December 04 2012

Industrial Relicts, Nature and Art: Nature Park Südgelände

South from the city-centre of Berlin, a small pathway leads up to a curious mix of copper-colored buildings, a single-standing water tower, and birch trees, fighting their way through former train tracks. Upon arrival, the visitor is greeted by an engraved citation: “Wildness is the closest neighbor to art” – an idea which is taken literally in this multifaceted urban space.

The space I am referring to is called “Südgelände.” Until the 1950s, it was an important logistic site including a large switchyard for trains. But the stop to its industrial use also lead to a stop to any kind of use. It lay abandoned for decades, which resulted in the surrounding nature, bit by bit, re-conquering the land. When in the 1980s, a clearance and re-industrialisation was suggested, local initiatives revolted: Due to the rare circumstances of lying completely undisturbed, a flourishing natural environment was created, including a range of rare species of birds, plants, and mushrooms. The idea was to preserve Südgelände as a natural reservoir while at the same time respecting and conserving its industrial past. To visually and practically enforce this objective, a group of landscape designers developed a concept that combined the protection of nature, the accessibility of the entire space to the public, and re-use of the space ; including interesting sites of technical relics and modern art.

The park was officially opened in 1999. Walking through it today, the visitor is wowed with contrasts; untamed nature covering former train tracks and industrial art cutting clear paths through the wild forest. Metallic pathways guide the visitor through the nature reserve: carefully placed 50 cm above ground visitors are meant to see and experience its natural treasures without interacting – or potentially – destroying it. To attract a larger crowd of visitors to the park, a former engine hall today is re-used as an event space for theatre plays, concerts, artists, and other cultural or private events.

Hearing about Südgelände in Berlin – can you think of abandoned areas near you, that could be re-used and transformed into something new? What kind of development could you imagine to see there?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Photography Rights: Luise Letzner, Claudia Georgi.

Luise Letzner

Originally from Berlin, Luise Letzner currently pursues a Masters at HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany, in Urban Planning. She also holds a B.A. in European Studies from Malmö University, Sweden, where she focused on inner-city redevelopment projects, place branding, and the concept of urbanity. She worked as a concept strategist and social media manager for several online agencies and in trend research, where she investigated new forms of communication via mobile and online technology, as well as trends within city marketing. Apart from Sweden, she has lived in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. and is fascinated by different approaches to the creation and use of public spaces within city centres. For The GRID, she investigated current urban and environmental design projects in Berlin and Hamburg.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 8:18 pm and is filed under Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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