Consequences for landscape architecture

To avoid misunderstandings: this paper is not making the case for an un­controlled decay of industrial architecture. It is, rather, a plea that the de­velopment of nature in former industrial regions be interpreted not only as a sign of decline, but also as an integral component of the historic preser­vation value of historic industrial structures. It will be shown, before the backdrop of the latest discussions in nature conservation about process – oriented approaches, that these can be combined with process-oriented ap­proaches to historic preservation, which can do justice to the character of former industrial areas as landscape ensembles in a perhaps unfamiliar way.

This kind of understanding of historic preservation as a complement to process conservation, however, breaks a taboo. According to Huse, for too long a belief in the restoration and the conservation of original objects has been imparted to the historic preservation movement. The effects of time and the limitations of conservation practice, i. e. the changeability of the object of conservation, which is an everyday matter in historic garden preservation, have been repressed (cf. Huse 1997, p 89).

In nature conservation on the contrary, significant doubts emerged in the 1980s about conservational practice, which led to the development of process-oriented approaches. If these were partially explicitly directed against a historic preservation practice in nature conservation, they none­theless cultivated a direction, in combination with urban nature conserva­tion and a socially oriented variation of the nature garden concept, that sees no sense in the separation between nature and the work of humans be­cause nature is culturally influenced to the core of its being. Despite the re­sulting basic willingness to integrate wild areas into the design of urban – industrial open space, these spaces are arrayed with typical landscape ele­ments in such a way that they can be read as cultural landscapes. The tru­ism follows for work in urban-industrial landscapes that urban wild wood­lands are not sensible everywhere and that they will most likely be accepted if they are maintained in a grove-like state and when they alter­nate with usable, open areas of wildflower meadows or shrubs that are suitable for recreation (cf. also Rink 2005; Jorgensen et al. 2005). This il­lustrates how appropriate the principles for the design of woodlands de­scribed in von Salisch’s Forstasthetik are for today. They must be newly interpreted in specific urban contexts. The pragmatic, sensible result will not be a true wilderness, but rather a mosaic of woodlands with open areas that are more or less carefully maintained.

Examples such as the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord and Berlin’s Sudgelande exist; their usability, public acceptance and natural develop­ment must be studied. For other spaces, such as Berlin’s cemeteries, where changing demographics and evolving burial rituals are making open space available, the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-WeiBensee can offer guidance. It demonstrates impressively that, through Verwilderung, a fascinating com­bination of culture and nature can arise, in which the gravestones as his­toric markers provide cultural signs that stand in contrast to the growing wilderness. In the cemetery, the motif, described within Alterswert by Riegl, of transience as a component of the modern historic preservation movement takes shape vividly side by side with high ecological value and high suitability for quiet recreation.


Fig. 9. Jewish cemetery, Berlin-Wernensee (photo: Ingo Kowarik)

An additional relevance of such spaces may arise from the discussion being held in Germany about the ‘Bambi syndrome’ and about the estab­lishment of wild spaces for experiencing nature, in which unregimented children’s play is to be possible (cf. Schemel 1997). The term ‘Bambi syn­drome,’ coined by the pedagogic scientist Bramer, refers to the fact that the environmental education of, above all, youth presents nature as fragile, threatened and therefore, worthy of respect and conservation, while simul­taneously infantilizing and trivializing it (Bramer 1998). Regardless of whether or not this image of nature is even ecologically, i. e., scientifically based, its conveyance leads, as Bramer determined, to a moralistic self­exclusion from nature, because everything that young people do for fun in nature, such as hiking, having parties, or camping is internalized as the de­struction of nature. This has the paradoxical effect of increasing the alien­ation from nature through ecological pedagogy rather than eliminating it. Trommer (1992, p 135) discusses this catastrophe didactic of environ­mental education, which can lead to impotent anger, doubt, hopelessness and fear of the future.

In abandoned industrial areas particularly, the message that nature is delicate and in need of protection comes across as almost absurd because the fascinating nature that exists there has arisen despite substantial envi­ronmental destruction. The destruction is, in fact, a prerequisite. Environ­mental pedagogy in this case must take note of the conquest of a destroyed landscape by an often surprisingly flexible and suitable nature and must bring out the sensuous and – if you like – hope-giving appeal of this proc­ess.

A dynamic, process-oriented unrestricted nature development can corre­spond, in contrast, to a more relaxed and free recreation and may be a rea­son why, in recent landscape architecture, work is increasingly being done with the processes of vegetation development (cf. Grosse-Bachle 2005). The examples of Grosse-Bachle illustrate that the fascination with sponta­neity and unrestricted growth as a general theme of contemporary land­scape architecture lies deeper than the significance of Alterswert in the in­terpretation of industrial historic structures. This fascination may originate with the ancient meaning of nature as physis: “In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, nature was ‘physis’, i. e., the bearing of fruit, the blossoming, the spontaneity, the self-creating order, to which we belong.” There are elements incorporated in this that we can bring together in everyday thought, but not when we talk about nature as scientists. Nature, in the modern understanding shaped by the natural sciences, is “that which obeys the laws (of nature)” (Kant). The “spontaneity” of the premodern physis implies freedom, an absence of rules or laws. At the same time, it implies as well that something is unfolding in accordance with laws and these are such laws as we can not avail ourselves of, let alone regulate (Trepl 1992, p 53). The premodern understanding of nature is aligned in abandoned in­dustrial areas with the estimation of Alterswert as the high-point of the modern historic preservation movement. Alterswert stands, ultimately, for a cosmological ordering of the eternal cycle of growth and death.

Updated: October 14, 2015 — 3:59 am