Nature Conservation, Forestry, Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation: Perspectives for a Conceptual Alliance

Stefan Korner

Institute of Ecology, Technical University Berlin


Administrative nature conservation in Germany, which is predominantly scientifically and ecologically based, must admit to a lack of public accep­tance (Politische Okologie 1995; Wiersbinski et al. 1998; Der Rat von Sachverstandigen fur Umweltfragen 2002; Korner et al. 2003). (Volunteer nature conservation organizations are not the subject here, nor are the many local nature conservation projects.) This lack of public acceptance is sparked by the widely held perception that the work of nature conservation is often limited to species conservation, and that, at least in its most com­mon form, it leads to the interpretation of human uses of nature as “distur­bances.” Fischer (2004) has gone so far as to suggest that nature conserva­tion has a fundamentally restrictive character: “It has come to see itself, at least here in Germany, predominantly as a restraint, a containment, as a re­pression of ‘unchecked’ human behavior, that only too obviously follows maxims [that describe humans as] separate from nature and enemies of na­ture” (ibid, p 25f). Particularly in the establishment of national parks, every permitted ‘encroachment’ into nature “is understood as a more or less grave, ultimately lamentable reduction from the norm-determined op­timum, from the ‘independent workings’ of a nature insulated from human hands” (Fischer 2004a, p 224). Here normatively, a kind of nature is con­ceptualized “that is only complete nature, where human activities, even human presence is kept at a distance” (ibid, p 230). Although a restrictive nature conservation, for example, for the protection of white-tailed eagles, cranes and migrating falcons can certainly be justified, one should not wonder that this kind of nature conservation is understood by the public as excluding them from the landscape that they use everyday, and conse­quently from their Heimat (homeland) (cf. Stoll 1999; Bogner 2004).

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

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005, pp 193-220

This narrowly formulated understanding of nature conservation has his­toric roots in the so-called nature conservation in the narrow sense. It is expressed – as we will see in the example of Berlin’s Sudgelande – today in the development of urban-industrial abandoned areas and leads to the regulation of legitimate uses, even when the opposite is intended.

The examples in this chapter will show that new demands will be placed on nature conservation especially in the design of urban-industrial wood­lands in urban contexts. These demands include unifying a non-restrictive nature conservation with the management of urban forests, recreation uses, and historic preservation in a landscape architectural, i. e. in a functional, satisfyingly designed, form. Satisfyingly designed means that the charac­ter, i. e. the uniqueness, of the post-industrial landscape in which these woodlands are found is not destroyed, but rather is further developed in a way appropriate to our time.

To achieve this demand, nature conservation can connect to a tradition that stands in contrast to its own narrow interpretation. There exists within the German tradition of Heimatschutz (the preservation of the homeland) a broader understanding of nature conservation that is more open to human uses of the cultural landscape (i. e. nature conservation in the broader sense). Heimatschutz invokes the even older tradition of Landesver­schonung (the aesthetification of the land), in which the beauty of the land­scape was seen as an expression of its usefulness (cf. Korner and Eisel 2003, p 12f). Landesverschonung represents an important link between a more broadly conceived nature conservation and forestry.

This revival of a broader understanding of nature conservation is ini­tially opposed by the fact that the relevant disciplines of nature conserva­tion, forestry, landscape architecture and historic preservation became dif­ferentiated in the past. However, they feature similar traditions, similar as well to Heimatschutz and Landesverschonung, that could be used in the urban-industrial context. There exists, for instance, within forestry, in the concept of forest aesthetics, a historic orientation not only toward wood production, but also toward the alliance of forestry with the Landesver – schonung tradition of – one would say today, the landscape architectural way of – designing of forests for recreation.

Nature conservation worldwide has had as its aim, at least since the Convention on Biodiversity, the preservation of biological diversity. The German tradition of Heimatschutz, however, provided for the landscape architectural design of the landscape with both aesthetic and use-oriented perspectives in mind. In this way, landscape architecture, often sharply criticized today by nature conservationists as antiquated and culturally sterile and with its interests firmly oriented to the design of urban spaces (Mattern 1950; Bappert and Wenzel 1987; Kienast 1981), was closely connected to Heimatschutz and the broader understanding of nature con­servation.


Fig. 1. Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord

In turn, historic preservation is oriented predominantly toward the pres­ervation of historic structures, and views the emergence of wild urban woodlands with reserve, because, for instance, as old rail yards become overgrown, the historic built structure is threatened (cf. Buschmann 2003). The preservation of Verwilderung processes (the processes by which land becomes increasingly wild) is seen, from this point of view, to be an ap­proval of such decline. This is understandable to the extent that, as will be shown, the preservation of process does indeed seek to overcome the con­nection of traditional nature conservation with historic preservation and to assist ‘pure’ dynamic nature break free. It should be remembered that the most broadly understood approach to process protection within the Ger­man-speaking world has not only been shaped by ecological-scientific in­terests, but also significantly by cultural-historic interests, above all the preservation of character. The experiences with urban nature conservation illustrated below, which are in some ways distinct from the characteristic understanding of nature conservation, in conjunction with the adoption of the nature garden concept in landscape architecture, should broaden the perspective for a process-oriented historic preservation within urban – industrial woodlands.

All disciplines relevant to the management of urban-industrial wood­lands feature cultural/design-oriented traditions that can both bring forth new, interesting solutions and be used for a broader, not exclusively re­strictive nature conservation. The goal of this chapter is to study the his­toric connections between the individual disciplines in order to achieve an interesting synergism through the coordination of their currently unused potentials. A cooperation of this kind is of great interest in view of the lack of public acceptance described above. In the following, the possibilities for a conceptual alliance between nature conservation, forestry, landscape ar­chitecture, and historic preservation in the design of urban woodlands will be described.

Updated: October 13, 2015 — 3:26 am