Critique on the IBA in Hamburg – Open letter to sociologist and IBA curator Saskia Sassen

IBA’s have a long tradition in Germany as a tool in urban development and urban design. The first IBA started in Darmstadt in 1901. The internationally most known ones were in Berlin in 1957 with the development of the Hansa Viertel, and the IBA Emscher Park from 1989 to 1999 in North Rhine-Westphalia. Historically, IBA’s were introduced to present new ideas and approaches on urban development with focus on social, economic, and cultural challenges and transformation processes.

However, the IBA Hamburg caused a lot of attention and protest regarding its impacts on the demographic structure of Wilhelmsburg – one of Hamburg’s deprived neighborhoods and host to the IBA. A main goal of the IBA is to upgrade the conditions of  neighborhoods with regards to housing and the residential environment without displacing the local population. However, critics argue that the IBA has lead to gentrification, and thus to the displacement of specific population groups.

Saskia Sassen, sociologist and curator of the IBA, is now at the centre of attention. She explained in an interview with the German daily newspaper “taz. die tageszeitung” that there are no signs of gentrification and displacement processes in Wilhelmsburg. Her opinion raised anger by several social movements. As a result, the AKU – Arbeitskreis Umstrukturierung Wilhelmsburg wrote an open letter to Sassen disagreeing with her statements on the success of the IBA.


Find the open letter to Saskia Sassen here.

Find Sassen’s response to the AKU here.

Find the interview in the newspaper “taz. die tageszeitung” here (in German).

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