Berlin Wall & No Man’s Land - the next great urban park?Share
How’s this for a commission: transform the 20th Century’s most indelible symbol of division into a lush, place of congregation.
Nearly twenty years after irreversibly crumbling under the weight of public exasperation, much of the Berlin Wall remains barren - as much a symbol of the lingering psychological boundary between East and West Berlin as it is a reminder of the turbulent and inconsistent restoration of Berlin into a world-class metropolis.
But if the Dutch landscape architect Joyce van den Berg has her way, the roughly 20-meter wide gash (sometimes more, sometimes less) that courses through Berlin (map) will become a ribbon of green, instantly becoming a new symbol of healing - Neosporin on the wound, so to speak.
She is presenting her plan in an exhibition (running through August) called “New Light on No Man’s Land” at the German Center of Architecture in Berlin, where she details an extraordinarily textured, thoughtful, vision that walks the line between providing a place of public enjoyment and preserving a sensitive shrine to history. For instance, bike/walking paths would meander alongside of patches of grass, shrubbery, and shaped sand (during the Cold War, sand blanketed portions of the 20-meter strip of land next to the wall to enable easy detection of footprints). The remaining five watchtowers (out of an original 302 that had many fates) would get new life as shelters for “secret gardens” scattered along the 96-mile long ribbon. Most poignant is Van den Berg’s idea of having shafts of light (from West to East, of course) cascade across the park’s width wherever an underground tunnel passed below and many would-be escapees met their end within grasp of freedom.
Although these sorts of charrettes more often live on as footnotes in textbooks, I think Van den Berg’s plan has enough nuance and detail to fuel some level of planning for a park. A big factor that points in favor of creating a park along the Berlin Wall (of Van den Berg’s design or not) is that most of the land on either side of the actual border remains owned by the state, which would minimize hassles with private landowners that commonly stymie public projects of this sort. Moreover, I suspect most urban planners see this sort of thing as a no-brainer - parks (especially ones that combine utilitarian aspects such as bike paths with purely recreational uses) are extraordinarily capable of bridging formerly-separate communities that previously tended to stick to themselves.
It really is incredible, when you pause to consider the supreme importance of the Wall - cosmic symbol of political drama and monstrously lethal barrier between families and neighborhoods - that until now, no other proposal of similar scope has gained traction. Hopefully, the treads of Van den Berg’s plan prove up to the task.
Via Der Spiegel
Image courtesy of jeremiahlowell