Rethinking the city: at the Places VR Festival


Imagine Green Urban Futures: This was the motto of’s programme at the Places VR Festival. The aim was to transport the idea of a greener city in immersive images. Conventional plans and illustrations are difficult for many people to grasp. Extended Reality, on the other hand, makes visions come alive and vivid, as became clear in the programme around Bochumer Straße in Gelsenkirchen.

Three teams designed their augmented reality applications especially for the festival, in which they each designed a section of the Bochumer Straße, the central location of our festival site, in a green and visionary way: Via smartphone and tablet, the festival visitors were able to see for themselves how powerful these impulses are when they are not only transported via paper, but become four-dimensional and thus come to life. The respective offices, or protagonists, had previously qualified through a competition and pursued different approaches:

Anja Cambria Oellermann, scenographer from Hamburg, placed the discovery of urban nature and the curiosity of visitors at the centre of her vision for Bergmannplatz, among other things through nature islands, a wildflower field and a small pond. The Cologne-based firm Greenbox Landschaftsarchitekten invited visitors to discover the “Green Canyon” and transformed the street, which is dominated by car traffic, into a lively spatial installation that can be used on several levels, including details such as integrated photovoltaic elements and a charging infrastructure for e-cars.

(c) Places _ VR Festival / cityscaper / Greenbox

The Berlin agency pimento formate, on the other hand, focused on edutainment for sustainability and combined elements such as virtual palm trees, flowers and bubbling fountains with information on suitability under aspects of climate neutrality. In a fourth section along Bochumer Straße, visitors were able to become active themselves and not only provide greenery, but also wish for elephants, zebras and sofas.

(c) Places _ VR Festival / Sebastian Becker
(c) Places _ VR Festival / Sebastian Becker

In the courtyard of the Quartieroase, visitors followed impulses and panels on digitality in planning on both days. In the adjacent garages, which were transformed into lounges with the help of sofas, carpets and the like, our technology partner for the implementation of AR applications, the Aachen-based start-up Cityscaper, as well as pimento formate with the project “futureleafmission” and the team from Greenymizer with their vision of an app for more digital participation in the Green City of the future presented themselves – a very special reunion, as the team had formed at the hackathon at the Places Festival 2020 and won two awards with a prototype. In addition, a video loop in the Garage Lounge offered the opportunity to get to know other innovative XR projects.

The programme was complemented by a poster exhibition, through which the following international projects and offices were presented with references to the respective project pages:

  •  AVP (Düsseldorf): Presentation of complex real estate projects in virtual animation.
  • Anja Cambria Oellermann & Shaouhan Hu: Ensō – Analysis of the Boundary
    between water and land in Japanese temples and in the urban space of Kiel.
  • Form Follows You GmbH (Berlin): Digital Participation Bahnhofstraße Lichtenrade
  • Green4Cities (Vienna): Developing Urban Green Visions
  • Greenymizer: Vision of the app “City Greenymizer” for citizen participation
  • Dr. Nadina Galle (Amsterdam): “Internet of Nature” for building smart green cities
  • Jan Kamensky (Hamburg): Utopia for Bicyclists – Utopian animations
  • LAND (Milan/Lugana/Düsseldorf: CariGO GREEN3 – Digital Landscape. Programme for the territorial development of the landscape Gorizia on the border between Italy and Slovenia
  • pimento formate (Berlin): Futureleaf – AR-Mission on Microplastics in the City

“Imagine Green Urban Futures” was made possible by a grant from the E.ON Foundation and cityscaper, the technology partner for the development of the AR applications.