures, in particular the spatial-structural peculiarities in the individual ring sections.
However, the circular ring road in Munich is not an example of a homogeneous urban area with recurring spatial or structural features which make it an unmistakable element in the urban landscape. It is rather typical for the heterogeneity which has to do with the great variety of its topographical urban features.

The development of the circular ring road is based on the following main hypotheses:

1. The Utopian Circular Ring Road
A consistent redevelopment (demolition and reconstruction) of major road sections within the given urban context is inconceivable in the long term. However, the identity of the ring road is to be emphasized instead by urban planning measures, building construction and features of open-space landscaping, not only in a functional way, but also in its capacity as an urban area or as a series of urban spaces.

2. The Circular Ring Road development hypothesis
The ring road is interpreted as a kind of modern spatial event, as a sequence of a great variety of partial spaces with different qualities of sojourn and visual impressions expressing the individual character of the city areas passed through.
These 'identities' are to be accepted as basic tenets and need to be elaborated and developed further.

3. The Urban Area Circular Ring Road
The morphological elements of the city, e.g. its historically developed framework based on the existing topography, the typology of building development as a reflection of the functions and its period, and of green and built-up areas, are to be emphasised by reinforcing the structural peculiarities.
However, the measures taken should not override the (former) road space, especially not the tunnel areas. 
The road space with its borders is meant to give an impression of the adjacent urban districts as had been the case formerly.

4. Emission Control at the Circular Ring Road
The decision in favour of constructing a tunnel is based on maximum public use. Tunnels which only serve the purpose of noise protection do not, however, seem to make sense, the more so as they tend to create new problems in other places. Urban planning measures being 'natural' elements of planning are to be preferred to tunnel constructions or even noise protection walls.

5. The modern version of the Circular Ring Road
The circular ring road is by no means a continuum of urban planning having left historical traces in the structure of the city; it is rather a functional continuum. A design concept should strengthen the functions, facilitate orientation for its users and improve living conditions of residents without leading to a standardization of parts of the ring road.

6. The Location Circular Ring Road
Easy access by car and public transport, the proximity to the central area and the possibility to present oneself to the public on a very busy arterial road are essential assets offered by the location circular ring road. These features are to be strengthened as part of a significant location image.

Some 'concrete visions' were designed for a few special places on the circular ring road, e.g.:
The so-called Munich City Balcony' (figure 1)
The "Donnersberger Brücke" (bridge) is a rare example of a place accessible to the public and offering an excellent view over the city of Munich. One can experience the open space and complex structure of the railway infrastructure as one of the highlights of an urban townscape. At this place - which used to be rather inhospitable - a kind of theatre loge is to be created in the form of a 'Munich City Balcony'. Everything which is on view from there constitutes the theatre hall.
'Open Space - Closed Space' (figure 2)
The crossing points between autobahns and circular ring road are important orientation points in the city area. Arriving at or leaving them means that one arrives at or leaves the central area. A further development of these places at the ring road is envisaged. This means that the entrances to the city such as the Luise-Kiesselbach-Platz (square) in the south eastern part of the city are to be redefined and redesigned as "portals of entry".
'The Chip' - An Action Forum for Entertainment and Fun (figure 3)
The building developments of both sides of Heckenstallerstrasse - a section of the circular ring road - have few relationships with each other. Here the circular ring road is not considered as an interruption in a unified structure, but rather as a structural demarcation. After the completion of the tunnel construction this road section will be turned into an open space to be redefined. As residential streets on the inside will provide access to the building development there will be no traffic in the open space area.
The open space area is to be shaped as 'chip' which follows in shape, design and orientation the former road space of Heckenstallerstrasse. The open space area is to be provided with district-oriented as well as residence-oriented uses such as playgrounds and facilities for children and adoles

The upgrading and improvement of the living and sojourn qualities as well as the image of the circular ring road will receive significant impulses by accompanying action programmes to be implemented within five years.
This means:
Noise protection measures for existing residential buildings:
A 'modular unit system' consisting of single noise protection components is developed to improve the residential quality at the non-tunnelled sections of the circular ring road. These measures are meant to realize typological solutions such as for instance the construction of noise barriers, additional noise protection facades ('second skin'), glass fronts on balconies and loggias, etc.
Grant Programme 'Living at the Ring Road'
Measures of noise protection are promoted by the grant programme entitled 'Living at the Ring Road'.
Urban/traffic relief approaches in the south-east section of the circular ring road.
For this area different solutions are being developed, evaluated and finally implemented.
Urban Renewal/Grant Programme 'Socially-minded City'
Within the framework 'Socially-minded City' a joint programme supported by the federal and state government is made available for the social urban renewal of the city - it is meant to upgrade individual urban districts, not only from an urban design point of view, but in a comprehensive way, e.g. for the improvement of all problem areas.
Improving the Attractiveness of various places alongside the Circular Ring Road:
By organizing a competition for the best ideas restructuring, redesign, noise protection or upgrading of the above-mentioned special places, the city will make the public space and locations alongside the circular ring road more attractive.

All of these developments, measures and programmes are finally designed to strengthen the circular ring road as a major traffic hub and lively centre, meeting the great variety of demands it is confronted with.
The reconversion and path to a 'new circular ring road' are meant to consider and integrate the peculiarities of the space. At the same time it will help to shape a new sense of identity and 'urban culture' for the people of Munich.

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