Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Stefan TISCHER
Prof. Alex Wall
Roughly a century after the Greater Berlin Competition of 1908-10, the Architecture- and Engineer’s Association of Berlin organized a retrospective exhibition on the past 100 years of urban planning in Berlin (with references to our partner cities Moscow, Vienna, Paris, and London), and an International Urban Design Ideas Competition for the future of Berlin-Brandenburg 2070.
100 Years of (Greater) Berlin: A two-stage International Urban Design Competition Berlin Brandenburg 2070
The competition calls for creating a metropolis fit for the next 100 years. This does not mean an exclusive vision of a new city but rather how to improve the existing framework by identifying, maintaining, developing and improving key attributes and qualities. Achieving a sustainable development means bringing together past and future in an integrated approach.
Projects should strengthen and expand centers, and further articulate the ring-radial structure.
Berlin is a metropolis; its integrated hinterland extends beyond its political boundaries into Brandenburg. Its characteristic form of the settlement star was identified in the 1908-10 competition. The arms of the star are structured by the radial country roads of the 19th century, which became the arterials of the 20th century city. Its building history encompasses every stratagem of architecture and planning, and its city-regional landscape history contrasts the work of Peter Joseph Lenné, Leberecht Migge’s Productive Stadt and large-scale industrial farming.
BERLIN-BRANDENBURG 2070 - A METROPOLITAN ECOTONE
0 What is the significance of this competition
The potential of this ideas competition, the first since the fall of the wall, is to offer concepts and strategies for a productive interrelationship between urban Berlin, its suburbs and the rural landscape of Brandenburg. Our concept is an edge zone mosaic of flexible development zones that will bring agency and adaptive potential to this settlement pattern. It will be a composite of special development zones for present and future experimental development where time for permission and approval can be substantially reduced. It is where innovative cooperative and regenerative typologies of residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial can find their place. As a multifunctional buffer, it can accept functions which are unsuitable for the adjoining urban and rural settlement areas. The potential of our project is explored in three sites in the settlement arm Pankow-Buch-Bernau-Barnim. ‘Regionalpark Barnim’ creates a large parkland area for the Northeast quadrant of Berlin. ‘Konturmosaik’ explores cooperative housing and regenerative landscape. ‘Lifelines’ clarifies and rejuvenates a typical Radiastrasse augmenting local infrastructure with a new ‘Makers Quarter’.
How can we live together in a complex and uncertain future? A Metropolitan Ecotone proposes flexible and experimental forms and spaces for living and working as part of an adaptive and resilient Berlin and near Brandenburg. Landscape and ecology will inform new building typologies and ensembles. These will support sustainable flows of water, energy, material and food across the region. New social arrangements and new kinds of work will be brought into being.
Both the city and the rural agricultural landscape are a palimpsest of different planning ideas. Common to both is the original structure (Messtischblaetter) of radial streets, villages and the system of rivers, ditches, forests and lakes. Our starting point is to recover the traditional knowledge embedded in this structure, and to synthesize this knowledge with future technologies and practices to initiate new ways of living. The transformation of the agricultural system in Brandenburg draws attention to questions of self-sufficiency and the need for a productive relationship between two partners, the metropolis and its rural region. To foreground the importance of this relationship, we are considering Berlin from Brandenburg—the city from its living region.
The span of this competition marks the transition from a fossil-fuel based neo-liberal economy across the divide of a global pandemic to a future with more social justice, a more diverse economy, a more generous public realm, and more effective collaboration between government and all stakeholders. Above all, planning and design projects need to build resilience to changing climate now.
Our concept is to build, a linear mosaic of special development areas, Edge Zones, along the arms of the settlement star—the characteristic form of Berlin. Serving both its urban and rural neighbors, this mosaic is an intermediate zone, consisting of five different residential-agricultural hybrids. These create through a synthesis of experimental settlements and new planting an ecological, economic, and socially diverse living environment.
The gradual renovation of the urban and rural landscape of Berlin-Brandenburg is developed in three focus areas. The first is a regional park in rural Brandenburg, combining renovated forests, small-scale agricultural landscape with spaces for events. The second focus area is a selected edge zone developing diverse and multi-scaled models of cooperative housing and regenerative agriculture. The third, located in an urban area introduces new typologies to add density to the radial streets by recasting an area between a highway and S-Bahn line as a new ‘Makers quarter’. All three focus areas are located in the settlement arm Pankow-Buch-Bernau-Barnim. Our project puts forward the system of edge zones as a mechanism—a Metropolitan Ecotone—that can anticipate and respond to the many social, economic and climatic variables of urbanization as a pathway to resilience and sustainability. It acknowledges the phenomenon of urban development and planting as taking place at different speeds. Fast and slow, instant cities but also fallow lands awaiting an as yet unknowable future. Small agricultural farms can emerge next season while large mixed forest areas will require generations.
II Framing the Region - the Masterplan
Only a short time ago, a divided Berlin lay in East Germany. After 1989, and especially with the city’s designation as the capital of a reunified Germany, the rush of investment and residents into Berlin formed a stark contrast with the poorer rural communities of Brandenburg. This was also a contrast of landscapes, the city’s new suburbs pushing into the large-scale intensive farming landscape in which historic villages had become cut off from their immediate agricultural livelihood. Today Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg region continue to grow. In the last century, the development along the radial streets and S-Bahn lines created a star-shaped settlement figure. Unlike a city with a roughly concentric edge, as Berlin grew, the length of its edge increased expanding its interface with rural Brandenburg. The metropolitan city-region continues to develop along these infrastructure lines and the model of the star-shaped settlement figure retains its potential for adaptation. Rather than the growth model of sprawl spreading outward from the center of the metropolis, we propose to guide development along the edge of the arms of the settlement star creating a zone for building a sustainable, economic and social vision for the Berlin-Brandenburg region. The edge, or Kontur, will be a mosaic of future urban development strategies serving both interior urban and exterior rural areas. The potential of this strategy is explored in three focus areas: rural Brandenburg, a selected edge zone, and an urban area.
Regenerate, reformulate, interweave
As a general principle, three fields of action can guide future metropolitan development:
1. Regenerating both the agricultural landscape and the landscape-ecological environment will result in a new cultural landscape with many traditional and new occupations.
2. Re-formulating the interface between city and countryside along the contour of the settlement-star as an Ecotone, an edge biotope, and a place of social transformation will generate new settlement morphologies and typologies.
3. Interweaving the radial infrastructure of the settlement arms with the local blue-green structures, and creating nodes where they cross existing circumferential streets and roads will transform the settlement ‘star’ into a networked web.
The starting point of gradually rebuilding the urban landscape of the Metropolis and its region is the articulation of landscape, transportation and energy infrastructure as sites for injecting new innovative functions. Our project, which looks at the city from the agricultural region, conceives a sustainable metropolis formed from the traces and knowledge embedded in the landscape. The three fields of action enable this knowledge to be combined with new models of urban and agricultural production to produce a dynamic realm in which as yet unknown social and economic models can adapt to an uncertain future.
For Berlin and Brandenburg the typical landscape structures: watercourses, Allees, the Angerdoerfer (traditional villages were built along a central green), and a long developed field pattern create the starting point. The associated landforms, waterbodies, local climate and habitats are not only the basis for diverse landscape structures but also for resilient building strategies. The early historical ordinance survey sheets (the Schmettau’sches Kartenwerk and Messtischblaetter) offer useful clues for the re-activation of landscape conditions. The existing network of the historic Alleen (tree-lined roads) will be upgraded for new forms of micro-mobility such as on-demand bus, shared-mobility, and e-biking. Improving the circumferential roads linking rural villages with the settlement arms will create a close-meshed accessibility network. Along the existing radial transportation infrastructure, for example the very well equipped S-Bahn lines, additional stops will be created to diversify and intensify their function. Inside the outermost S-Bahn ring, Autobahn access roads will be recast to serve express (long distance) bicycle traffic and goods traffic. The latter will support inner-city and urban area production and manufacturing, a function banished to the suburbs in 20th century planning. Private automobile traffic from the suburbs and the edge zones headed to the center will transfer to the S-Bahn and e-buses at new intermodal stations along the outer S-Bahn ring.
Can urban and landscape planning accommodate projects that are safe-to-fail? An open and socially just society needs spatial and economic freedom to try out and practice diverse lifestyle and integration models. Models that are free from real estate speculation can serve to strengthen collective use and cooperative residential complexes, and to enable smaller scale actors access to building development.
The urban edge as spatial strategy: Between countryside and city, a “society in transition”
The edge traces the contour of the arms of the settlement star and stimulates a productive transition between city and rural area. It creates a “free zone” and a porous membrane between two cultural landscapes of equal value.
The urban edge zone averages 1000 meters (a kilometer or two thirds of a mile) in width, part in the state of Brandenburg and part in the state of Berlin. It links social and ecological functions, and mines two potentials: first, the knowledge and intelligence embedded in centuries of agriculture and husbandry, and second, the space and freedom of the public to experiment, which was formerly an attribute of the metropolis. The edge bundles together and synthsizes the power of both city and countryside leading to a political zone of encounter. It is not suburban. Rather, it is a new settlement pattern that creates a breeding ground for innovation, and it is an incubator and experimental field for a new sustainable metropolitan region. Its capacity for density brings relief from the development pressure on the Brandenburg landscape.
Mosaic – contextual and immanent diversity
As an “Ecotone”, the edge Zone stands for diversity. It is a spatial mosaic formed through the contextual order of five urban- and landscape typologies: 1 Protected landscape areas, 2 Forest Clearings (with new settlements), 3 New cooperative housing models and regenerative small-scale agriculture, 4 Special uses including large scale buildings and energy production, and 5 New urban development districts. These typologies not only add density to the settlement arms but stimulate re-naturing thus strengthening the resilience of the rural areas of Brandenburg. Depending on the surrounding context, the mosaic offers an urban development potential or it is a place for innovative landscape and strategies of ecological recovery. Each of the five edge zones develops its own programmatic built and landscape mosaic. This is the strength of the concept: each zone assembles a diversity of lifestyle and work, building and agricultural ensembles, forest culture and habitat.
Five Edge Zone Morphologies (Konturmosaik)
1. Protected Landscape Areas
Generally, these comprise forest areas and meadows near to water bodies, for example the Barnim Nature Park nearby; and elsewhere in Berlin-Brandenburg, the Gruenewald, Spandau Forest, the Straussberg Forest and Lakes, and Mueggelsee (lake)-Dahme.
The riparian zone of the watercourses will be re-natured including additional space to accommodate flooding. In pine and birch forests, mixed species corridors will be created to support biodiversity and to increase forest resilience.
In these areas, besides natural areas protection and habitat building, there will be recreation and eco-tourism.
2. Forest Clearings
Vulnerable single species stands of pine forest will be supplemented by the addition of mixed-growth corridors of native deciduous trees, which will introduce diversity and build resilience. Clearings will be opened for mixed-use multi-story, municipal and cooperative housing, or large institutional campuses.
Today, mono-cultured forest areas may be found between Genshagen and Wildau, near Friedrichshagen, south of Basdorf and part of the Bredower Forest.
3. New Housing models and Regenerative Small-scale Agriculture
Large, mono-cultural industrial agricultural parcels will be divided into smaller sites bounded by swales and rows of trees. Small parcels can be used for experimental forms of cooperative housing integrated with regenerative agriculture. These offer living and workplaces for progressive models of self-sufficiency, but also for many hybrid occupations such as the programmer-composter, or accountant-horticulturalist.
4. Special uses including large scale buildings and energy
Existing large-scale industry, and infrastructure, for example Berlin International Airport (BER), Urban Tech Republic (TXL), and Tesla. This edge zone integrates post-industrial sites, and contaminated and fallow lands available for future industry and renewable energy production. Start-up industrial and experimental infrastructure and energy projects could initiate a coherent mixed-use district.
5. New urban development district
The Edge Zone includes new urban districts of spacious density. These extend the urban area of the settlement star, augmenting existing sub-centers. They are sites for new urban design models with a density of buildings and programs but also a density of public spaces and micro-landscapes. Their mixed uses integrate residential and employment, culture, urban parks
III Focus Area: The new Regional Park Barnim (Bernau-Werneuchen)
In the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, beside the existing nature parks, four special regional parks should be developed. Two of them are already distinctive: in the West, the Potsdam cultural landscape is connected to the river and lakes of the Havel landscape; and in the East, the Mueggelsee lakes are connected to the river Spree forestland. In the South, there is a new “high intensity landscape” around the Berlin International Airport (BER) airport, and in the North, we propose a regional park Barnim, which will be devoted to leisure activities and can connect to the existing nature park. This new regional park between Bernau and Werneuchen will initiate the transformation of the landscape. Here, with the support of the EU, state, and regional funds, a carefully planned and designed complex project can be realized.
The characteristic elements and qualities of the landscapes of Brandenburg and the surroundings of Berlin, immortalized in the poetry of Theodore Fontane, form the typological-structural and landscape ecological basis for future development. Settlement pattern and form, river and stream structure and wetlands are elements of a network that emerges from and builds upon the hydrological landscape conditions. Large scale intensive farming destroyed the traditional and characteristic hedges, tree rows and swales bounding a smaller field system, depleting and polluting the soil, and burying the finer grain and seasonal watercourses. Yet the historic ordinance survey maps provide a counter-image to these destructive land-use practices. They are a reference for both reconstruction and new development, as the micro-topography, ground and soil conditions still mostly obtain.
New forest areas will gradually cover much of the existing open ground, and existing forests will be successively renatured, or transferred to planned management. Smaller parks, which demonstrate a working cultural landscape along with protected natural areas, will be integrated into the network.
In the regional park, the transition from the large monocultural landscape parcels into a smaller field system with hedges planted along the boundaries will establish an appropriate relationship between land-use and the protection of nature. The hedges provide habitat, shelter from the wind, and contribute to biomass supply. The hydrology yields a second organizing structure of watercourses (Graben), swales, and areas that may flood seasonally. The large scale of the landscape network based on the hydrological conditions will be extended and diversified through a fine-meshed, non-hierarchical, and dynamic agricultural net that also can be explored by pedestrians and mountain bikers. Biomass, photovoltaic and wind energy installations will contrast with the new small-scale “Maerkische” landscape of Barnim. Together a new cultural landscape comes into being that not only offers varied leisure activities, but also generates intensive workplaces with many full and part-time jobs through new forms of commercial yet sustainable agriculture work.
Street network - Culture
On the basis of the historical plans, the Allees and village boundaries will be reconstructed and form, besides the field and forest structure, a cultural network as the basis of a biological food production with orchard meadows, vegetable gardens, pastures, and the fruit trees which make up part of the Allees.
Parcellization - Agriculture
The agricultural areas of the Berlin surroundings will be gradually transformed from intensive-chemical to exclusively biological-organic agricultural cultivation. This process will sharply reduce the field dimensions enabling the transition to a field boundary program of 10-20 meter wide edge strips of hedges and ruderal corridors.
The park within the park
On the watershed high ground ridge between Wilmersdorf and Seefeld, an historic un-parcelled “no-mans land” is transformed for special uses: a youth campground, a large surface for ‘raves’, concerts, and events such as “Burning Man.” An extended chevron-shaped surface for landskating and basketball courts creates a connection to the energy park near Wilmersdorf and the new hill just north of Loehme-Seefeld. This chevron-shaped surface is equipped with micro environments with sitting places, lighting and play areas. The hill, whose spiral-ziggurat form comes into being gradually, is made of demolition materials that have formerly sealed the surfaces of Berlin, primarily broken up asphalt and concrete. Its position is axial and intervisible to the former landfills near Schwanebeck and the Arkenberge near Blankenfelde. Together these create a chain of hills providing orientation in the flat landscape.
Access to the special uses and to the newly developed edge mosaic are provided not only from the S-Bahn stations at Bernau, Blumberg, Seefeld-Loehme and Werneuchen, but also from the bicycle network and the historic path system.
In addition to the chevron-shaped surface, the energy landscape and the neo-traditional cultural- and nature landscape, the regional park is a venue for Land Art concepts.
IV Focus Area: Edge Zone Mosaic – cooperative housing and regenerative agriculture
Our second focus area is the Edge Zone lying between Buch and Schwanebeck, crossed by the A10 Autobahn. It develops our Mosaic theme 3: New Housing models and Regenerative Small-scale Agriculture. Mosaic themes 1: Protected Landscape Area and 2: Forest Clearings, lie on the north and south boundaries respectively. The need to house an increasingly diverse population is not being met by conventional real estate practice or by existing government sponsored housing models. The intention is to demonstrate different scales and models of cooperative housing resulting from alternative economies of building, multi-functional indoor and outdoor spaces, and distributed mobility and utility services. The different residential models engage a gradient of energy and food self-sufficiency. Harvest areas of wind, solar and biomass feed into a micro-grid. A decentralized water system including spaces for rainwater harvested from roofs, slowing and storage of water runoff, as well as grey water cleaning and re-use will mediate anticipated drier summer climate.
The structure and scale of the settlement grid is oriented to the size and scale for agricultural self-sufficiency, yielding an average parcel size of 150x150meters (492x492 feet), which according to context and use can be enlarged or further divided. Existing built or landscape structures can be integrated into this system or remain independent of it. Following the circular permaculture zones of land use which are organized in relation to human activity, the division of parcels offers multiple agricultural scales from small kitchen-gardens next to buildings to three-field system agriculture and finally to low maintenance pasture and timberland. Every parcel is surrounded by public access ways. These have the flexibility to be designed for different kinds of traffic; large and small streets for vehicles, including lanes for e-roller, bicycles and pedestrians, and shared spaces for hikers, touring cyclists and horses.
The blue-green network given by the topography and the water resources will be articulated by enclosures. Brandenburg‘s dry season will lengthen, so it will be important to hold rainwater, especially the short and heavy summer rains, in the local grounds and to keep it from running into the river Panke causing flooding. Linear swales and ditches parallel to the topography lines (keylines) allow seepage at the parcel boundary and prevent the rainwater from running down the slopes in the fastest way possible. The humidity stays in the ground longer, feeds the plants and the local aquifer (the best natural rain water storage possible). Thus, improvements to local rainwater drainage can also help to counteract high water levels of ditches and streams. Perpendicular to the topographic lines, hedges and rows of trees will be planted, which will break the wind, mediating soil loss and erosion. They also produce biomass. To accommodate topographically extreme landforms, the right-angled grid can shift organically. The enclosures function as local nature corridors offering micro-habitat, supporting animal movement, and biodiversity with a high natural density.
A Diversity of Functions
The Edge Zone accepts a great diversity of people and functions. An application process involving authorities in both Berlin and Brandenburg, ensures that a mixed constellation of actors can co-create living space in this mosaic element. It is a social-ecological concept to support a rich variety of cooperative living arrangements including: residential collectives, social housing projects, multi-generation residences, small ‘arrival’ communities for immigrants or “Wagenburg.” These can be realized by private persons, associations, cooperatives or building societies.
The process contributes equally to innovative forms of micro-agriculture and landscape ecological practice. At least 50% of the parcel area must be devoted to agricultural functions. Through formal and informal negotiations, parcel size and grouping can evolve as development unfolds. The parcels will be assigned in leasehold and not be subject to market speculation.
The diverse and robust application process yields an exemplary selection of possible living and building functions within the Edge Zone. The residential and agricultural work parcels are often planned on the onion principle: building, garden, micro-farm, and hedges and swales. Agricultural sheds, workshops and storage can be in independent structures, attached, or even part of residential or institutional buildings.
V Focus Area: Lifelines - Reorganization of a section of a radial street in Berlin as it transitions into Brandenburg
The reorganization and development of a settlement arm depends upon the coordinated design of the radial streets, the old country roads or Allees, together with newer infrastructure. To demonstrate these ideas, our selected project area lies in northern Pankow in the area between the Angar-villages of Franzoesich Buchholz and Blankenberg. Though mostly built out, we start by identifying the historic landscape structure with its Allees, ditches and villages and the more recent layers such as the S-Bahn and Autobahn.
Our thesis is that the available well-equipped infrastructure, which runs through such low-density areas can and must support more inhabitants and activities in the growing metropolitan region. The radial streets will be integrated with the course of the rivers and streams as well as the modified S-Bahn and Autobahn to intensify the radial structure. The resulting intertwined infrastructure forms the ‘artery’ of the settlement star-arm and links the mosaic of the edge zone with the inner part of the star—the center city defined by the inner S-Bahn ring.
Along the principle radial streets, higher density mixed-use ensembles such as the ‘City-Projects’ offer new public spaces. These include Urban Islands, mixed-housing structures, and Market Grids, which are commercial and light industrial ensembles. In particular, new trade and production functions are located in the ‘Makers Strip’, which introduces two new typologies, Bridge Buildings, which are industrial structures that are able to access freight from highway and S-Bahn, and Shop Houses, which combine fabrication and showrooms with residences above. The strip runs northwards from Pankow-Heinersdorf S-Bahn station to the outer S-Bahnring crossing and is served on the East by the S-Bahn and on the West by the reprogrammed former 114 highway. With the Panke running parallel, the ‘makers strip’ extends and exemplifies the concept “Lifelines.”
Berlin’s main water problem is the management of rainfall, which needs to drain away locally to improve the city climate through evapotranspiration. Less rainwater should flow into the sewer tunnels, especially after heavy downpours, to prevent damaging the water quality of Berlins lakes and rivers. The renatured meandering Panke and its many tributary ditches and retention basins form a flow figure that orders new green activity fields, new building ensembles and helps to transform Berlin into a “sponge city”. The allotment garden site is gradually converted to alluvial meadows. The blue-green framework also hosts the bicycle and pedestrian network further expanding mobility and access.
Radial Allees with Historical Villages
The radial Allees connect the historic Angar-villages. Running through a “sea” of single-family houses, they form the backbone of the development. Attached to the Allees, new “City-Projects” create a rhythm of urban crystallization points and public spaces in this sea of housing. They are served by tram, e-buses, bicycle lanes and alternative forms of collective mobility.
Mobility and Maker’s Strip
In the evolving mobility regime, the S-Bahn tracks towards Bernau will also serve freight traffic. Between the express stations lie local stops, each acting as transfer points to shared private automobile, e-bikes as well as e-bus stops. Autobahn 114 will no longer be used for motorized private automobile traffic. Its 4-lanes, built on a 5 meter high viaduct, will be divided: 1 lane for 2-way express bicycles, 2 lanes for logistics, and a rest-stop lane. Incoming private automobile traffic will stop at park and ride stations, transferring to S-Bahn and e-buses.
Between the rail line and the ex-Autobahn 114 lies the ‘Maker’s Strip’ with direct access to goods traffic. It retains the existing block layout but modifies these with new typologies. Where the strip is crossed by circumferential streets, a new typology of ‘Urban Production Buildings’ with new forms of manufacturing and workshops is located.
Elements and Lifestyle: Adding density to the villages in the settlement arms
The structure of the traditional Anger-villages, which consists of a village green flanked by two rows of houses with long back gardens, is a template for adding density with row house ‘terraces’ accessed from new alleys. The nucleus of the village green is a center for the increasing population, a kind-of ‘village-city’ containing necessary social-, cultural- and economic functions.
Urban Projects - Urban Islands
In selected places along the radial streets is a rhythm of high density, mixed-use “City Islands” set into the sea of houses. Similar to the linear structure of the Angar-villages, their public plazas and additional height form urban crystallization points with weekly markets. A second typology is the new commercial and light industry grid, whose buildings will be drawn together under a climate cover. These areas will be able to adapt to future trade and production patterns.
Makers Strip: Adding density to a single-family housing area with ‘shop houses’
In the “Makers Strip,” situated between the former Autobahn 114 and the S-Bahn, individual residential parcels can evolve into small scale manufacturing units. Already today there are diverse firms to be found along the secondary streets. This unplanned tendency towards a more dense mixed-use area will be strengthened through the immediate proximity to the freight routes and the de-classification of the strip as purely a residential area. Between the residential housing, craft fabrication-, storage-, ‘shophouses’ and showrooms will be built on individual initiative, which will strengthen the work-life economy.
Urban (rental) Factories
The favorable location between the transport routes is very suitable for the new typology of the “Urban Factory.” The urban factory is equipped with moving gantries, trollies and lifting cranes, which can load or unload from the S-Bahn or former Autobahn 114 to its several floors, as well as accept autonomous mobile container traffic. In the urban factory firms can rent their own space or be part of a managed production area. For working people, the factories, which are located along the crossing streets and the S-Bahn stations, are conveniently accessible. At the same time they bring value to the public by offering functions such as cafeterias and large open areas for events. Since the supply and range of production places within the settlement star is socially and economically urgent, the allotment gardens will be rededicated for public uses.