Category Wild Urban Woodlands

Wilderness and the aesthetic idea of landscape

The basis for understanding the interpretation of wildness as an element of the peri-urban landscape is the perception of wilderness in the context of cultivated land. This interpretation is determined by cultural concepts of wilderness and landscape and their relationship.

However, approval of wildness as a part of industrial nature does not mean that elements of wildness are accepted in the peri-urban landscape. The acceptance of wildness is related to the perception and interpretation of landscape with its visual background. The traditional concept of land­scape is dominated by the idea of cultivated land which represents more than just land use, it symbolises as well the unity of humans and nature (Seel 1991).

This concept of landscape can also integrate remnants of wild nature...


The concept of wilderness as the opposite of culture

Contrast is the most important way to support the visual and aesthetic per­ception of complex structures of wild vegetation. (Therefore its also the basic method for its design). The contrast between wild natural vegetation and regular man-made patterns also corresponds to a common cultural concept of wildness: the symbolic contrast between nature and culture (Bredekamp and Janzer 1985; Seel 1991).

The arts, literature and horticulture have formed images that describe this idea of wildness as the opposite of culture (or society, Grossklaus 1993). The symbolic contrast between wild nature and culture is the basis for the perception of wildness in the peri-urban landscape.

Industrial nature as an aesthetic concept for wildness

The IBA Emscher Park project has developed a new concept of indu...


New wilderness – an aesthetic myth

The meaning of new wilderness plays an important role in its perception and acceptance as an element of the peri-urban landscape.

The understanding of new wilderness is related to the cultural concept of wilderness which must be seen as different from original wilderness. This new wilderness is also not the wilderness of traditional nature conser­vation, which describes a landscape without human interventions (see also the definition by Korner (2005).

The cultural concept of wilderness is based on a visual perception. It is an aesthetic perspective that can be seen as a compensation for the modern scientific perspective on nature (Grossklaus 1993). The cultural concept of wilderness does not create wilderness but images of wildness related to aesthetic and symbolic ideas of (wild) nature...


New wilderness to change urban brownfields

The long-term management of naturally developing vegetation can also help urban or industrial brownfields sites to be reused. However vegetation management must prepare these areas for new purposes in the future. As most of these purposes cannot be foreseen, one basic goal of vegetation management should preventing the growth of woodlands as this is an ob­stacle for further reuse.

At the same time, vegetation management can help to change the nega­tive image of brownfields by developing stable and impressive vegetation structures. To reach this goal, vegetation management must also integrate design concepts (see below).

Design goals for vegetation management of new wilderness

Today most concepts for management of spontaneous vegetation do not include design goals...


New wilderness as a dynamic secondary wilderness

The character of new wilderness in the peri-urban landscape is different from the original wilderness of nature of former times. As a product of functional changes, it is a secondary wilderness that shows remnants and traces of former cultivation. It consists of a variety of species and has a specific structure. As it is also a result of continuous internal changes, its appearance and structure are not stable, especially at the beginning.

Different types of wilderness

The new wilderness of peri-urban landscapes will display distinctive quali­ties in its different types of vegetation and structure that not only reflect its former use, but that relate to its contemporary function. The new wilder­ness will range from dense woodlands to pastoral landscapes with “wild” character.

The appe...


New wilderness for “shrinking” cities

New wilderness on unused land is not only found outside built-up areas. The present process of “shrinking” of cities in central Europe, especially in eastern Germany, provides sites that are no longer needed for further urban development. Nevertheless, concepts that provide urban qualities have to be developed for these areas. The need for maintenance and the small budgets available will probably also lead to methods of care that integrate the natural development of vegetation. The character of this vegetation cannot be really “wild”, but its management should create a designed wil­derness that helps prevent vandalism and littering. This design must corre­spond to aesthetic ideas of wilderness.

Character of new wilderness in the peri-urban landscape

The character of new wildernes...


New wilderness for land with extensive use

Extensively used public land is another area for wild vegetation. The vast “green” areas of traffic networks or commercial parks in the peri-urban landscape are examples of this type of open space. Today most of this land is cared for by traditional horticultural means. However, budget problems and ecological needs are leading step by step to new maintenance methods that integrate natural vegetation development in their strategies of exten­sive care, leading to vegetation forms that appear wild.

New wilderness as a method for conservation of rural landscapes

Today most strategies for the conservation of landscapes try to preserve ru­ral character using traditional agricultural methods. However there is dis­cussion about the aims and effectiveness of these methods...


New wilderness on urban and industrial brownfields

The dynamic effects of globalisation cause constant changes of peri-urban land use and produce industrial and urban brownfields which are also po­tential places for a new, secondary type of wilderness. Today brownfields on former sites of heavy industry are well known for wild vegetation. The majority of future brownfields in urban regions will be found on small – scale commercial sites and only a few of them will be changed into public parks. The majority will have wild vegetation that is managed in a specific way to enable the reuse of the land in the future.

New wilderness for flora, fauna and habitats

Other areas for wild vegetation are created by legal regulations to compen­sate for the ecological losses of urbanisation...


Potential areas of new wilderness in the peri-urban landscape

This section shows that in addition to areas that already have wild vegeta­tion, there are different areas in the peri-urban landscape that could be po­tential places for new wilderness areas.

New wilderness on formerly cultivated land

As the landscape changes from a rural to a peri-urban one, potential areas for new wilderness are provided mainly by former farmland. One reason for this change is the development of different intensities of agriculture. With decreasing subsidies and strong competition in the European market, only land suitable for agricultural production can be profitable. Poorer land will either turn fallow or will be used for other urban purposes such as rec­reation (Losch 1999)...


“New Wilderness” as an Element of the Peri­Urban Landscape

Sigurd Karl Henne

muhlinghaus + henne, BfL Muhlinghaus Planungsgesellschaft mbH


Before the industrial revolution, landscapes changes were often not noticed because of their slow rate. Since then the increasing speed of these changes and their scale have made them visible.

As a result of urbanisation of the landscape near larger cities, a lot of farmland has been changed into traffic networks, housing and production areas (Losch 1999). The dramatic loss of agricultural elements has also changed the visual impression of the peri-urban landscapes in central Europe. Step by step they are losing their rural character.


Fig. 1. New areas with wild vegetation in the peri-urban landscape: long-term fal­low field near Karlsruhe, southwestern Germany

Kowarik I, Korner S (eds) Wi...