Two cultural layers

To maintain the visibility of the remnants of the railway history in the face of the powerful natural dynamics, selected railway relics such as the sig­nals and the old turntable were restored. The many paths set in the old tracks are a permanent reminder of the cultural foundation of the nature development of the Sudgelande. A new cultural layer has been established through the art works of the Odious group, which present a creative ten­sion with the developing wilderness as well as with the relics of the rail­way (Fig. 10). The water tower was secured as a landmark of the Sudgelande (Fig. 5), old buildings were surrendered to a controlled decay or are used for the exhibition or as studios for the artists.


Is the Natur-Park Sudgelande a good example of a successful integration of urban wilderness into the open-space system of a metropolis? What speaks in its favor is the simple fact that this kind of nature development has indeed been successfully safeguarded despite substantial competition for use in the reunited German capital. The contrast between dynamic na­ture and the remnants of the railway industry heritage is fascinating to all visitors. Unfettered wilderness development is always taking place in parts of the Sudgelande. Through the spatially differentiated maintenance plan, the earlier and middle stages of nature development are maintained and thereby the diversified vegetation complexes are maintained in the long term. The species targeted for nature conservation profit as well from the maintenance measures. The public acceptance of the nature park is ex­tremely high.

The original railway wilderness has, however, clearly been affected by design interventions in the form of the new path system, the maintenance and the art objects. Has this destroyed the original uniqueness, the “wil­derness” of the Sudgelande? Certainly the character of the site has changed. The few who earlier had discovered the Sudgelande on their own recognize the contrast very clearly. To wake Sleeping Beauty, however, also means to open the urban wilderness to a multitude of visitors who did not have an inherent sympathy for the nature of urban abandoned areas. That such access, even designed access, satisfies a need for wilderness has been shown in studies such as the one by Bauer (2005).

The wild urban woodlands of the Industriewald Ruhrgebiet (the Indus­trial Forest of the Ruhr) have been made accessible very successfully through landscape architectural means and through works of art (Dettmar 2005). The Sudgelande, however, is much smaller than most of the aban­doned areas of the Ruhr, so the proportion of designed elements is greater here and perhaps sometimes competes with the natural processes that are characteristic of the area. Arrangements should therefore continue to be fine-tuned (Kowarik et al. 2004). Taken together, however, there is a great deal of evidence that the Natur Park Sudgelande has been successful in bringing humans living in urban neighborhoods a step closer to biodiver­sity in its characteristic urban expression.