I am extremely glad that I had the experience of traveling abroad while also learning. This study abroad trip was extremely intense in the sense that we did a lot of physical activity such as walking and touring places everyday. I am extremely grateful for learning and absorbing everything while in the presence of amazing landmarks, historical sites, and landscapes. It felt really weird to be back in the United States as soon as the plane landed. I just felt like I was in a total new place again. I got used to being and living in Germany for that month and it was weird to step back into my “normal” life. I find myself comparing my experiences in the US to my experience while I was in Germany.. honestly I liked it better in Germany. It was easy to adjust back to my regular everyday routine though, because I started working 2 days after I got back. I think that this trip and experiencing a new culture was able to open my eyes to a new lifestyle that I found very easy to adopt. Everything seemed much more sustainable and their trains actually WORKED GREAT! and were rarely ever late. I do the simplicity of traveling around in Europe and the openness in the culture and that’s one big thing that I miss about Germany.
During our 4th week in Germany we have dedicated this time to do our design charette. The project site we are working on is Westpark, in Bochum, Germany. It is a post-industrial site that was dedicated to the steel industry. This site is a functional public space with recreational lawn, a restaurant, and a large building used to hold musical events. This space is very large and there are many different spots for activities as well as leisure. It is an interesting park because there is a space very inaccessible to visitors, but is a place where the locals can access. This is in the northeast corner of the site.
Our task as designers was to create a space for people to access and enjoy this northeast corner of the site. The site includes inactive, abandoned rail lines as well as 1 active train line that intersects the access path where the locals are coming to enter the site. My team developed the idea of creating microclimates are linked with the rest of the park through a continuous water system. German culture embraces the industrial aesthetic and man-made engineered systems are very common in the landscape of Germany. We wanted to embrace this post-industrial, 4th nature aesthetic and continue it very visibly throughout our design area. The design task also dealt with SoundScapes, which is the major project we are dealing with. To create multiple soundscapes with high biophonies and low anthrophonies, we are using the microclimate sites we have created to generate these pleasant soundscapes. In addition, we have also created a sound-installation that will generate pleasant geophonic sounds by using wind. This sound installation will be a man-made teepee-like structure, also doubling as an open-air shelter area. Located at the large hill 28 meters high, the high wind will blow through pipes in the sound-installation and generate organ-like noises that can be heard as visitors ascend up the hill. Inspired by the Wave Organ in San Fransisco, these pipes will be running through the soil of the hill and let out among the path that leads to the top. Wind-chimes made with wood and metal will also be a sound-generating material. Fabric will be used as well to create soft low pressure noises.
At the end of the 3 days of design charette, we were tasked to create a presentation with renderings, a site plan, ecological development ideas, analysis and soundscape planning ideas to our professors, as well as a professor from Templehof University and 2 of his students working on SoundScapes. Overall everything went very well and it was worth all the hard work and staying up late to create our designs.
I am looking forward to the rest of this week at Duisborg-Nord park, another post-industrial park. I have visited this site before and I am glad will be ending the trip on a very fun note. Stay tuned for pictures.
This day we went back to Landschaftspark and did some fun field work with the birch trees.
On the way to the sites, we stopped by a garden that displayed different uses in railroad ties and tracks. It was really interesting to see how a garden could be made from a post-industrial site on a smaller scale. Rather than letting fourth nature just happen, they actually took some of the gravel from a train track and used it as a base for mosses and ferns to grow on. Over time, this gravel will turn into a beautiful moss garden with other new plats that have adapted to live on these rocks in the shade.
We then walked into a very large open meadow/prairie/field that had a large rustic pipe running through it lifted in the air. This pipe we were able to see running through the whole town from the tower in Landschaftspark. Frank then taught us how to “age a tree” using a special pipe-like tool. This tool you drill into the bark of the tree on a slight angle so moisture doesn’t settle inside the tree and cause disease or rot. You then twist the tool and push in a needle-like object into the hole you just drilled. Twist the tool again to loosen it and then pull out the needle and you will get a small cigarette-like piece of the inside of the tree. From this piece you can see the markings of the rings of the tree and where the center of the tree is. We used this small piece of wood to count the rings and age the tree. Other information we gathered were the height, coordinates and the diameters of the trunks.
We all divided into groups of 3 people and went on opposite ends of this birch area. Each group had 2 sites to gather information from. In each site we found 5 trees (the center, north, east, west, and south) and this is the information we gathered for each site. Within each site we only took 1 age from a tree and approximated it to be the same for the other trees around it.
While in Essen, we were able to visit one of the sites that the public water board Emschergenossenshaft was working on. When we first arrived we were greeted by a man who worked with the company. He gave us a presentation of the work they were doing such as remediating the Emscher River (former above-ground sewage) and other projects they have done in the past. At the current site we were at we were able to put on hard hats and construction vests to enter the site. We walked deep underground into a large tunnel system that they created. We walked deep into the earth about 10 flights? of stairs and it instantly got colder. It was really hot this day so it felt great!
This is a great post-industrial site. I have visited here previously so it was really interesting to me to see this site again but from a different perspective. We entered the park from the agricultural area which I had never been to before. There is a 4H-like program there for kids to experience farm work, animals and nature. It is really interesting to see such a post-industrial site take place now on a agricultural area and natural grassland. We walked further into the park where the really interesting old steel mill is. This is a fourth nature park and nature is definitely taking up its part in this area. As the memory of the mining industry fades over time, so will this park. That is the real beauty that I see in this park and why it is so interesting to me at least. We were able to walk up the tall stairs that went probably over 300ft high. There was a really nice view from up here..meanwhile it was a struggle for some students who were afraid of heights. There is so much to be explored on the actual factory itself I am happy that we were able to visit the site multiple times.
The really FUN part of this park is the innovative ideas of reusing the concrete pillars that held coal material as a rock climbing wall. There were designated areas for assisted rock-climbing as well as areas that anyone could climb on without equipment. There were a lot of people climbing the facades the days we were there! Some were even professional it seemed…
Another really cool area was the large curving tunnel slide that you could use. It was metal and very FAST! A bunch of local schoolchildren were playing on this slide and even greeted some of us on our way down. Frank and Geza even used the slide and it was really cute.
CURRYWURST FOR LUNCH!!! This is the local traditional Dinslaken meal that you can find on the streets all over Germany. Th currywurst was a LOT better here than in Essen however. Had this for lunch with some fries and mayo (pommes sauce as they call it).
We were able to visit the gift shop where I found some really great souvenirs that reflected a lot of the history from this area.