PARKITECTURE: The Intersection of Built + Natural Environments at Kulturpark
Kulturpark is a project focused on the investigation and artistic intervention of an abandoned amusement park in Treptower Park of East Berlin, Germany. Kulturpark, originally named Kulturpark Plänterwald, was built in 1969 by the GDR (German Democratic Republic), socialist government of East Berlin. This was one of the few sites built for recreation and amusement for the people of East Berlin. Since the park’s abandonment the site has remained relatively untouched, allowing the natural environment to gain a foothold and begin to retake ownership of the landscape. Fenced off around its perimeter, with guard dogs and security guards trying to prevent the relentless infiltration of “jumpers,” individuals who climb over the fence to paint graffiti, photograph, or just experience this fantastical landscape frozen in time. The park’s landscape, reminiscent of a post apocalyptic movie set, is filled with an assortment of unique amusement park elements, creatures, rides, and structures.
In June 2012, artists and designers from around the world collaborated in a series of charettes, interventions, think tanks, and events to envision potential futures for the site. The project culminated in a temporary public opening that featured the works of a number of Berlin-based visionaries. This intervention was designed to serve as a catalyst to inspire interest in the preservation of this cultural time capsule. As a collaborator my research focused on historical site mapping, ecological assessment, graphic communication, and examining the post-apocalyptic-like relationships between this constructed amusement park and the natural environment. It is these complex relationships, intersections, and unpredictable happenings in the landscape that have intrigued me the most.
The following essay was originally written by Ben Roush, an NC State landscape architecture masters student as a chapter of an online publication documenting the Kulturpark, history, process, and interventions. This essay along with the rest of the publication will be available summer 2013 and at which time a link will be posted on SHIFT:Blog. A documentary is also currently in production.
For additional history, background, updates, information, photos, and more please visit the following:
Kulturpark provides us with a chance to reflect on our position within the landscape and the ways in which the environment absorbs the impacts we impose upon it. Since the park’s abandonment in 2001 the site has remained relatively untouched, allowing the natural environment to gain a foothold and begin to retake ownership of the landscape. The park’s position at the intersection of built and natural environments, and the unique period of time when nature begins to take over the built environment, allows us to reflect on our relationship with or within the natural environment. In this unique cross-section we are able to observe as much about human nature as we can observe about the nature of the environment.
This landscape reflects the tension that exists in its surrounding context; human desires versus environmental health, human desire to control and the environment’s constant efforts to maintain equilibrium. One of the ways I have observed this landscape manifesting the tension surrounding it is by analyzing the unique ecological communities that exist in this landscape. A landscape once filled with neatly manicured ornamental species has been infiltrated by the native species of plants. Where this intersection is illustrated, beautiful scenes are created such as the red blossoms of hybrid tea roses (Rosa x hybrida) blooming against a backdrop of native species of grasses. Plants and ecological communities of species have also used this lack of human intervention to their advantage and have begun to create “improvised microclimates,” in other words, repurposing the built landscape or elements of the landscape in order to propagate themselves. This is observed in the cattail(Typha angustifolia) plant’s adaptive reuse of the abandoned swan boats as a growing medium.
One of Kulturpark’s greatest values is this landscape’s capacity to function as a cultural time capsule; preserving artifacts of past human intervention that allude to the cultural context in which they were implemented. The insight provided by this experiment in human interaction with the environment, and its ability to inspire contemplation for those who observe it warrant the careful preservation of this site. However, the preservation of this landscape must be implemented as an adaptive process of curation rather than a single, dictated solution. Rather than preserving this landscape as it is currently or how it was originally, the site must instead be allowed to continue its natural evolution as it continues its process of restoring ecological equilibrium. It is fitting that one of this site’s greatest challenges to redevelopment comes from the fact that it is surrounded by a densely vegetated, protected national forest thereby preventing direct vehicular access. In this way, the park is utilizing its surrounding natural capital as a forcefield to resist change. As the constructed elements of this site begin to deteriorate, the natural environment will respond by filling the voids left behind. Eventually this land will be absorbed by its surroundings and will return to its natural state once again. Rather than viewing this land as an object that will eventually be lost, we must instead understand this site as a constantly evolving performance of which we are only participants.
Ben Roush, Associate ASLA
MLA Candidate 2014
Kulturpark Visionary Supporters:
476 Kickstarter Backers, The Artmatters Foundation, James Alefantis, The Mikesell Family, and Rene Tettenborn.
Goethe-Institut-DC, Betahaus, Kunstrepublik, Spreestudios, Urban Culture Institute, Forcast Public Art, Dirty-Mag.com, Elsewhere Collaborative, Spinello Projects, Artstars* and Arte TV, Plus Null, and Supermarket Creative
Curators / Producers:
George Scheer, Stephanie Sherman, Anthony Spinello, Agustina Woodgate
Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Urban Arts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Dieta Sixt, Christina Lanzl, Natalia Zuluaga, Andrew Persoff, Chris Lineberry, Juliet Hinely, Ben Roush, Ben Boyles, Valerie Wiseman, Jess Weos, Paris Furst