The extensive open lignite-mining in the heavily industrialised region, Leipzig- South, Sachsen (200km south of Berlin) has punctured cavities in the region’s surface and spread blankets of waste in it’s wake the cavities are broad canyons extending down to a depth of 60m with a ribbed surface-texture formed by the excavator arm. Lignite fuels the power stations in the area, which produce waste in the form of coloured beds of ash in successive stages of decomposition.
As mines began to close, due partly to the poor quality of the raw material, and partly to the restructuring of energy resources in reunified Germany, interest began to focus on the role this landscape could play in the region’s revitalisation. Experimental urban/landscape workshops looked at discovering, occupying and redefining the mined edges and textured beds. During the 5 years we have been working in the area, the concept of a regional recreation ‘park’ in the form of a series of lakes, created by systematically flooding the excavations, took hold and became a political strategy. Implementation has begun.
Due to the high water table in the area, flooding automatically begins as soon as the mines cease to be mechanically drained. This process will be accompanied and accelerated by an extensive engineering programme. Flooding will seal the fate of the absurd and unique topography produced by the digging, as well as the natural regeneration taking place in the oldest of the obselete mines. It is also an example of the all-too-familiar policy of ‘wiedergutmachung’- making good. A chapter of regional history and identity is eliminated and it’s by-product the supernatural landscape - is seen not as the region’s inherent potential, but as a wound to be sealed as swiftly and as neatly as possible.
The following 3 projects were developed between 1995 and 1997 in the region Leipzig-South. The excavated ‘black holes’ lurk unmistakably around the edges of each. We percieved this terrain in it’s raw and most powerful condition and attempted to respond to it accordingly. Our first step in dealing with the task of restructuring was to re approach and retouch the cut and contaminated surface. Let it behave as ‘landscape’.
A contemporary “Garden City” Roetha
(Ideas competition Part 1, 1. prize, Part I| highly commended)
On one of the last visually “natural” sites in the area, Roetha planned a new residential zone: 600 units over 40 hectares. The site is a shallow valley lying between two lignite mines to the north and south, a reservoir serving mine drainage to the southwest, and an elevated railway line to the east running between the mines. The existing town is to the west. Parts of Roetha had been developed within the German “Gartenstadt” movement and a reinterpretation of these ideas was to be the basis for the new development. The project attempts to redefine Roetha’s range of “gardens” and provide the framework in which to experience them. The valley site remains a visual agricultural garden, as untouched as possible by the development, and a reminder of the agrarian landscape once typical to the area. Artificially constructed living platforms form the project’s real domestic ground and the edge to the “natural” landscape.
The platforms house 80-90 domestic units in a range of typologies: patio-houses, row houses, single family houses and maisonettes - each unit with it’s own private courtyard or garden. The platforms are anchored at their western end to a new infrastructural strip loosely planted with fir-trees. This acts primarily as a connector between the mining quarries to the north and south, but also as an exchange zone between Retha’s new and existing quarters. The infrastructural strip provides recreational, cultural and educational facilities such as a kindergarten, an archaeological museum, a riding school, shopping, picnic areas, a lookout platforman a library and a series of riding/cycling/walking paths between the mines. It anticipates the role of the crater-terrain as the area’s cultural and recreational catalyst.
The new living platforms take their place along this axis. Communal orchards between the platforms are the fourth garden. These orchards refer to the local garden-city tradition, give a particular identity to the new development, and are conceived as a natural extension to the compact private gardens on the platforms.
Industrial landscape Boehlen/ Lippendorf
(Invited competition, 3rd Prize)
From the roof-terraces of our proposed housing units at Roetha, the view spans across to the cooling towers at the Boehlen/Lippendorf power station. The 1600 hectares under consideration in this competition encompassed an established industrial area (900 hectares) including: the power station, a small airport, hills of lignite waste, beds of deposited ash, 3 small towns, islands of crops, forests, and approached the edge of the lignite mines on 3 sides.
During the two design phases, the focus narrowed to 3 development ‘windows’, in which attractive sites should be offered to investors in the industrial and service sectors. Each window was pressed between existing industrial sites and strange landform remnants of the area’s physical upheaval. In order to establish a site identity and define limits to future development in the industrial wasteland, we first laid a carpet of texture and colour using plants characteristic to the area. Access roads and plot boundaries were cut through this carpet, and an ‘attraction’ inserted at the core in the form of a special garden. These methods should endow the sites with a readable formal quality: an “address”, independent of their individual development, which would be allowed maximal flexibility.
Parallel to the industrial sites, we sought to realise the potential of the adjacent landscape curiosities- the ash depot becomes a ‘revival field’, exposing ridges of regenerating material and the hill of waste is provided with an elevated walkway to the summit. ‘Energyfields’ were planted in the surrounding area, visualising a step towards the transformation from non-renewable to renewable energy resources.
Recreational facilities for Markleeberg/ Lake Cospuden
(Invited competition 3rd prize)
Almost a suburb of Leipzig (pop. approx. 600,000), Markleeberg sits on the edge of a lignite-mine that nudges into the southern-most areas of the city. Here, “Lake Cospuden” has begun to form. With the prospect of a new lake at it’s doorstep, the sleepy, rundown town of Markleeberg, with it’s ‘Schloss’ (castle) falling into disrepair, needed ideas. 2000 is Expo year for Germany, and every region can push a few projects through if they jump onto the expo bandwagon in time. Our interest in developing concepts for Markleeberg, focused on capturing abstract aspects of the flooded landscape and hidden history, such as defining the edge between solid and void, provoking contradictory jumps in scale and letting what has remained of the original landscape condition determine development at specific locations. It should be possible to release the growing development pressure within this framework, and still maintain a particular landscape environment. The result is a chain of artificial recreational facilities, each with a specific ‘landscape’, moving outside the actual competition area and accompanying the lake’s Eastern Shore from north to south. The western shore had already been earmarked for a ‘natural’ park, attempting to recreate some of the intricate river network existing before the mining began. The facilities from south to north:
- motorway exit with parking area and restaurant.
- golf town: villas situated on an artificial “volcano” overlooking the golfcourses.
- forest on the reclaimed mine site with activities in the clearings focused around topographical characteristics: river-baches in the valley, hill-houses, riding centres, and walking paths along the edge of the ‘stable’ ground.
- harbour Markleeberg: shops/facilities and holiday houses around the new harbour.
- promenade: artificial edge-space between Markleeberg and the lake, accentuating the landscape’s scale and emptiness.
- eastern beach.
- super-baches: ecological luxury-baches set in an aspen grove above the northern lakeside.
The mine at Markleeberg is one of the first in the region to undergo transformation. Although Lake Cospuden will cover over the landforms of particular interest to us, we sought the appropriate method and formal language to speak of their existence. As opposed our intentions in Retha and Boehlen/Lippendorf- letting the excavations behave as “landscape”, the second generation of competitions in the area for the development of tourism and recreational facilites presupposes a lake environment.
The challenge now will be how to let it behave more as “mine”.