Natur-Park Siidgelande: Linking Conservation and Recreation in an Abandoned Railyard in Berlin

Ingo Kowarik, Andreas Langer Planning Group OkoCon & Planland


The particular political situation in Berlin between 1945 and 1989 had sig­nificant effects on the development of nature in the inner city. In the west­ern part of Berlin, urban development ran in slow motion for four decades. In contrast to other parts of war-torn Europe, here large, formerly built-up areas that had been destroyed in the war remained free of renewed devel­opment; these areas were set aside as reserves to allow for future planning with Berlin as the capital city. In four decades, natural colonization proc­esses on numerous, often heavily fragmented areas led from herbaceous and shrub stages to wild urban woodlands. The same occurred on many railyards in West Berlin because the rights for all Berlin railyards had been given by the Allies to the Reichsbahn, whose seat was in East Berlin. This organization, controlled by East Germany, reduced train service to a minimum in West Berlin, allowing natural succession to begin on many old railyards.

The special political situation of West Berlin also made possible here, earlier than in other places, the development of specific urban-industrial ecosystems which we identify today as a particular type of nature, as “na­ture of the fourth kind” (see Kowarik 2005); these ecosystems have long been studied systematically by Berlin’s urban ecologists (see overview in Sukopp 1990). The plans of the Berlin administration provided for the in­tegration of many of these areas into the urban open-space system because, in the walled-in western part of the city, the availability of green spaces and opportunities for experiencing nature were seen as particularly impor­tant.

After reunification in 1989, construction began on many new wilderness areas. This reversal was a symptom of a joyful change, but meant a risk

Kowarik I, Korner S (eds) Wild Urban Woodlands.

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005, pp 287-299

that the social and ecological functions of inner city abandoned areas would be lost. In addition to recreation functions and ecosystem services (e. g. climate regulation, hydrologic cycling), cultural-historical functions would be affected as well. The abandoned areas, with their characteristic mosaic of the remnants of former uses and natural recolonization stages, call to mind the history of the sites, especially of the historical events that first made such new natural development possible.

The Schoneberger Sudgelande, which we present in this chapter, is an exception, as its condition has been secured. Originally a desolate freight railyard, then for over four decades an almost untouched new wilderness, today it is one of the first official conservation areas in Germany in which urban-industrial nature is protected and made accessible to the public. We wish to show, with the example of the “Natur-Park Sudgelande,” how dif­ferent goals have been united and how the conceptual and design princi­ples have opened up access to the new wilderness.

Updated: October 19, 2015 — 6:29 am