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Development of Urban Green Space in West Berlin, 1948 to 1990

1948 to 1966

In West Berlin, a new Main Department of Green Space and Horticulture/ Landscape Gardening was established in 1948, headed by Fritz Witte (1900-1972) until 1965. A major focus of his work was an emergency green program, including the restoration of the Großer Tiergarten (in German) and the Humboldthain (in German). Along the inner-city Spree and the canals within the city, former loading streets and their harbors were changed into green spaces. By 1970, 150 km of the total of 290 km of waterways had been greened.

On August 22, 1949, the Urban Planning Law of the State of Berlin was adopted. As part of the land-use plan, this law also provided for an overall green-space plan, which was established in 1959 and confirmed in 1960 by the House of Representatives. The development of the city center was to be structured not with separate green spaces, but rather with an interconnected network of major green strips, which were, wherever possible, to incorporate existing green and sports facilities, take into account existing scenic contexts, and restore those that had been lost. They were planned to be three to four kilometers apart from one another, and were to connect the city center with the surrounding areas. Secondary green strips were to connect the major green strips with pedestrian pathways. Until 1970, the overall green-space plan constituted the basis for open-space development.

1966 to 1980

In 1966, Norbert Schindler (born 1918) succeeded to the office of head of the Division of Green Space and Horticulture/Landscape Gardening, subordinate to the Senate Department of Construction and Housing..

Starting in 1970, the land-use plan of July 30, 1965 became the basis for open-space development. The draft of the overall green-space plan was taken over, although the coherent network of inner-city green strips were abandoned. The density of residential areas in the city center was abandoned in favor of new certification of major residential estates in the outskirts (Falkenhagener Feld, Märkisches Viertel, Gropiusstadt). In the city center, redevelopment areas were defined covering 56,000 apartments. A large-scale transportation system was to connect the major residential areas with the industrial and commercial areas. This led to a major upsurge of construction of housing, commercial centers, and transportation and other infrastructure, at the expense of open space, especially of farmland and allotment gardens.

This destruction of open space soon sparked a barrage of criticism, given the insular situation of West Berlin. Via cooperation in the drafting of expert reports together with the Berlin University of Technology, Norbert Schindler tried to strengthen the position of spatial planning.

Numerous relevant laws were enacted during the ’70s, including the Monument Protection Law (in German) of April 24 1995, the Children’s Playground Law (in German) of January 15, 1979, the State Forest Law of January 30, 1979, and the Berlin Nature-Conservation Law (in German) of February 11, 1979. The conservation of historic gardens, the landscape planning, the Environmental Atlas, the intervention regulation, the expanded habitat and species protection, the playground development plan and the courtyard-greening program of West Berlin received nationwide acknowledgment.

1980 to 1990

In 1980, Erhard Mahler (born 1938) took over the management of the Division of Green Space and Horticulture/ Landscape Gardening. In 1981, the department, which had by then been renamed the Landscape Development and Open-Space Planning Division, was subordinated to the newly created Senate Department for Urban Development and Environmental Protection. The Plant Protection Agency (in German) and the Berlin State Forestry Agency were subordinated to the Division.

A considerable change had taken place over the preceding ten years in urban-development planning. The population increase to 2.6 million predicted in 1965 had to be corrected to 1.7 million. Public criticism of the large-scale residential estates at the outskirts, the “bulldozer redevelopment” in the city center, an excessively large-scaled traffic system (the “automobile-appropriate city”) as well as the rediscovery of urbanity led in 1984 to a complete overhaul and new version of the land-use plan.

In 1984, in addition to the land-use plan, the landscape program with a species-protection program was also drafted, and introduced as an additional planning instrument, based on the Berlin Nature-Conservation Law (in German). The landscape program is binding on government agencies as the basis for stipulations, measures and projects required for the realization of the goals and principles of nature conservation, landscape care and the general urban green space planning. At the local level, the landscape plan is established by ordinance analogously to the development plan, and is thus generally binding.

Between 1983 and 1997, a city-sponsored program for courtyard, roof, and façade greening was implemented to improve residential quality, particularly in the inner courtyards of imperial-era apartment blocks.

In the context of the German Federal Garden Show in 1985, the construction of the 90 ha Erholungspark in Britz, (Recreation Park in Britz, today Britzer Garten) was realized. It was the first new large-scale park since the Berlin Public Parks of the ’20s. It was designed to provide recreational possibilities to some 600,000 Berliners in the boroughs of Neukölln, Tempelhof and Kreuzberg, who had been cut off from their traditional recreational areas in Treptow and Köpenick since the construction of the Wall in 1961.

Between 1984 and 1987, a 14 ha neighborhood park was built on the grounds of the former Görlitzer Bahnhof (Görlitz Station) in Kreuzberg.

After 1979, the city created the financial prerequisites for garden-monument-appropriate care and restoration of public and private historic parks, city squares, gardens and cemeteries. Particularly the 750-year anniversary of the founding of Berlin in 1987 saw the restoration of the Pleasure Ground in Klein-Glienicke, of parts of the Großer Tiergarten, of the Schustherus-Park, and of the Gutspark Britz (Britz Manor Park). Into the following years, these projects were followed by measures in the Schlosspark Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace Park) and the Viktoriapark.