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How do you recycle a bunker, part 2: the Heiligengeistfeld giant

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The Flakturm IV in a sea of concrete

The Flakturm IV in a sea of pavement

One of the traditional fun things to do in Hamburg is go to the Dom. This is a big cheesy fair held three times of year. I went there a few years ago (missed it this year!), rode the Ferris Wheel, and sampled a currywurst for the first time.

Currywurst at the Dom, 2011

Currywurst at the Dom, 2011

The site of the fair, Heiligengeistfeld, is named after the long gone Holy Ghost hospital. The 20 hectare field was used to grow food for the hospital as early as the fourteenth century. But now, with the fair gone, the site is desolate: it’s a large, flat paved area with nothing on it but a giant bunker, the old Flakturm IV. But the bunker may be at the core of re-greening the site: there is a proposal to build hanging gardens all over it.

The bunker is massive: each side is 75 meters long, the structure is 42 meters tall (about six storeys), and more than 80,000 cubic meters of concrete were used for the 3.5 meter thick walls and five meter thick roof. The whole thing, large enough to shelter 25,000 people during the worst air raid, was topped with four twin anti-aircraft cannons.

The Wilhelmsburg bunker a few years ago

The Wilhelmsburg bunker a few years ago

Project leader Robin Houcken, with a group of activists, wants to use the bunker as a focus for re-greening the area. “We got inspired by the overgrown Wilhelmsburg bunker”, he said. The formerly abandoned bunker had trees and weeds growing all over it: why not channel this image into a vision for a park?

The basis of the design is the creation of a pyramid atop the bunker. On the top level, a 1500 square meter garden will incorporate trees and areas for urban farming. The descending levels will also be planted, for a total of 1800 square meters. A ramp, vegetated as well, is to be built around the bunker for public access.

Inside the pyramid will be several rooms to host community amenities such as a library or a community kitchen, as well as small show rooms or even accommodation for touring artists. The main hall, already used periodically for technopop concerts and raves, will be renovated but still used for cultural events.

What Heiligengeist could become: the hanging gardens of hamburg

What Heiligengeist could become: the hanging gardens of hamburg

Of course, heritage values are key for a site like this. The structure of the bunker itself will not be modified.  The pyramid at the top will also include a memorial to the victims of war, including the thousand prisoners whose forced labour built the structure.

One of the remarkable aspects of the project has been the local community buy-in. From the very start, consultation and transparency were seen as key values. Anti-gentrification protests, usually so common in German cities, have not emerged here. Politicians have responded accordingly, and the project should get going in 2016. The greening will extend to parts of the parking lot, as well.

In that respect, the project website is remarkable in its thoroughness. Too bad it’s in German; I can appreciate only part of it. But I love daring projects, and this is one to follow.

Details of the design

Details of the design

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Written by enviropaul

October 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

One Response

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  1. […] How do you recycle a bunker, part one, is here, and part two is here. […]


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