Category Wild Urban Woodlands

The basic approach of the project

Under conditions such as these, a new approach was needed. Additionally, it was already clear that demographic changes would sooner or later lead to the availability of a substantial number of previously built areas throughout Germany. For this reason as well, model strategies needed to be developed. The most important goals associated with a new approach can be classified as follows:

• Consider the increasingly difficult financial situation of the community.

– Cost-effectively transform areas in the city that no longer have an economic use into usable green spaces of different types that require very little upkeep.

• Consider alternative methods to avoid the blandness and loss of quality

that is involved in the “normal” planning process when transforming an

abandoned area into a p...


The need for an experiment

In the mid-1980s, due to the increasing decline in mining and heavy indus­try, the Ruhr had reached a point at which ecological and cultural problems were becoming known, in addition to the area’s substantial economic and social problems. The many conventional economic development policies that had been attempted had not shown any of the hoped-for success. The Ruhr featured the highest unemployment rates in North Rhine – Westphalia and in the former West Germany at over 15%. It was becoming increas­ingly clear that the negative image of the region, burdened by its industrial past, was becoming a decisive disadvantage. The image was that of face­less cities, insufficient visual landscape qualities, the legacies of industry in the form of ruins, abandoned areas, etc...


Forests for Shrinking Cities? The Project “Industrial Forests of the Ruhr”

Jorg Dettmar

Design and Landscape Architecture, TU Darmstadt


The central theme in urban planning in Germany currently is how to ad­dress the consequences of population decline. These consequences are al­ready being felt in many places, in other areas they are fearfully expected. Shrinking cities and perforated cities are terms to describe the break up of urban structure in which new open spaces arise through the demolition of residential buildings and infrastructure facilities. Urban planning works to provide direction for an orderly retreat. It has long been unclear whether this has been successful (e. g. Arbeitskreis Stadterneuerung 2002).

None of this is completely new. It was already clear in the 1980s that these demographic developments would arise...


Wilderness elements as a pattern for urban development

One main issue in establishing sustainable urban regions is the manage­ment of land use. New wilderness areas could provide a large-scale pattern for the sustainable development of the whole of the peri-urban landscape. This pattern of new wilderness could help to manage urban development by “pre-structuring” its spatial area because woodlands provide strong ob­stacles to expansion while providing public open spaces. Spontaneous vegetation in new wilderness areas provides the basic structure for future parks in the (peri-)urban landscape.

A pattern of new wilderness for aesthetic perception of the peri-urban landscape

The main problem in the aesthetic perception of the peri-urban landscape is its complex structure...


Wilderness for leisure activities

New wilderness in the peri-urban landscape can offer places for different leisure activities. These are different from commercial leisure activities as they offer the visitor a contemplative perspective on nature. From this per­spective, the lack of any obvious design in the new wilderness equals a lack of information. On the other hand, this lack produces relaxation, which is a rare quality today because of the increasing information density in our environment (e. g. computer work and media).

However there are also active leisure activities which new wilderness can offer. It may provide space for “wild” activities that cannot be toler­ated in urban parks (e. g. moto-cross or mountain biking)...


Ecological functions of secondary wilderness

The benefits of new wilderness for flora, fauna and habitats are well known, especially for urban brownfields. However, new wilderness could also be an effective strategy for managing the spontaneous vegetation of larger, floodplain areas of river systems.

Besides these functions for habitats, new wilderness could also serve for local sustainable production of resources, e. g. the production of timber as a substitute for oil products.

Wilderness to create an identity for the peri-urban landscape

The identity of the landscape is important for a positive image of an urban region. As the rural character of the peri-urban landscape is losing its dominance, it is important for regional planners to begin developing new identities for areas. Peri-urban park systems are one possibility...


Wilderness design through contrast with regular edges

Cultural models for designing new wilderness also demonstrate another principle of design by contrast, that between informal vegetation and a border. An aesthetic perception of informal vegetation is only possible if its border is linear or regular. Examples of this design concept are the lin­ear edges of the informal vegetation of the bosquet areas of Baroque parks. However, it can also be seen in modern designs of urban brownfields. For example, the linear pathways of the Natur-Park Schoneberger Sudgelande in Berlin form linear borders to the adjacent areas of wild vegetation.

A design for wilderness that establishes a contrast between the informal vegetation of new wilderness and man-made objects or a regular pattern also reflects the symbolic meanings of the cultural concept of wilder...


Strategies for the design of new wilderness in the peri­urban landscape

Strategies for the design of new wilderness in the peri-urban landscape must address the specific conditions there. For this reason, design methods with a minimum of expenditure and costs are most useful.

Some of these methods can be found in the design of models of wild­ness in garden history, landscape architecture and the arts. The design strategies of these models can not only help to develop design methods but ensure that wilderness elements will be accepted as part of a cultivated landscape.

Wilderness design as a contrast to regular pattern

A basic way to design new wilderness is to work with the visual perception of complex systems (see above). Therefore wilderness can be designed by establishing a visual contrast to a regular pattern or to an object with a regular form...


Design for new wilderness in the peri-urban landscape

The myth of landscape as cultivated land has also changed. The idea of the wild has become part of the cultural concept of landscape. This new wil­derness will become a part of the peri-urban landscape as it meets not only the functional and ecological but also the symbolic needs of urban society. The perception of this symbolic meaning is the basis for the acceptance of wilderness in the peri-urban landscape.

To provide this perception, new wilderness with its wild vegetation must be managed in the design. Projects with wild vegetation have shown that acceptance of this kind of vegetation in urban public spaces is difficult to achieve just by explaining its ecological value...


The change of landscape and its aesthetic concept

Growing dimensions of modern agricultural production distinguish the peri-urban landscape from traditional farmland. New urban elements inter­fere with the traditional image of a rural landscape. For this reason, the peri-urban landscape does not relate to the concept of cultivated landscape anymore: it is new scenery containing a mixture of both natural and artifi­cial characteristics.

However this structural landscape has the potential for a different aes­thetic perception. Wildness could be part of the new aesthetic concept be­cause it represents a contemporary idea of spontaneous nature. Wildness as a symbol for autonomous nature could therefore produce aesthetic and symbolic contrasts to the functional urban elements in the landscape...