Why the Reallabor method?

Changes in the urban and transportation sectors lead to improvements in our surroundings, that we may not be able to imagine immediately. Real world laboratories serve as practical examples and build bridges between reality and imagination.

What Is a Real-World Lab or Reallabor?

Handskizze des Raumes unter dem U-Bahnbogen. Ein wildes Sammelsurium an Ideen für die zukünftige Teststrecke wird hier abgebildet: links findet sich eine DIY-Reparaturstation; am Boden Strahler, die die Decke des Viadukts erhellen, in der Mitte einen grünen Fahrradweg, rechts einen interaktiven Wege- und Stadtplan, zahlreiche Schilder mit Wegbeschreibugnen und einen Ticketautomaten der BVG sieht man im hintergrund ebenso.

Trial and Error

The term ‘real-world lab’ originates from the world of science and describes a new, practice-oriented research format.

Here, citizens work on equal terms with scientific organizations, politicians and administrators to test approaches for solving major social challenges such as climate change or the transformation of the transport sector. The work of real-world labs is experimental, unbiased and flexible. For a limited period of time, ranging from a few months to a few years, different methods or innovations are tested in public spaces: People try out what works, evaluate the successes but also the mistakes, and learn from them in order to do things better in the next step.

Why Are Real-World Labs Important?

Often visionary ideas fail due to a lack of imagination by the public and political decision-makers. Resistance and missing understanding are the side effects. The strenght of real world labs is to let visions and narratives flourish in real settings and spaces.

Breaking down imagination

Real-world labs think boldly about the future and demonstrate improvements that can be seen and touched. Our imagination is often shaped by the current state of things. It is therefore not necessarily easy to imagine a park with birds chirping in a place where cars still drive and make noise today.

Symbolic function

Real-world labs have a symbolic function. They show that our environment can be shaped by citizens and inspire people and other urban actors to create high-quality urban spaces.

Policy inspiration

Real-world labs provide impetus to politics, connect people from different disciplines, and generate pressure at the citizen-level to maintain those temporary measures that prove successful.

Permanence and Processes

Transformation processes can be accelerated by temporary changes. A good example are the pop-up bike lanes that were created in Berlin during the pandemic. Today they have been made permanent and are making a significant contribution to the implementation of the Berlin Mobility Act.

Ein Bild, das sich aus drei Fotografien zusammensetzt. Alle zeigen den momentan Zustand unter der Hochbahn rund um das zukünftige Radbahn-Testfeld. Der Ort ist sehr trist. Menschen halten sich hier nicht auf; sondern nutzen den Raum nur als Durchgang beim Queren der Straße. Dreck und Taubenkot machen den Ort ebfalls nicht lebenswert.

How does the Radbahn benefit from the Reallabor method?

The Radbahn could also be realized more quickly in its entirety thanks to the real-world lab work. Instead of planning and funding a nine-kilometer route all at once, the Radbahn project is following a processual and iterative development and implementation. The goal is to implement the Radbahn in several steps and together with local actors and the relevant administrations. This way, we can react flexibly to the diverse needs of Berliners and to changing conditions. We look at what is well liked, consolidate this in planning drafts for the entire route, and develop new ideas to overcome any conceptual flaws.

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