Germany was an unforgettable experience and I am so grateful that I was chosen to go on the trip with my classmates to explore new and beautiful cities. This trip has really changed my outlook on how another country operates and how America needs to improve. Sustainability and green infrastructure is the way we need to go. The way Germany re-uses storm water, the way they work with transportation, the way they do planning with mixed use models, and they way their recycling system works, all focus on creating a smaller carbon footprint. I knew America was wasteful with their oversized goods, but I didn’t realize how wasteful it was to have all of the extra and unnecessary goods. Life feels more simple without them and there’s less stress not having to take a car everywhere. Everyone is out and socializing in Germany compared to America where everyone is more segregated and keeps to their self because we’re becoming such an automobile society. We need more walkable cities and towns in the U.S.. More social media can also have a large impact as to why most people are staying indoors now a days. Just with these few examples, I’ve learned a lot and hope to see changes within America so that we can become more active, healthier and more social as a society. I’m glad I decided to study abroad during my college experience because it really has changed me and my thoughts for the better. I would recommend for any student to take the opportunity to travel and see other places. Never get comfortable in your life! Change and experience is a good thing because you never know where it’ll lead you.
For our short break, a group of us have decided to take a weekend trip to Amsterdam, the city of bikes. I loved it there because everyone was walking around and biking, there’s a lot less traveling by car there. The city is very walkable, but you have to have a whole new level of alertness when walking around there. It’s a lot to take in because you’re trying to watch out for pedestrians, bike lanes, cars and mopeds in a small area. Another neat thing about Amsterdam is that there are canals running through the city, they were highly engineered to work with the water running through the city. This allows for small boats to travel through the city which promotes some tourism, but allows locals to get around through new modes of transportation.
Some of the other places we visited in our short visit were Van Gogh’s Museum and viewed the infamous sunflower painting, starry night, the bedroom, and his self portrait. It was really cool to see because growing up, we’ve always learned about his paintings and how iconic they were. Seeing them in person really brought the paintings to life through the textures and colors that he used.
One of my favorite places there was visiting the northern sea. It reminded me of the beaches back home, but it was definitely less smelly with a lot more jellyfish washed up on the shore. Wish we could’ve spent more time in Amsterdam, but it was a great experience.
Our last city we stayed in was Hamburg, we were there for a short 3 days and travelled around as much as we could. We walked around the city as much as we could. They had a similar, waterways as Amsterdam. We also visited the iconic Elphilharmonie, a large concert hall with spectacular views.
We also visited a smaller urban park that was designed before the public had a say in it. Most parks that are installed usually take community input for ideas, needs and wants, but none of the apartments around the park are built yet. Even with the park being built first, it seemed to already be getting good use. I really like the playgrounds in Germany compared to the ones in America because they’re a lot more abstract and test the strength and agility of the kids on the playground. They let the kids use their own imagination compared to having equipment that is very straightforward.
Overall, Hamburg was a fun place to walk around and tour. We had just enough time to see what we needed to see.
Our time has ended in Berlin and we are now moving on to Essen. We arrived after a short 2hr train ride and the atmosphere is totally different from Berlin. The area is greener and spaced out more.
We learned that Essen was an industrial city with a lot of coal mining and steel factories. Housing was built near railroads to support workers and their families. In order to work as a coal miner, you needed to have kids, so the job could be passed on. Most coal miners only lived to their mid 40s.
We also visited two of the main rivers that people used. The first being the Rhine River which is where the clean water was and the Emscher River which is an open sewage canal for the residents. As of now the canal had a very foul odor to it, but engineers and other professionals are working on improving the quality in the next few years, so that people can enjoy the river and not run from the smell.
For years Essen was thought of a low class city because of all the industrialism, but has recently just started to build up and bring more people in. They want people to remember what the city once was, but they are also improving and rebuilding.
I like Essen the most so far because it has a more comfortable feel with its suburban areas, which is what I’m used to back at home.
Exploring Berlin comes to a halt for a few days! It’s time to get to work with the Technical University of Berlin students. We presented our stormwater case studies to the students and received nice feedback from the professor.
For our next project, we were put to the task to come up with stormwater design for RBB Berlin’s radio station building site. We went to the site to complete our initial site analysis and then the next day we went back with the TUB students to collect more data consisting of where the existing trees were, how many existing electrical posts, how many existing garbage cans and benches, how water is flowing on site, where the drains are, look for gutters on the buildings, look for curb cuts, how much impervious pavement and so on.
For the following week we began to form concepts on proposed stormwater design ideas. The site consisted of a lot of impervious pavement, which leads to a lot of stormwater runoff. The seating areas for workers were unwelcoming, and there was no reuse of water existing on the site.
For my groups design concept, we focused on incorporating sound waves into the landscape. Thinking about the historic background of the building, we thought it would be a really strong idea to bring in the shape of a sound wave onto the ground plane, but also play with it on the horizontal and vertical planes as well.
In the end the project had an integrated green and grey system where water could flow through out the middle of the site and down to the lowest point of the site where there would be fountains and seating for workers and visitors during the dry weather. During the wet weather, scuppers(open face gutter that carry water off the roof) and green rain walls carry the water from the roofs of buildings and create sound as the water flows down into the vegetated catch basin.
The main goal behind the design was to not only have that strong sound wave connection site from one end to the other, but also to create moments for workers and visitors to experience the sound, have their own space, and enjoy the water/vegetation on site.
Overall, the three day charrette went really well. We got to work with the german students and saw that they are definitely more conceptual when thinking about design, where as we are way more technical and like to think about all of the detail of the site. Plus, we got to celebrate with a german beer after a short 30hrs of intense design work.
Where do I begin? We have seen so many places in Berlin so far and just when I think we have toured it all, there’s more!
Two of my favorite parks that we have visited so far were Sudegalande park and Gliesdreick Park.
Both parks had a common theme. They were old rail-yards that turned into industrial wastelands that were no longer in use by people. Since the area is near city, people fought to gain their own open space to walk around and enjoy, but they still wanted to preserve the existing nature.
Gliesdreick Park has more activities such as skateboarding, running, biking, tennis, soccer, playgrounds and open yards for many more activities. It is very accommodating for families and people looking to get outside. The parks goal was to create an active and passive feel for all visitors, which means people can lay out on the lawn or exercise all day.
What I really liked about this park and most parks in Germany is that people are out and about. They’re enjoying the sunlight and fresh air instead of being inside. It’s nice to see that because I live in more of a suburban town where everything is spaced out and it seems people are less connected to one another and to their environment.
The second park, Sudgelande Park was also really nice because it focused on preserving nature while allowing people to walk through and connect back with nature. It is also a famous spot for artists to create artwork such as graffiti murals and dance videos. The park works on a large conservation area due to the endangered species that are habited there. They had a hard time trying to invite people into spaces where endangered species go, but they realized with choosing what to maintain and what no to maintain they can make both the critters and people happy.
Going to parks in Germany has really helped me understand what people like in a park and what they aren’t really getting much use out of. It’s also helped me see how a park can become more interactive.
For example, we went to a park called Wald Berlin Klima, which had active diagrams showing the pollution in the air, how many trees one person needs in a year and had a goal of planting more and more trees every year to become more sustainable in the future years, which is great because Nature Conservation/Preservation is extremely important in cities like Berlin.