What can be applied in other cities or regions? Clearly such a fortunate case as the IBA Emscher Park with its start-up financing to serve as a catalyst occurs only rarely. Of course, the foresters entail labor costs— nevertheless, the development and maintenance of these sites is many times more cost-effective than conventional green spaces (see Dettmar 1997).
It is conceivable that a corresponding plan for care/custody could also be constructed from labor market projects, citizens’ or nature-conservation organizations, residents, or other kinds of volunteers. What is needed is a coordinating and supervisory site, but why shouldn’t this be located in the forestry or open-space department? Enthusiastic employees are, however, a prerequisite for this idea. A certain level of knowledge about succession is also necessary, in order to learn that one can withstand the increasing wilderness, that the urgent need to intervene can be held in check. The essential features of structural development and the necessary safeguarding against danger must also be carefully determined. The issues of liability certainly can not be fundamentally neglected, but in the forest there is more leeway.
There are probably more lessons to be found in this approach. Perhaps the most valuable contributions to the future of landscape architecture are to be found in the ideas, suggestions, and solutions for the function and design of residual open spaces. How does one develop a sustainable and attractive urban landscape from the abandoned landscapes of endless suburbanized developments? Can one succeed in creating a sustainable and attractive urban structure within the perforated urban structure using the abandoned lands that arise when cities shrink?
Clearly the demands of the suburban growth zones and of shrinking cities are very different at first glance. In one case, there is great economic pressure and need for space, in the other there is shrinking and retreat. From a structural perspective, however, under both conditions an urban space consisting of a patchwork of built and open spaces arises.
When urbanization processes are viewed fundamentally, growth and shrinking belong together. The further development of urban industrial society has produced a kind of “total industrial landscape”, as Sieferle (1997) has described it. This landscape is characterized by a constantly increasing flow of information and a universal disposability of materials and is based on an increasing use of energy. Consequently, an apparently individual and fleeting pattern of differentiation appears, a unity of variety and monotony based on the same universally available fashions, building styles, architecture, and garden designs with the corresponding merchandise, building materials, and garden center products. In contrast to the old cultural landscapes, no new permanent, truly recognizable style emerges. This would require far more development time and regional isolation. The one characteristic that remains is constant change. This mobilized stylelessness is the one overarching feature of our urbanized landscape, the only constant is the permanence of change (Sieferle 1997). This applies as a functional principle to the entire space, independent of suburban growth or urban shrinking. It also generally applies independently of the degree of development, and independently of the historic categories of urban and rural.
We attempt to guide processes and to achieve a design through planning that will eventually create an economically functional, attractive, liveable, functioning urban or landscape structure. With regard to the intercity structures of suburban spaces, most experts believe that, thus far, we have not succeeded. The hope of architects and urban planners is centered on the potential to structure, to organize, and to give new identity to the intercity areas through open space (Bachthold 1995; Sieverts 1997). Here as well, open space experiences an urban “flight of fancy” (Lohrberg 2002).
The different approaches to regional parks in Germany (the Emscher Landscape Park in the Ruhr, the Rhein-Main Regional Park, the Stuttgart Green Neighborhood, the Filder Raum Regional Park, etc.) operate according to this strategy. With this, planning for regional greenways and systems for open space connections are provided for. In doing so, planning follows the most common goals of safety, care, order and design.
If one follows the analysis of Sieferle, the attempt to create order out of chaos is understandable, but doomed to failure from the start. Permanent change ultimately excludes stable patterns of order. The recourse to typical landscape elements of the pre-industrial era (the Rhein-Main Regional Park) or the aesthetic staging of the likewise bygone industrial landscape (the Emscher Landscape Park) are only integrated elements in a mobilized landscape, in which these museum-like or symbolic islands only emphasize the totally constructed character of the landscape.
Principles of organization ultimately originate from fears or from the need for harmony; returning to what is known is understandable. What happens when this fails? Because we still have no clear vision of the structure, function, design and qualities of the mobilized, urbanized landscape of the Information Age, much energy is currently being expended to study and to understand the existing conditions and the mechanisms by which the existing conditions arose (Lootsma 2002). We must examine to what extent our perceptions, shaped as they are by historic images and representations, allow us to perceive potential qualities or organizational patterns in new structures (Dettmar and Weilacher 2003).
During shrinking processes as well, one attempts, through planning, to retreat in an orderly fashion, to avoid allowing merely accidental factors to determine the makeup of the new urban structure. Where and at what scale demolition will occur, where new green spaces will be arise and how these can be sensibly joined together is a process that must be guided (Giseke 2002).
Whether it is the shrinking of the urban structure from the era of industrial expansion (e. g., in Leipzig’s Osten) or large developments at the edges of cities (e. g., in Berlin’s Marzahn) is unimportant—the newly created open spaces must give a new organizational pattern to the whole. Forest edges and walls of trees form the new edges of spaces when buildings are broken apart (Giseke 2002). Behind these changes is fear, fear of the disintegration of a beloved urban structure, of the end of the traditional European city.
Wilderness in abandoned areas will only be accepted as long as it develops within a specified framework, as long as it fits in with the planned pattern of new open spaces. “In many places, open space in disintegrating cities is given the task, not of bringing wilderness to the city, but rather of properly maintaining the continuum of urban development and public social space. In other words: urban planning through landscape” (Becker and Giseke 2004).
What role will abandoned areas, increasing wilderness, and succession forests have in the future?
Abandoned areas can provide a building block for urban open spaces. They certainly aren’t without cost, but as the Industrial Forest Project shows, they are much more cost-effective than other public green spaces. The option of potential re-use or new construction, should the social and economic conditions change, makes abandoned areas attractive as well. Under certain circumstances they offer great ecological, aesthetic and social qualities. As islands of transformation determined by nature, they can offer a different kind of permanent change within the constant transformation of the total urban landscape, while always presenting site-specific character. This is more true the more time they have to develop. Particularly for the development of children and youth, a touchable, usable, uncontrolled, wild experience with nature is important (Gebhard 1998).
Abandoned areas can also serve as land reserve for the creation of energy, water and nutrient recycling systems in urban landscapes. One must only bring to mind the example of semi-natural rainwater management in cities (Londong and Nothnagel 1999). From a sustainability perspective, creating decentralized wastewater systems with plant purification systems, biomass production, and biogas usage is sensible within urban landscapes on suitable open spaces (see Ripl and Hildmann 1997). A co-existence of traditional green spaces, succession forests, drainage infiltration areas and plant water-treatment systems is conceivable. These are likely important building blocks of the urbanized landscape in the Information Age.
Cities were historically seen as places free from the dangers and risks of nature. The cultural break between the city and the landscape began with our estrangement from direct food production and from the discovery of the landscape by “emancipated” humans. Landscape became a synonym for nature and increasingly took on aesthetic symbolism. When “nature” found an entry into the city it was in the civilized aesthetic, staged form of gardens and parks, though with very different visions of nature during different cultural eras. In each case, a “wild” spontaneous “nature” suited to the urban conditions of the city was not a symbolically ideal nature, but rather a profane expression of urban reality. As well, such nature was an expression of a city not functioning perfectly.
At least in Germany, wild abandoned areas that exceed a certain scale engender strong psychological fear. This is true for cities, but also generally for cultural landscapes shaped by agriculture. In cities, this clearly arises from a cultural historical basis, from the consequences of wars from the Thirty Years’ War with its deserted towns to the destruction of World War II.
This must all be understood if one is to see abandoned areas as integrated building blocks of urbanized landscapes and not as an unavoidable evil. With the end of the Industrial Age, we have arrived at a point at which we must question and examine the function, the perception and the design of open space in the completely urbanized society and landscape. A central issue in this is the question of the human understanding of nature and our relationship with nature in the Information Age.
A core element of a new relationship with nature seems to be a stronger focus on the development principles of nature and less on a particular stage of development. In this sense, abandoned areas can be places of learning and experiencing a transformation guided by nature within a mobilized landscape.
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