The Relationship between City and Nature in History

Fig.1  Peter Joseph Lenné around 1850, portrait by Carl Joseph Begas

Fig.3  Landwehrkanal 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.4  Landwehrkanal 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

In order to limit this very broad topic, only the development of the last 180 years will be presented, starting with Peter Joseph Lenné.

Peter Joseph Lenné (1789 – 1866) is unquestionably famous as a great landscape architect (Fig. 1). His contributions to the planning of the urban expansion of Berlin are less well known, although they had a great influence on the urban development of the city. On his trip to England in 1822, he had been able to study in London the role that parks, green spaces and squares played in the development of a large metropolis and how little it had been taken into account in Berlin until then.

“How much Berlin suffers from a lack (of public greenery) is well known. Apart from the promenade Unter den Linden and apart from the Tiergarten, the capital has no public esplanade where the industrious craftsman, or the busy factory worker could go in the evenings and on Sundays after a day’s work. This lack is evident in the entire northern and southern parts, i.e. precisely in those areas of the city that are the headquarters of the industrial class.” 1

Fig.2  Peter Joseph Lenné, projected ornamental and border boulevards of Berlin and its next surrounding, 1840.
Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin – Brandenburg

In his design for the Projektirten Schmuck- und Grenzzüge von Berlin mit nächster Umgebung (Fig.2) of 1840, Lenné attempted to remedy this deficiency and envisaged a circumferential ring road system of tree-lined green avenues and representative planted squares combined with parks, which unfortunately was only partially executed in its southern part (today’s so-called “Generalzug” Tauentzienstraße, Kleiststraße, Bülowstraße, Yorckstraße, Gneisenaustraße). In addition, he drew up a series of development plans. The planning of the Cöpenicker Feld, today’s Luisenstadt, including the design of the Landwehrkanal and the former Luisenstädtischer Kanal with the bank planting and the accompanying avenue-like streets, was realised (Figs.3, 4).

That Berlin is so green in so many parts is also thanks to Lenné and his foresight (Figs.5,6).

Fig.5  Dieffenbachstraße, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.6  Fichtestraße, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

However, Lenné had underestimated the dynamics of the growing metropolis with its pressure of exploitation on land and he did not live to experience its development into a tenement city as characterised by Werner Hegemann in his 1930 book Das steinerne Berlin.

To this day, we can experience neighbourhoods within the city that shape Berlin’s image as a “green city” alongside evidence of the “stone city” (Figs.7, 8).

Fig.7   Jahnstraße, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.8   Mariannenstraße, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.9   Landauer Straße, Rheingauviertel, Berlin-Wilmersdorf
Archive: Herr Schultz

Fig.10  Terrassen Landauer Straße, Rheingauviertel, Berlin-Wilmersdorf
Archive: Herr Schultz

Garden City Movement

Long before Werner Hegemann bitterly lamented the excesses of the development policy of the second half of the 19th century in Das steinerne Berlin, there had been strong counter-movements in the city. Influenced by Ebenezer Howard’s ideas on the garden city (1898), new urban concepts were developed after the turn of the century.

The competition Groß-Berlin 1910 promoted discussion about urban green in particular, as green space played a key role in the conditions and goals of the competition announcement.

Vienna was cited as a European example. As early as 1905, a decision was made to create a forest and meadow belt around Vienna. The competition entries for Berlin demonstrated the intertwining of green space and urban structure in very different typologies. The first prize-winner – Hermann Jansen – for example, countered the idea of sharply defined urban areas with flowing open spaces. He interwove his concept through the entire urban region with the aim of offering every citizen a green space not more than 2 km away2.

At the same time, alternative ways of linking urban living and open space at a smaller scale were introduced in new residential areas. In Berlin, the Rheinisches Viertel is a representative example.

With the Rheingauviertel, the Terrain-Gesellschaft Berlin-Südwest under its managing director Georg Haberland3 built an urban “garden city” in Wilmersdorf beginning in 1905; in this case the garden is conceived as a public decorative green. In order to achieve a cohesive yet individual character for the four-storey blocks of rented flats, a single architect, Paul Jatzow, was engaged for the English country house style façades, while the flats themselves were planned by other architects.

The streets of the quarter are still characterised by the façades with high gables and front gardens and the thirteen-metre-deep so-called “garden terraces” that rise slightly toward the buildings. Originally, the greenery of the terraces was to continue as a vertical trellis on which roses were to climb up to the first floor of the houses (Figs.9, 10).

These rental flats for upper middle class tenants are regarded as an exemplary early form of a less rigidly-structured block development imbedded within green space. Today, almost all of the high roofs have been converted into housing, and a large proportion of the flats have been sold as condominiums (Figs.11, 12).

The Land Use Ratio (GFZ) of the residential complex, which is still very popular today, is around 2.0.

Fig.11  Landauer Straße, Rheingauviertel 2019
Photo: Inken Baller
Fig. 12  Landauer Straße, Rheingauviertel 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

First Environmental Movement

Green neighbourhoods for workers and minor employees followed immediately after the First World War, here the focus was on “social” greenery.

Decisively responsible for this development were Martin Wagner and Leberecht Migge. Martin Wagner (1885-1957), who in the 1920s became a leading city planner, published his dissertation Das sanitäre Grün der Städte: ein Beitrag zur Freiflächentheorie in 1916. The dissertation referred to a discussion about the hygienic value of green spaces that was current in Germany at the time. Wagner tried to work out criteria that would determine a minimum amount of green space in relation to population density. The quality of green spaces was no longer determined by their decorative value but in their value for recreation, sport, and self-sufficiency through the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

Leberecht Migge (1881-1935) began working as a freelance landscape architect in 1913. He had already joined the Deutscher Werkbund in 1912. Encouraged by the contacts he made there and by planning various public parks, Migge developed his own theory of the role and function of landscape architecture. In his books Die Gartenkultur des 20. Jahrhunderts (1913) or Jedermann Selbstversorger (1918), he presented his ideas about the social function of urban green space and further developed the idea of the garden city into his own particular model. In his view, it should be possible to develop cities as “autonomous beings” without exploiting the surrounding landscape.4

In Julius Posener’s lectures, the Lindenhof housing estate in Tempelhof-Schöneberg, built between 1918 and 1921 in the immediate vicinity of the Priesterweg S-Bahn station, is cited as a particularly striking example of the integration of housing and green space and of the collaboration between Martin Wagner and Leberecht Migge.5

The developer of the estate was the city of Schöneberg, which was independent until 1920. Subsequently, the estate became the property of a cooperative founded in 1921 (Figs.13, 14).

Fig.13  Lindenhof by Martin Wagner and Leberecht Migge, in the foreground on the right the home for singles by Bruno Taut, aerial view from 1924
Archive: Gewosüd

Fig.14  Plan of the Lindenhof-Siedlung by Martin Wagner, Leberecht Migge, 1918 Archive: Gewosüd

The three-storey long rows of houses with well-designed, low-cost flats were supplemented by private rear gardens of about 80 sq. metres each, with service lanes and garden sheds located in between (Fig.15, 16).

Fig.15  Gatehouse Reglinstraße, Lindenhofsiedlung 2019
Poto: Inken Baller

Fig.16  Home gardens Reglinstraße 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Small, interspersed squares and a large public green area with a lake for all residents provided possibilities for neighbourhood contact. In addition to good housing, Lindenhof offered shops, a school and other community facilities (Figs.17, 18, 19).

Fig.17  Home gardens Suttnerstraße 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.18  Home gardens Hartkortstraße 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.19  Pond Lindenhof-siedlung 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Unfortunately, 80% of the settlement was destroyed during the Second World War, so that its original character is now only partially recognisable. During post-war reconstruction and with the rebuilt structures predominantly set in rows, most of the household gardens were converted into public green spaces. However, with the start of new restoration work in 2007, household gardens were re-established. In 2016, the Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks awarded the project “Wohnen, Vielfalt.Natur.Lindenhof” (“Living, Diversity.Nature.Lindenhof”) as part of the UN Decade of Biological Diversity as a successful example of environmentally friendly living in the middle of the capital city. Hendricks: “The garden city Lindenhof is a unique green oasis in the middle of Berlin. Through the joint commitment of residents and the housing cooperative, it has been possible to preserve biodiversity in the housing estate.”6

In 1926, Martin Wagner moved to Berlin’s central building authority as a city building official. Under his leadership, the city planning office, in close cooperation with newly founded non-profit housing societies and with the help of the building interest tax he introduced in 1924, was able to implement an extensive housing programme in which open spaces were placed in close proximity to the flats. An example of this is Bruno Taut’s Hufeisensiedlung, again with Leberecht Migge as the open space planner. The concept of “outdoor living space”, coined by Bruno Taut, is realized here in a particular way as a social open space where residents can meet (Fig.20). Six of these settlements have been World Heritage Sites since 2008 because of their innovative combination of urban planning, architecture and garden design.7

Fig.20  “Outdoor Living Space“ Horse Shoe Settlement by Bruno Taut, Berlin Britz
Photo: Inken Baller

In the Bauhaus Year 2019, an examination of the Bauhaus contribution should not beoverlooked.  Ecological aspects unfortunately appear only very marginally in this context, but the housing estates in Dessau – which are often wrongly attributed to the Bauhaus, but were built by the Anhalt Settlers’ Association and planned by Leberecht Migge and the architect Leopold Fischer (1901 – 1975) are a fresh discovery. Fischer was a master student of Adolf Loos, whose life and work are only now gradually being researched.8 He was exposed to and studied the principles of economical building with Loos in the Viennese housing projects. In 1925 he accepted an invitation from Walter Gropius to come to Dessau to work in the Gropius construction office. He mainly influenced the initial phase of the Dessau-Törten settlement.

According to diary entries by Ise Gropius, there was a disagreement: (…fischer, who had worked in g.atelier for some time, but was then dismissed because his skills were too low and because he could not face Neufert.)9 Fischer left Gropius and subsequently served as chief architect of the Anhalt Settlers’ Association from 1925 to 1931. The contemporary disputes about the Törten settlement (excessive costs, construction defects, functional errors…) played a role for decades, and the positive qualities and broad acceptance of Fischer’s settlements were not appreciated. As a result, the achievements of the settlers’ association were hardly known beyond Anhalt.

The Knarrberg settlement in Dessau-Ziebigk in particular can be seen as a counter-design to Törten. Leopold Fischer and Leberecht Migge planned and built a two-storey semi-detached housing estate in a modern design language with glass-roofed conservatories and 400-square-metre kitchen gardens, separated by man-high wooden fences, also called fruit walls, and a rainwater infiltration system. Leberecht Migge had drawn up an optimised plan for each family to be self-sufficient and for the household waste to be reused in the gardens (Figs.21, 22, 23). Therefore it was also called “the Self-Sufficient Settlement” (“Selbstversorgersiedlung”).

Fig.21  Sketch, Dessau Knarrberg-Siedlung
Archive: Museum für Stadtgeschichte Dessau

Fig.22  Site plan, Dessau Knarrberg-Siedlung
Archive: Museum für Stadtgeschichte Dessau

Fig.23  View from the garden, Dessau Knarrberg-Siedlung
Archive: Museum für Stadtgeschichte Dessau

The houses, which today look somewhat bare, were originally planted with vines. Weeping willows grew in the front gardens. This characteristic image was preserved until the 1950s. The high social value of this settlement can still be felt today. The wooden fences have since been replaced by walls or prefabricated concrete elements, still man-high, so that the gardens are protected from outsiders` view. The single-storey sheds that originally connected the semi-detached houses and were accessible from both the street and the garden have now all been converted into garages. It is striking how often the neighbours have made an effort to create a common design (Figs.24, 25, 26).10

Fig.25  Garden walls, Dessau Knarrberg-Siedlung 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.26  View into the garden, Dessau Knarrberg-Siedlung 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.27a  View from center Ratingen West, Merete Mattern
Archive: Fabian Zimmermann

The period around World War 1 and the 1920s is often referred to as a first environmental movement. However, before we come to the second environmental movement, a small divergence.

Urban Utopias

In the 1950s and 1960s, the increasing urbanisation in the world was seen as a threat to the future of humanity. The traditional urban concepts were deemed unsuitable for accommodating the explosively growing population. New visionary city models were developed: mostly hybrid, highly engineered structures. In parallel, ideas emerged that saw themselves as a continuation of natural conditions, such as those of Paolo Soleri, (1919 -2013), the inventor of the Arcology movement and builder of Arcosanti in the Arizona desert. In his visions, people should live self-sufficiently and compactly in harmony with nature, using the desert wind and the sun as energy sources.

Around the same time in 1965, Enrico (1925-2013) and Lucia Hartsuyker (1926 -2011) developed “Biopolis”, a model for a new urban culture in contrast to the functionalist city – Biopolis as a socially and functionally integrative compact city with stacked terraced gardens, about 15 storeys high. Hidden inside, the necessary infrastructure for the residents and traffic was accommodated.

Merete Mattern (1930 – 2007) took part in the urban planning competition Ratingen West in 1967 together with her mother, the landscape and garden architect Herta Hammerbacher, and Yoshitaka Akui. She submitted an urban landscape with the following summarised working theses: Social integration, participation, holistic living, and a close connection between architecture and landscape. The work was honoured with a special mention (Figs.27, 28, 29). In 1972, Mattern founded the “Gesellschaft für experimentelle und angewandte Ökologie e.V.” (Society for Experimental and Applied Ecology).

Fig.27b  Cityscape Ratingen West, Merete Mattern
Archive: Fabian Zimmermann

Fig.28  Schematic section Ratingen West, Merete Mattern
Archive: Fabian Zimmermann

Fig.29  Model Ratingen West, Merete Mattern
Archive: Fabian Zimmermann

Fig.30  Wien, Alt Erlaa
Photo: Helga Fassbinder

Fig.31 Wien, Alt Erlaa, facade till the 13th floor
Photo: Helga Fassbinder

Fig.32 Wien, Alt Erlaa, schematic section
Office Harry Glück

Fig.33 Wien, Alt Erlaa, facade
Photo: Helga Fassbinder

Alongside these utopias, and certainly influenced by them, real projects also emerged.

Alt Erlaa, Vienna

The Viennese Harry Glück (1925 – 2016) planned and built Austria’s largest non-municipal housing estate with 3200 flats in Alt-Erlaa from 1973 to 1985 (Fig.30). Alt-Erlaa can be described as a city within the city – a green city with which Glück deliberately built a counter-model to the usual housing estates. With his terrace houses, the architect wanted to offer city dwellers a substitute for living with a garden (Fig.31). Glück used the interior spaces with no natural light on the lower floors created by the terraces for indoor swimming pools, saunas and solariums, fitness centres, club rooms and bad-weather children’s playgrounds, all within the budget of subsidised housing (Fig.32). The most important places of communication became the rooftop swimming pools with a view over half of Vienna.

In addition, there are medical centres, kindergartens, schools, youth clubs, sports and tennis halls, a theatre, a library, a church and restaurants within walking distance. Economically, this was only possible due to the large number of tenants in a large-scale form. The park landscape between the houses continues up to the 13th floor (Figs.33, 34). Up to this height, all flats have large earth troughs, whose lush planting turns Alt-Erlaa into a vertical garden city.

Much discussed and also controversial among experts, the residents are very satisfied to this day; there is hardly any fluctuation and virtually no vacancies. The high level of acceptance is also reflected in the residents’ noticeable sense of responsibility for their complex.

A comment by Friedrich Achleitner, one of the most influential Austrian architecture critics: “I must confess that I myself only realised very late that Glück had really done pioneering work in housing. Glück has shown that you can’t do housing construction with architecture alone. Many other elements play a role. What he presented is basically an urban concept.” 11

Ivry, Paris

The French architects Renée Gailhoustet (1927) and Jean Renaudie (1925-1981) pursued a comparable approach.12

With their terrace houses and mixed-use residential towers in Ivry sur Seine, they countered in the 1970s the monotony of mass housing construction of the 1950s and 1960s in the suburban settlements of Paris. They brought together private housing and public life anew in social housing. Gailhoustet was appointed chief architect and leading urban planner there in 1969.

Pyramidal structures based on a triangular concrete skeleton grid rise up into abstract mountain landscapes. Each flat has a roof terrace, which to this day is intensively landscaped by the tenants. Inside these structures are the technical infrastructure, the access routes, social spaces such as kindergartens and libraries, and above all shopping centres, which finance the roof terraces. Alleys and paths branch off from the more public spaces to provide access to the individual flats (Figs.35, 36, 37, 38).

Fig.35  Ivry 2019
Photo: Christian Kloss

Fig.36  Ivry 2019
Photo: Christian Kloss
Fig.37  Ivry 2019
Photo: Christian Kloss

Fig.38  Ivry 2019
Photo: Christian Kloss

With the Großer Kunstpreis Berlin 2019 – awarded by the Akademie der Künste – Renée Gailhoustet’s work has finally been recognised. The jury particularly emphasised the current relevancy of her work. In addition to her commitment to social architecture, issues of sustainable development – for example extensive planting and pedestrian access to infrastructure – were also anticipated. In 2019, the focus will again be on densification, affordable rents, social mixing and urban greenery.13

Fig.39 Grass roof settlement Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop 

Fig.40 Site map, pedestrian street , Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop 
Fig.41 Entrance yard , Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop   

Second Environmental Movement

As a result of the oil price crisis, a new awareness of the finite nature of raw materials developed in the 1970s. The second environmental movement received further impetus from Chernobyl and the anti-nuclear movement. In West Germany, it found its institutional expression in 1978 with the establishment of a Ministry of the Environment and the Federal Environmental Agency. In 1980, “The Greens” were founded as a federal party. Against this background, new ecological settlement models were developed.14

One example is the Laher Wiesen near Hanover by the architects Boockhoff and Rentrup, a housing estate completed in 1984/85 with two-storey single-family houses as terraced houses in timber construction, mostly with supplemental garden outbuildings. It is considered the first housing estate in Germany with exclusively green roofs (Figs.39, 40). A total of 69 flats were built with a high proportion of owner-contributed work and high ecological standards: space-saving construction, infiltration of rainwater, waste avoidance, passive solar energy through winter gardens, environmentally friendly building materials, car-free residential paths, minimisation of sealed and paved surfaces, and economical use of technology (Figs. 41, 42). The garden buildings are also accessed from an additional path at the rear, so that to this day they are used in many different ways: as parental housing, as additional working space, as a workshop or as a retirement home (Fig. 43). The 30th anniversary of the settlement was celebrated in 2014 (Fig.44).

Fig.42  Entrance yard, Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop    

Fig.43  Pedestrian path, garden houses Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop 
Fig.44  30 years Laher Wiesen
Archive: Helmut Rentrop 

The second example is the eco-settlement “Frasenweg” Kassel, built in 1984 by Gernot Minke, Manfred Hegger and Doris Hegger-Luhnen, consisting of 36 residential units with a Land-Use-Ratio of 0.7 (Figs. 45, 46). Their ecological approaches: avoidance of sealed and paved surfaces, use of energy-saving and recyclable building materials, use of rainwater, conservatories, reduction of drinking water consumption, water storage in vegetation systems, passive use of solar energy, summer heat protection, roof and façade greening, windbreak hedges, indirect ventilation via conservatories, oxygen enrichment and purification of indoor air by integrating vegetation (Figs. 47, 48).

The project shows to this day that ecological building can be based on simple principles and is not a question of budget or expensive technology. In terms of their energy consumption, the houses meet the requirements of the current EnEV (Energy-Saving Regulations). In 1987, Manfred Hegger wrote in a publication on eco-settlements: “Ecological building must also take up social changes and – no less difficult – structure the social organisation of dealing with nature and the environment”.15

Fig.45  Site map, Ökosiedlung Frasenweg
Fig.46 View from the watertower, Ökosiedlung Frasenweg
Fig.47 Row houses, Ökosiedlung Frasenweg
Fig.48 View from the garden, Ökosiedlung Frasenweg

These first projects had to contend with considerable resistance from building authorities and neighbours – the neighbours of Gernot Minke’s houses in Kassel, for example, resisted the planned “mud huts”. The grass roofs were ridiculed with the phrase “Now only the prehistoric people are missing”.16  

Around the same time, urban ecological examples were realised in Berlin.

Frei Otto’s eco-houses were built on the southern edge of the Tiergarten and based on the theme of “Nature and Building” as part of the 1984/87 Berlin International Building Exhibition. They were intended to allow the residents a maximum of self-building. To this end, a structure of reinforced concrete was erected and equally stacked building plots were created. Ecologically interested people formed a building community. In addition to Frei Otto, nine architects were active, advising and supporting their respective builders.

Fig.49 Site map, Ökohäuser
Archive: Frei Otto, Hermann Kendel

This is not the time or place to discuss the very conflicted building process. In the end, of the three houses, two could be realised through the state’s ownership promotion programme and with additional funding from the federal government, and the third through social housing. The houses were built between 1988 and 1991. The preservation of the existing trees (Fig. 49), the avoidance of lowering the groundwater level during construction, passive solar energy gains through large south-facing glass surfaces and winter gardens, thermal buffer zones, grey water recycling, the use of ecologically safe materials and the integration of vegetation in and around the buildings are still of ecological importance today (Fig.50).17

Of course the lush flora that had developed on the former Vatican embassy grounds after the destruction in World War II could not be preserved during the construction process, but it has since grown back in great diversity (Fig.51, 52, 53).

Fig.50  Cross-section and north view of the southeast building
Archive: Frei Otto, Hermann Kendel

Fig.51 View from the Corneliusstraße, Ökohäuser, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller
Fig.52 Garden, Ökohäuser, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.53  View towards the garden terrace of the southwest house
Photo: Ekhart Hahn

The second example is the Dresdner Straße Kindergarten in Berlin Kreuzberg, which still exists (Fig.54) – a conversion of a former multi-storey car park that was part of the New Kreuzberg Centre and of which it was said that people had seen a car drive in, but never drive out (Fig.55). The building consists of a robust reinforced concrete skeleton in a split-level organization connected by ramps.

Immediately before the conversion, the elevated garage was used as an exhibition space for the IBA in 1984. An exhibition on ecological issues was shown under the motto “Brave New World” 18 (Fig.56).

Fig.54  Kindergarten Dresdner Straße, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.55  Garage Dresdner Straße
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.56 Poster for the exhibition „Brave New World“
Archive: Inken Baller

As a prelude and sign that something is about to happen here, giant canvases were painted on the street with the children of the neighbourhood in cooperation with Gabriele Heidecker and hung in front of the façades (Figs.57, 58).

Two levels of the garage were converted as a “nature space” including a fish pond as a demonstration for permaculture by Margret and Declan Kennedy19 and a forum for readings, lectures and concerts was created on the top level. (Figs.59, 60)

Fig.57 Action of children Dresdner Straße, 1984
Photo: Gabriele Heidecker
Fig.58 Action of children Dresdner Straße, 1984
Photo: Gabriele Heidecker
Fig.59 Exhibition Dresdner Straße, 1984
Photo: Gabriele Heidecker
Fig.60 Exhibition Dresdner Straße, 1984
Photo: Gabriele Heidecker
The conversion to a Kindergarten took place immediately after the exhibition was completed.

The main structural intervention by the architects Gerhard Spangenberg and Dieter Frowein consisted in the integration of a glazed inner courtyard. The planted inner courtyard and the use of the roof area as a garden are the most important elements of Martin Küenzlen’s20 ecological concept. The planted spaces let forget the building’s history as a parking garage and compensate for the lack of natural landscape in the immediate vicinity (Figs.61, 62, 63).

Fig.61 Conversion to kindergarten, atrium
Photo: Martin Küenzlen
Fig.62 Green atrium, kindergarten
Photo: Martin Küenzlen
With the IBA 84/87, ecological urban redevelopment was addressed thematically for the first time. Initially rather marginal, this aspect became increasingly relevant, especially in the so-called Altbau IBA.

Using Block 10821 in Berlin Kreuzberg as an example, Ökotop wanted to show how blocks of buildings in stony Berlin can be transformed into green oases with the help of large-scale and interconnected planting on all suitable surfaces. For each plot and each house in the 46,000 square meter mixed-use block, a catalogue of measures was drawn up for this purpose as a long-term strategic programme, which, as a vision, is still an on-going challenge (Figs.64, 65).

Fig.63 Cover, Drawing: Detlef Surrey
Fig.64 Courtyard, Block 108, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

If all the proposals are realised over the years, the bioactive surface could be one and a half times the area of the plot (Figs.65 ,66).

Block 108 is largely occupied by very active commercial interests, less concerned with intensive greening in contrast to the blocks where the majority use is residential, such as Block 103 (Figs.68, 69).22

Fig.65 Block 103, Ecke Skalitzer Straße, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.67 Walter-Benjamin-Platz, Charlottenburg, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.66 Block 103, Innenhof, 2019
Photo: Inken Baller

After reunification in 1989/90, ecological issues became less and less of a focus in Berlin. Hans Stimmann, who influenced planning and building activities in Berlin from 1991-2006 as Senate Building Director and State Secretary for Planning, was largely responsible for this. His attitude is made clear in the following quote:

And today:

Hans Stimmann (quote).

“I am a supporter of corporeal architecture, of stony Berlin . . . My architecture must be able to be placed in the line of tradition from Gilly, Schinkel, Messel, Mies van der Rohe, Taut to Kleihues . . . The first condition is: building in a block . . . Wherever I can influence architecture, I understand it under the heading: disciplined, Prussian, restrained in colour, stony, straight rather than curved”.23

The Walter Benjamin Square in Berlin Charlottenburg (2000) by Hans Kohlhoff follows this thinking. (Fig. 67) After Kohlhoff’s plan became known, a citizens’ initiative asked Hinrich Baller for a counter-design (Fig. 68), which, however, had no chance of being realized.

Fig.68  Design alternative for the Walter-Benjamin-Platz, sketch: Hinrich Baller

Fig.69 Mercedesplatz, 2018
Photo: Inken Baller

Fig.70 Mercedesplatz, view to Eastside Gallery, 2018
Photo: Inken Baller

Foot notes

1 Gerhard Hinz, Peter Joseph Lenné, The Complete Works of the Garden Architect and Town Planner in Two Parts, Hildesheim 1989, p.144.

2 Tubbesing, Markus: Die Entdeckung des Großstadtgrüns bis zum ersten Weltkrieg in Bodenschatz, Harald and Brantz, Dorothee (HG), Grünfrage und Stadtentwicklung, Berlin, 2019.

3 Georg Haberland is the son of Salomon Haberland, who founded the Berlinische Bodengesellschaft in 1890, which acquired, developed, parcelled out and sold land to developers. In 1906, as his father’s successor, he merged the Berlinische Bodengesellschaft with the Terrain-Gesellschaft-Berlin-Südwest, which subsequently developed other important projects in addition to the Rheinisches Viertel: for example the Bayrische Viertel in Schöneberg and the Historikerviertel around Sybelstraße between Kurfürstendamm and the S-Bahn in Charlottenburg.

4 Leberecht Migge’s 1932 study “Berlin Colonised”, which will be published for the first time at the end of this year by Karl Krämer Verlag, was a radical plan to produce food within a metropolis itself. With his Berlin Plan, Migge attempted to overcome the ecological crisis of the metropolis, which had been unfolding since the 19th century, with modern means. In doing so, the ecosystem he designed was to be implemented in a step-by-step, participatory manner. (Editor: Philipp Oswalt)

5 Posener, Julius, Lectures, IV Architecture of Reform, ARCH+, Volume 2, Berlin, 2013.

6 BMU press release no.268/16 of 03.11.2016.

7 The following six settlements have been World Heritage Sites since 2008: Gartenstadt Falkenberg by Bruno Taut, Ludwig Lesser; Siedlung Schillerpark by Bruno Taut; Großsiedlung Britz (Hufeisensiedlung) by Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner, Leberecht Migge; Wohnstadt Carl Legien by Bruno Taut, Franz Hillinger; White City by Bruno Ahrends, Wilhelm Büning, Otto Rudolf Salvisberg, Ludwig Lesser; large housing estate Siemensstadt by Hans Scharoun, Walter Gropius, Hugo Häring, Fred Forbat, Otto Bartning, Paul Rudolf Henning, Leberecht Migge.

8 Leopold Fischer was “rediscovered” through the activities of Dr. Irene Below, Dr. Wolfgang Paul, Franz Wolter and others, beginning with the 1994 exhibition “…there was not only the bauhaus.” Particularly informative is the biography on Fischer published in 2010 by Bauhaus Dessau e.V.: “Leopold Fischer – Architekt der Moderne. Planen und Bauen im Anhalt der 20er Jahre (Planning and Building in Anhalt in the 1920s), Funk Verlag, unfortunately out of print in bookshops but available as a pdf on the internet.

9 Gropius, Ise: Diary, entry from 05 June 1926, p. 136, Bauhaus Archive Berlin.

10 A very detailed description of living in the settlement can be found in the previously mentioned biography “Leopold Fischer – Architect of Modernism” by Fritz Becker “Living in the Knarrberg Settlement” as memories of a first-time resident.

11 Seiß, Reinhard: Am Menschen orientiert, Bauwelt 5, 2017.

12 The most important works besides the settlement in Ivry with the residential towers are Raspail (1963-68) and Jeanne Hachette (1972-75) with shops, artists’ studios and workshops and the terrace settlements Le Liégat (1971-82), Marat (1971-86) and La Maladrerie (1975-86). Due to the close collaboration with her partner Jean Renaudie, Renée Gailhoustet remained in his shadow for a long time. She is not mentioned in early publications, for example..

13 arch+ news, 29 January 2019

14 A compilation of the most important settlements of this period can be found on the internet at > oekosiedlungen

15 Grewe Rosa: …getting on in years, Ökosiedlung am Wasserturm in Kassel, db deutsche bauzeitung, 04- 2010.

16 Der Spiegel: p. 239, No.39, 1984.

17A good summary of the project’s goals and implementation can be found atße_Berlin-Tiergarten_.pdf Ekhart Hahn was project manager until 1989 and, together with Dagmar Gast, Gabriele Güterbock, Norbert Müller, Peter Thomas, Alessandro Vasella and Joachim Zeisel, responsible for the ecological concept.

18Part of the exhibitions for the reporting year 1984 of the International Building Exhibition 1987, conversion concept of the garage by Bernhard Strecker, adopted by Inken and Hinrich Baller, artistic advice: Gabriele Heidecker.

19Margrit (1939-2013) and Declan Kennedy (1934) are pioneers of permaculture in Germany. They are initiators and co-founders of Lebensgarten Steyerberg e.V. (1986), a living and working community that sees itself as a model and research project for living in harmony with nature.

20Küenzlen, Martin/Oekotop Autorenkollektiv: Ökologische Stadterneuerung – Die Wiederbelebung von Altbaugebieten, Karlsruhe, 1985.

21Block 108 in Berlin-Kreuzberg is an urban planning and urban ecology model project as part of the International Berlin Building Exhibition, funded by the Experimental Housing and Urban Development Program, completed in 1991.

22Hans Stimmann in an interview in Baumeister, issue 7/1993.