Green Vision for a Place With a Grim Past

berlin wall artist visions image

Artist Joyce van den Berg's vision for the former No Man's Land in Berlin includes walking paths, composting areas, and plenty of greenery.

An area once called a "death strip" wouldn't seem to harbor much in the way of recreational potential, but when Dutch landscape artist Joyce van den Berg looks at the former No Man's Land that once separated East and West Berlin, that's exactly what she envisions. And by presenting her artistic interpretations of what that might look like at the German Center for Architecture (DAZ), she hopes to get Berliners to see the same thing.From 1961 to 1989, the Berlin Wall famously divided the inner part of the city, but, writes Der Spiegel, "around the outer edges of the city the border was marked mainly by fences, watch towers, and an empty strip of 'No Man's Land' ... Much of it is unused, a lot is uncared for and, as DAZ writes on its Web site, these form 'a unique landscape with huge potential.'"

From border roads to bike paths
The roads along once used by East German border guards are already popular with cyclists, and some parts of the zone are green enough to draw people wanting to walk their dogs or go for a jog. But much of the area -- measuring between 20 meters and 2.5 kilometers wide along a 155-kilometer stretch -- is barren and desolate.

Van den Berg, who studied in Berlin a decade ago and has helped similarly transform a former military airport in her native Netherlands, wants to see it replanted, landscaped, and made available for walking, cycling, other sports, or just quiet contemplation, a scenario she puts into visual form in the DAZ exhibition, "New Light on No Man's Land," which will run from July 10 to August 30 in Berlin.

'Secret gardens' for special plants
The sand and gravel that was kept smooth to reveal the footprints of anyone trying to flee East Germany would be "moved at regular intervals in order to encourage new plant life to take root as well as the ongoing formation of the 'mega-dunes' that are already evolving naturally in the German woods." Other areas would be set aside for composting and gardening, while the remaining five watchtowers would be turned into "secret gardens" where plants that might not be able to stand up to the wind and other elements could be grown.

Though some of the land has already been sold to private individuals, van den Berg thinks they could be convinced to form a foundation to preserve the areas, as has been done with some Dutch historic sites. The architect and others will speak about their ideas for the strip of land during the opening event July 9, as well as during a July 22 symposium. Van den Berg will also lead one of two bicycle tours this summer along the former border. Via: "Landscaping the Death Strip: A Vision of the Berlin Wall as a Giant Garden," Der Spiegel
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