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.