Publicly opened mine site “F60 overburden conveyor bridge” as light and sound installation

courtesy of Gerhard Kassner, 2003

The Lusatian Lakeland

An Eastern German Project for the Transformation of an Industrial Opencast Mining Landscape

The end of the GDR regime raised the question in the federal states of Brandenburg and Saxony in the east of Germany of what to do with the devastated lunar landscapes in the Lusatian mining district and the opencast mines which were suddenly no longer needed. The popular view, which soon became widespread, was to eliminate all traces of the legacy of the industrial and mining past as far as possible, demolishing all the briquetting factories, coking plants and power stations as well as all the chimneys, in an attempt to bury the memories of polluted air, soil and water long with their physical remains. The vast opencast pits were to be reinvented as lakes for swimming and boating, as planned by the proposal of the Mecklenburgische Seenplatte or Mecklenburg Lake District.From an economic point of view, the long-term focus in the east of Germany, Lusatia naturally included, was on prolonging the industrial policy and the promotion of business development as instruments which had stood the test of decades. Consequently it is no wonder that in the Saxon part of Lusatia, the “Karl-May-Land” project was initiated, a large-scale post-mining landscape development project aimed at creating the illusion of an American Western landscape of Indian reservations and open prairies. However, such projects hang by “30 threads”, and if just one of these threads breaks (the investor pulls out, the government funding does not materialise, the water doesn’t rise as planned…), the whole project is shelved – as happened in the end.The Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) Fürst-Pückler-Land (2000 – 2010), by contrast, had 30 projects and therefore 30 feet to stand on, which could support and stabilise each other. The initiators of the IBA Fürst-Pückler-Land staked everything on a large number of smaller individual projects, on endogenous potential, and on networking and cooperation between the key players in the region. The vision was for Lusatia to become a workshop for new landscapes, providing the resources for a new type of man-made environment to emerge from the post-mining landscapes. In short, the aim was an environment that does not disown its industrial past and acts as a vehicle to carry the long tradition of innovations in engineering through to the modern era.As far back as 2009, the IBA conference “Post-Mining Landscape” confirmed that although there may be more spectacular projects in other places, it was the first time that anything had been undertaken on this scale anywhere in the world, with 30 individual projects involving the local people and following a clearly-defined philosophy of the recreation of a landscape laid waste….

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