Parks and gardens in Berlin as community spaces – Part 2

Playgroundby Ares Kalandides and Markus Kather

This is the second part of the article. In part 1 we looked at the German legal framework and the particularities of green planning in Berlin. Today we will be looking at examples. You can read part 1 here

C. Examples

a) Tempelhofer Freiheit 

Temporary gardens at Tempelhofer Freiheit

Temporary gardens at Tempelhofer Freiheit. © Nathalie Wachotsch

The airfield of the former Tempelhof airport is one of the largest landscaping areas in central Berlin today with a total surface of about 370 ha. Following the closure of the airport in 2008 several plans were design and rejected, reflecting the lack of development pressure by the real estate sector. This gives the city the luxury of both space and time to try out innovative planning processes, in particular trial-and-error through interim uses. Three themed fields in the outer ring of the field (urban gardening, culture and sports/wellness) have been defined as experimental interim use spaces, while the totality of the centre is to keep its meadow character. Interim uses for the three fields are chosen by competition, while the best projects may be integrated in the final plans. A large building project is to take place in the south-west edge of the area with a location reserved for a large library.  Yet the main feature of “Tempelhofer Freiheit”, as the project is called, is this of a vast inner city field, with a clear open view across it.

Cycling on the former airport runway

Cycling on the former airport runway © Nathalie Wachotsch

Major player behind this project is the Berlin senate (i.e. the state government) with the planning department (Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umweltschutz). It initiated and monitors the process, which has been an interesting experience in open-end planning. Residents, associations and other initiatives participate in a strictly defined framework of rules, presenting and implementing their own projects. Here is a combination of top-down planning that leaves space for bottom-up projects, which in themselves may or may not be innovative. The stress here is placed on the process and its capacity to integrate solutions that appear on the way.

A plan for the future use of Tempelhof airport

A plan for the future use of Tempelhof airport

“Tempelhofer Freiheit” is rather exceptional, partly because of its size and central position and partly because of the lack of development pressure. It permits experiments in landscaping and gardening while simultaneously setting clear rules.

b) Herzberge

An example of a revitalization project combining urban nature, farming and recreation in a former industrial environment is Landschaftspark Herzberge. Structural changes of the economy left traces in the fabric of the city: brownfields and non- or underused areas, especially in the periphery.

The Landscape Park Herzberge

The Landscape Park Herzberge

The project aims for the revitalization of a 100 hectare wide brownfield in Berlin’s Lichtenberg district in the east of the city. Until the 1990s the area hosted a mixture of industrial uses (a horticultural enterprise), infrastructure (a railway yard) and recreational facilities (a stadium and a camping ground). After being shut down the site faced vandalism and also negatively affected the bordering industrial and residential zones.

Since 2004 the project Landschaftspark Herzberge (Landschaftspark is a German compositum of landscape and park that emphasizes the coexistence of protected areas and those used for recreation) is transforming the site. Core-element of the revitalization strategy is farming with a sheep flock. Extensive environmental remediation efforts were needed, before farming was possible on the former highly contaminated industrial areas. With the help of a state program (Umweltentlastungsprogramm) within the scope of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) asbestos contaminated soils were restored and old heating structures taken down. Meanwhile farming with sheep started in the southern part of the Landschaftspark.

The urban agriculture has several advantages for the site:

  1. By grazing the pastures, the sheep help maintaining the species-rich and produce an “attractive” landscape
  2. One flock of sheep can maintain several areas, as there are a lot of similar structured brownfields in the neat the Landschaftspark
  3. Organic products (mainly meat and fruits that grow on the grasslands) are planned to be sold on site (pick-your-own-fruit models)
  4. Cooperation with the hospital near the park for therapeutic programs is projected
  5. Presence of visitors and employees of the agricultural enterprise decreases vandalism and crime

The project started as a temporary use, initiated by a private association and funded by a state program in cooperation with the district’s administration. The process of revitalization resulted in a continuation of the project. While the planning department originally aimed for housing construction on the site, the funds used for the environmental remediation required the implementation of a conservation status. Development of the area for residential or industrial uses now became impossible (at least for the core parts) – but on the other hand the park helped stabilizing existing industrial and residential areas nearby.

The urban agriculture applied at Landschaftspark Herzberge can serve as a model for revitalization in peripheral areas of cities dealing with economic transformation. It helped protecting valuable biotopes and habitats, reconnected different parts of the city, offered a recreational zone for the people living nearby and opened economic perspectives for a “difficult” site. This example also raises the issues of safety and vandalism in all public spaces, including parks.

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