Energy Shapes the City: A Collaborative Exhibition for Vitra Design Museum

bauhaus earth

Amidst the exhibits of the Vitra Design Museum in Basel lies a new multimedia showcase: ‘Energy Shapes the City.’ Created by Urban Catalyst, Transsolar KlimaEngineering, and Bauhaus Earth for the exhibition “Transform! Designing the Future of Energy“, it delves into the intricate relationship between energy systems and urban infrastructure. This exhibition prompts reflection on how this dynamic interaction influences the resilience of our cities, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in shaping sustainable urban environments.

Energy and the built environment

There are many aspirations for the carbon-neutral city of the future: a dense city bustling with life and activity, short pathways connect vibrant destinations amidst a landscape relying on blue-green infrastructure. Here, public spaces are thoughtfully designed to foster the well-being of both people and the environment, nurturing all inhabitants alike. Climate protection is seamlessly integrated into all infrastructure levels. New buildings are built within existing structures and footprints rather than on undeveloped land, and the future city’s material base is circular, regional, and bio-based.

Regardless of our visions for cities, both existing and imagined, they are universally shaped by the intricate web of energy systems, flows, and processes. To date, our focus on fossil fuels has had a significant impact on their character. For instance, most cities are increasingly car-oriented and sprawling, and the stock of existing buildings was largely built without energy standards. Energy, mostly from fossil sources, also plays an integral role in our daily lives, whether in making coffee in the morning, taking a hot shower, keeping our trains and computers running, or processing and transporting the materials we consume.

Overall, cities now consume 75 per cent of the world’s primary energy and emit 50 to 60 per cent of greenhouse gases – especially in the areas of construction and mobility.

As we try to bring cities into line with climate goals, many core functions such as mobility, heating and cooling, buildings, water supply, materials, and food, will be radically transformed. However, if we want to live within planetary boundaries, the resources and energy to power each of these sectors are inherently limited. Therefore, energy use, collection, and distribution must be integrated early in the urban planning process to allow the interrelated ambitions of all sectors to coexist within the same space.

Demonstrating the integration of energy in urban planning

Our exhibition piece for Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition “Transform! Designing the Future of Energy” explores the integration of energy and urban space. It uses a combination of physical modelling and digital projection to show the energy processes that shape our cities and how they can be considered together.

The projected animation highlights different aspects of urban planning in times of energy transition, using the Dreispitz neighbourhood in Basel as an example. It proposes and demonstrates three necessary steps towards energy-efficient cities: Saving, Connecting, and Renewing. Bauhaus Earth contributed to the analysis of the built environment, carbon cycle, and lifecycle analysis (LCA).

Visit the Transsolar website for more detailed information on the collaborative piece, or watch the full video below.

The exhibition: “Transform! Designing the Future of Energy”

The new exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum explores the role of design and architecture in the energy future. It shines a light on the transformation of the energy sector from the perspective of design: from everyday products that use renewable energy to the design of solar houses and wind power stations; from smart mobility systems to futuristic visions of self-sufficient cities. What are the criteria for designing an energy-efficient product? How can design contribute to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources? How can industry, government policies and every one of us help to achieve the transition to a sustainable future?

After the end of the exhibition in Basel in September 2024, it is expected to travel to other international locations.

Read more about the exhibition here!

Team and Sources

Johanna Amtmann, Luca Mule (Urban Catalyst)

Eva-Maria Friedel, Rosa Hanhausen, Philipp Misselwitz, Yuliya Navatskaya (Bauhaus Earth)

Matthias Schuler, Christine von Raven, Christoph Walther (Transsolar KilmaEngineering)

Design & Animation: Luca Mule

Model: CNC Berlin

Additional Partners:

Christoph Merian Stiftung (Dreispitz Owner and Developer)

Herzog de Meuron (Masterplan)

Rapp AG (Mobility)

A person points at the "Energy Shapes the City" piece at Vitra Design Museum