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The “Green Belt Berlin”: Establishing a greenway where the Berlin Wall once stood by integrating ecological, social and cultural approaches

Kowarik, Ingo
Landscape and urban planning 2019 v.184 pp. 12-22
biodiversity conservation, case studies, cities, ecosystem services, ecosystems, green infrastructure, hinterland, landscapes, open space, parks, politics, urban planning
Urban greenways benefit urban dwellers by providing multiple ecosystem services and by supporting biodiversity conservation in cities. Increasing competition for open space in growing cities, however, often hinders the establishment of greenways in those places where social demands for related services are highest. In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a new greenway, the “Green Belt Berlin,” is being established within the former border zone, which now links Berlin’s core with the rural hinterland. An analysis of the planning approaches and principles that directed the implementation of the greenway and the transformation of vacant urban land into new parks revealed ways to (i) extend urban green infrastructure in times and places of political transformation; (ii) justify new greenspace by combining multiple ecological, social, and cultural goals within overarching planning programs; (iii) conserve and stage remnants of the Berlin Wall, allowing the greenway to become part of a decentralized memorial landscape; (iv) work with novel ecosystems and wild urban nature by integrating ecology with urban planning and design; and (v) use design interventions to create “orderly frames.” Spatial analyses indicate that the new greenway may reduce environmental inequity in Berlin as it largely intersects neighborhoods where disadvantaged status coincides with poor access to urban greenspace. This case study thus demonstrates opportunities to strengthen the urban green infrastructure of growing cities through integrative planning approaches.