CITYMAKERS 5th Anniversary Celebration

Author Katja Hellkötter
Published September 2020
Location Berlin

Five years of CITYMAKERS ‘China-Europe’ have resulted in an ecosystem of places and spaces for the exchange of new models of livable cities across cultural, disciplinary and national boundaries. What does this look like? What is its outcome? What’s relevant now? Have a look at the CITYMAKERS Global Village Map by Yimeng Wu and Katja Hellkötter, review the CITYMAKERS Bigger Picture Map, watch the 5-Year Visual Impressions Video by Kika Yang, and read the special interview series with experts from the network! Also have a look at how we celebrated in Berlin on the weekend of September 18-20, true to the motto “Keep Talking, Keep Walking, Keep Thinking.”

What is the synthesis? A global village of  Sino-European city-makers

Be it in China or Europe, the ability to create communities (both spatial and social) is the ‘currency’ that lies at the heart of livable cities. Five years after the development of the CITYMAKERS China-Europe program, an ecosystem of places and spaces for the exchange and testing of new models of livable cities has emerged across cultural, disciplinary and national boundaries. In these transformation hubs peers of the CITYMAKERS network act as catalysts for change, sharing solidarity, ideas and friendship. Be inspired by the CITYMAKERS People Network  and along with it the Knowledge Hub, a concentration  of expertise across various fields. Flip through the compilation of 40 CITYMAKERS Voices that came together in a WeChat “game” recently on the occasion of the Network’s 5th Anniversary.

How did it start? An analysis of the Sino-German Urbanization Landscape

“How about a ‘walking conference?’ Katja Hellkötter, CONSTELLATIONS founder and program head of CITYMAKERS enthusiastically suggested over a cup of coffee during an unplanned brainstorming session on new forms of dialogue to one of the leaders of the Bosch Foundation on a fact-finding visit to Shanghai in 2014. What followed was the invitation to facilitate a co-creation process to validate the idea. The result after two strategy workshops and a systematic mapping of blind spots in the larger sustainability cooperation landscape: No longer just a walking conference, CITYMAKERS China-Germany was shaped as a dialogue format explicitly embracing a 360-degree target group approach. Its key question: How can we learn, act and innovate to make cities in China and Europe more livable despite sometimes fundamentally different circumstances? Its mission: To build a transdisciplinary and transcultural network of individual Chinese and European professionals seeking fresh approaches to sustainable cities. The intention was to emphasize the need for a more holistic approach to sustainable urban development by adding social innovation, culture and creativity to the hitherto rather technical innovation approach we had seen within the Sino-German cooperation landscape.


This approach had also been co-advised by Dr. Eduard Kögel, who has accompanied the CITYMAKERS-program since its beginnings. On the occasion of its 5th anniversary and again in the wake of the enthusiasm of walking generated by the 2020-Virtual Walks project brought along, we take another look at the very first LIFE walk we took in this context: In the winter of 2014 Dr. Eduard Kögel guided us through Berlin’s “Maerkisches Viertel” discussing visions for the future of housing.  We are pleased to publish his related article “Zurück in die Zukunft“. Dr. Eduard Kögel  also guided the CITYMAKERS focus group “Culture and Identity” with “Wuhan Narrative” as a key project, and is a co-author of the newly published “Keep Wuhan Walking Online Magazine“.

How do 5 Years of CITYMAKERS look like? A compilation of visual memories

After going through our photo archive CITYMAKERS project partner Kika Yang, architect, editor and lecturer, and her student, Estefania Cadena, she curated this beautiful collection of memories from all the various CITYMAKERS events and activities. The Global Village Map served as a supporting framework. Watch the video and zoom into the Global Map’s spaces and places!

How do we celebrate? Keep Talking, Walking, Thinking

Part I – Keep Talking

On September 18th we were delighted to welcome 30 guests – institutional partners and supporters – to a  “Learning Cities Actors Dialogue” – as part one of the celebration – at the AEDES Network Campus in Berlin.

It is not an easy job to create top-down- bottom-up partnerships between municipalities and city-makers. That’s why we are all the more pleased to harvest some fruit here: Besides the “Berlin-Beijing Learning Cities Map” that was created in 2018 with the Senate of Berlin, the CITYMAKERS Ruhr Network – kicked off by our CITYMAKERS fellow, an intrapreneur in the City of Essen – was born last year and matured further this summer into a joint project with the City of Duisburg. Duisburg and Wuhan being Germany and China’s oldest partner cities (since 1982), the “Keep Wuhan Walking Project” and the Duisburg Virtual Walk: “Sister cities Duisburg and Wuhan – Commonalities of different cities? Similar cities with differences?” became part of this cooperation.

Not only did we see a special need this year to talk about “Wuhan as being more than the coronavirus,” but with “Keep Talking” we want to emphasize that investigating and deepening our understanding of each other’s contexts is a necessary starting point for any city-making process. This is what the Wuhan multimedia kaleidoscope intends to do. Last but not least, especially in these times of a changing political climate with a risk of shrinking spaces for dialogue, it is all the more important to keep the channels of communication between China and Europe open.

Food for thought for the future is also offered in the special interview series we conducted with a few of our peers. Read the contributions by Song Qun, Knut Wimberger, Shi Ming, Eve Nagel, Dr. Eva Sternfeld,  and URBANI[XX]- network represented by Dr. Tania Becker here.

Dr. Ying-Chih Deng, Program Officer Circular Development, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability e.V., World Secretariat © Jadranko Marjanovic
Dunya Bouchi, Managing Director ANCB- Metropolitan Laboratory @ AEDES © Jadranko Marjanovic
Katja Hellkötter, CITYMAKERS Curator, CONSTELLATIONS Founder © Jadranko Marjanovic
Eve Nagel, Project Manager, Robert Bosch Stiftung © Jadranko Marjanovic
Dr. Eduard Kögel, Advisor, Publisher, Studio Eduard Kögel © Jadranko Marjanovic
Darius Polack, Managing Director IaC – International Alumni Center © Jadranko Marjanovic
Marcus Sauerhammer, SEND – Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland © Jadranko Marjanovic
Sabine Yang-Schmidt, Chief Representative City of Berlin in Beijing © Jadranko Marjanovic
Knut Wimberger, CEO Green Steps Shanghai/World © Jadranko Marjanovic
Sebastian Schlecht, City of Essen, Strategic Management, Green Capital of Europe Manager, Founder Lala.Ruhr, CITYMAKERS-Ruhr Rep © Jadranko Marjanovic

Part II – Keep Walking

The dialogue with the Bosch Foundation about a new program started with the idea of walking, and now the 5-year funding cycle ends with it. In search of dialogue formats taking COVID-19 into account, this time our team came up with the idea of a CITYMAKERS Virtual Walk Project. On the occasion of our 5th anniversary celebration weekend, we were delighted to screen 20 virtual walks.
“Keep Walking” – the title of another part of our celebration program – is also meant metaphorically: Funding by donors always ends at some point, projects have execution plans from A-Z. However, the project’s purpose of seeking and co-creating alternative pathways to livable cities has no end. Ideas take time to realize and materialize. “Keep Walking” is also a reminder to ourselves and the people in the network to continue the good work and never give up.

Events at our headquarter C*SPACE
Music Highlight with composer Song Yuzhe 宋雨喆 and singer Helen Feng 冯海宁. Afternoon vibes by Zhang Yun, Cafe Zarah © Jan Siefke
Song Yuzhe 宋雨喆, founder of Dawanggang © Jan Siefke
Indoor Screening at C*SPACE © Jan Siefke
© Jan Siefke
Kika Yang and Silvan Hagenbrock © Jan Siefke
Berlin based VIRTUAL WALK Participants introductions © Jan Siefke
Backyard cinema at former furniture factory Weissensee © Jan Siefke
Berlin based VIRTUAL WALK Participants introductions © Jan Siefke
Berlin based VIRTUAL WALK Participants introductions © Jan Siefke

Part III – Keep Thinking

What is important now? As much as there seems to be a timely need to sometimes just BE rather than MAKE, there is also – in view of the many global challenges facing us – an urgency to scale up: CITYMAKERS China-Europe has identified a number of good stories and projects. But are good practices scalable? More social impact investment from public or private donors is needed to spread practices that offer solutions to the pressing global challenges of our times.
With our website’s new name, C*MAKERS, we therefore want to signal openness. C* for collaboration: Stronger and more strategic alliances with project partners are needed. C* for climate change: How can we as a group of city-makers dedicate our creativity and draw resources to this shared global challenge?  C* for countryside: We are too city-focused. The flip side of urbanization is that rural areas are left behind. More initiatives for rural-urban partnerships are needed. To make this point, we have set our CITYMAKERS closing team retreat in the rural  Projektraum Drahnsdorf, as the third part of our CITYMAKERS Harvest celebrations.

Location at Drahnsdorf © Katja Hellkötter
Knut Wimberger © Katja Hellkötter
Team at Drahnsdorf © Katja Hellkötter
Location in the village of Drahnsdorf © Katja Hellkötter

Who rocked all this? A last look backstage: many thanks to the CITYMAKERS core and extended team of close partners!

from left to right: Kika Yang, Yimeng Wu, Gerrit Manke, Sonja Broy, Keyao Wang, Lavia Lin, Katja Hellkötter, Jana Brokate, Sebastian Schlecht, Silvan Hagenbrock