tasty ribbon ruhr: edible and drinkable cycle paths for the ruhr region

tasty ribbon ruhr:
edible and drinkable cycle paths for
the ruhr region

Sustainability is trendy. Especially in the wake of climate change, it is becoming increasingly important to implement long-term solutions. Here in the Ruhr region, too, there are many new ideas. lala.ruhr supports the new project of the food councils of the cities of Bochum, Dortmund and Essen and the initiative “Schwerte pflanzt”: With the “Schlaraffenband Ruhr”, edible wild plants are to be planted along the cycle paths Emscher-Weg, RuhrtalRadweg and the future cycle path Ruhr (RS1), snacking places are to be created and drinking fountains installed. In this way, easy access to sustainable and local food can be created and interesting knowledge about edible plants can be imparted at the same time.

The idea combines the attributes of eating, networking and sustainable in a fairytale way, so to speak: “We don’t have chicken flying into our mouths, but it can be nibbled and the path from plant to plate is very short.” (Quote from EssBO!)

Accordingly, the name was created in reference to the fictional, playful place “Schlaraffenland” from many earlier fairy tales. The chain ribbon stands for the cycle paths that link the region. The pearls form the individual nibbling places. In summary: the concept of a tangible sustainable, edible and drinkable Metropole Ruhr of the future present!

Green infrastructure is increasingly coming into focus in the Ruhr region: the numerous industrial areas are flourishing and the appreciation for nature in the city is increasing. The cycle paths (RS1), Emscher-Weg and RuhrtalRadweg connect the entire Metropole Ruhr from west to east over a distance of approx. 1200 km, thus creating environmentally friendly links between the cities. Edible wild plants such as blackberry, quince, raspberry, apple, thyme, borage and drinking water fountains are to be established along these cycle routes. Citizens can also take care of these urban nibbling oases themselves and make a contribution to the project and to nature in their surroundings; keyword: care through participation. Because: The sense for the origin and value of good food was lost more and more in the late 20th century and is to be strengthened again through this initiative. Environmental education is strengthened through information boards at the respective locations.

The conviction of the initiators: The implementation of the Schlaraffenband Ruhr will promote urban greenery, strengthen sustainable urban planning and transport, and create biodiversity and species diversity. The first pilot projects are to be implemented in the next few years. Until then, in addition to the numerous contributors, we are still looking for further supporters who are passionate about the topic and can identify with it.

So get in touch with:
Nutrition Council Bochum
c/o Griesenbruchstraße 9
44793 Bochum

Only with your support can the Schlaraffenband Ruhr continue to exist in the future and initiate other follow-up projects. Join in, eat, drink, cycle, care for your food and engage in lively exchange with your fellow human beings!

The concept of all participating actors can be downloaded here (in German): Schlaraffenband-Konzept-I06

Author: Stephanie Stiehm

lala.ruhr supports the vision “Schlarrafenband Ruhr”.

Future of City Cetners: Documentation of Cultur-Conference Ruhr published!

cultural conference ruhr:
documentation published!

This was the motto of the Cultural Conference 2021 as a format to which the Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR) and the state of NRW invite annually in order to offer the cultural scene a stage for regional and cultural-political as well as artistic discourse.
lala.ruhr was also there and explored the question from the perspective of the urban landscape in its own workshop: The future of centres is green, inclusive and productive.

The city centre of Herne as a “laboratory for the landscape”: The workshop explored the green potential of the urban space from different perspectives. The goal: to upgrade the city centre, with a special focus on open spaces and streets, towards a more liveable place. An upgrading of the city centre is by no means exclusively linked to the new construction or conversion of buildings. Outdoor spaces offer potential in many ways, making multifunctional use just as possible as temporary projects and a fundamental green urban development adapted to the consequences of climate change. Sebastian Schlecht of lala.ruhr: “If it’s not about money, but about the quality of the city centre, then a car park can be more than an asphalt surface and a green space more than a mown lawn.” He said it was important to see such places as “opportunities” and to design and use them in a new or different way together with the people – “that has a lot to do with quality of life and a liveable inner city.”

The documentation of the cultural conference has now been published and can be downloaded free of charge from the website of the Ruhr Regional Association and ordered as a print edition.

takeover*: the concept of urban metabolism

the concept of urban metabolism

Everyone in the world produces waste: the banana peel as organic waste, the mobile phone battery as electronic waste, the cardboard box as waste paper or the plastic bag as a recycled product. Especially in times of the Corona pandemic, much more garbage/waste was produced in general, which, moreover, could often only be incinerated. The reason for this: Corona viruses potentially adhering to it.

In science, too, many research series are underway that deal with the avoidance of waste and the reuse of materials. Consequently, our cities have an “urban metabolism”, which refers to the transformation of materials and energy in a city.[1]
The term was coined by the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, as early as 1844 in relation to environmental sociology. Marx made it clear that we humans are dependent on nature and damage it with our economic processes [2]. The basic concept of urban metabolism then goes back to the US engineer Abel Wolman in 1965, who for the first time considered the city as an ecosystem in its own right with its material and energy flows [3].

Since the 19th century, cities have become increasingly important because they were and are the engine of economic growth. Cities are an open system that consumes energy, fuels, raw materials, water, food and air. After these resources have been used, waste, pollutants or even waste water are produced, unless they are tied up in infrastructures. The larger a city becomes – whether with the expansion of its area or the increase in population – the higher the demand for resources/materials increases. Due to different factors, however, each city must be considered as an individual. Thus, in order to be able to determine the urban metabolism, the three most common methods are used: Material Flow Analysis, Ecological Footprint Adaptation and Life Cycle Assessment (see blog post on HeimatERBE). The focus is always on the inputs and outputs of a city and the resulting impact on humanity and the environment.

Solutions and realistic goals are needed to tackle the problems created in cities: more efficient use of local resources, use of recycling systems including waste prevention and management strategies, provision of clean air and recreational green spaces, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and urban planning (climate) adaptation strategies. It also aims to end huge exports of waste abroad and use local recycling and closed-loop incinerators. New product designs help to make reusable materials more attractive.
In many places, projects on the topic of “waste” are already being set up in schools to raise awareness of “waste”. Whether it is picking up rubbish or learning how to separate it properly, everything has an effect on our environment. The data collected in this way can benefit science. Through comprehensive mapping, processes for waste avoidance or recycling can be improved.

For a global overview of the different urban metabolic processes, the “Metabolism of Cities” platform is a good place to start. Take a look, discover and accumulate knowledge. Another literature tip: The page of the format “Quarks und Co” on the topic of waste.

Text author: Stephanie Stiehm

lala.ruhr takes over the Instagram account of vier.ruhr, the alliance of Mülheim theatres, for three weeks with the takeover in January 2022. Our theme: the rubbish complex. We’ll take you on a digital journey through the region and beyond – to places where something is created from rubbish or where work is done with what we colloquially call it. We invite you to also think of the urban landscape of the Metropole Ruhr in a circular way and to discover all materials as part of cycles. We present the HeimatERBE company because, among other things, it takes care of the conversion of areas that were previously considered “useless” in the public perception and enables business enterprises to act in an environmentally neutral way.
vier.ruhr is the theatre alliance of Theater an der Ruhr, Mülheim Theatre Days “Stücke” and Ringlokschuppen Ruhr. Funded within the framework of NEUE WEGE by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia in cooperation with the NRWKULTURsekretariat.

[1] Oke, T. R.; Mills, G.; Christen, A.; Voogt, J. A. (2017): Urban climates. Cambridge. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139016476
[2] Bleher, D.; Öko-Institut e.V.. (2017): Resource impact of urban metabolism Results of WP 1.1 within the UFOPLAN project FKZ: 3715 75 122 0. Darmstadt.
[3] Sanches, T. L.; Santos Bento, N. V. (2020): Urban Metabolism: A Tool to Accelerate the Transition to a Circular Economy. In: Filho, W. L.; Azul, A. M.; Brandli, L.; Özuyar, P. G.; Wall, T. (eds.): Sustainable Cities and Communities. 860-867. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-95717-3_117

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Everyone in the world produces waste: the banana peel as organic waste, the mobile phone battery as electronic waste, the cardboard box as waste paper or the plastic bag as a recycled product. Rubbish is part of the “urban metabolism”.

© Broy

takeover*: HeimatERBE - a conservation forge for the ruhr area

takeover*: home heritage
- a conservation forge
for the ruhr area

Holiday trips, exotic foods and things that end up in the corner immediately afterwards are part of our everyday consumer behaviour. This has a negative impact on our environment: important resources are consumed, habitats are degraded or destroyed and species extinction is on the rise. So how can the damage caused in this way be avoided and compensated for in order to achieve an ecological, environmentally sound way of life in the long term?

lala.ruhr cooperates with the Impact Factory, a start-up platform for social entrepreneurship, and has exchanged ideas here with the innovative Essen-based company HeimatERBE GmbH.

HeimatERBE GmbH was founded together with its sister company greenzero.me 2020 by Dr. Dirk Gratzel after he had made it his mission to record and compensate for all the environmental damage he had caused in his life. To this end, he was in contact with numerous scientists and was finally the first person to determine his complete life eco-balance and the resulting damage to the environment together with the TU Berlin and the TU Braunschweig – this corresponds to what greenzero.me does today. Together with other experts from the fields of forestry, ecology, biology and nature conservation, he then developed a strategy to compensate for the environmental damage – this is now the work of HeimatERBE GmbH. With the help of the two sister companies, business enterprises in the B2B model now have the opportunity to make their organisation, their service or their products environmentally neutral.

HeimatERBE now has seven employees in the fields of ecology, economy and technology. The urban and landscape ecologist Madlen Sprenger (M.Sc.) was a guest at lala.ruhr and told us about the idea behind HeimatERBE’s corporate principle. In the interview with our intern Stephanie Stiehm, the compensation of environmental damage and the HeimatERBE principle were discussed:

What exactly do you do at HeimatERBE? What is your mission?

The goal of HeimatERBE is to compensate for negative environmental impacts. To this end, we are currently restoring old industrial sites from the Ruhr region to as good an ecological condition as possible, in which they then provide (secondary) habitats for diverse plant and animal species. Natural as well as cultural landscape biotopes thus ensure the creation of new ecosystem services as well as the preservation and improvement of existing ones*. The creation of new biodiversity and the protection of the climate and people are the top priorities for HeimatERBE. HeimatERBE thus creates added value for nature and for society. They offer this added value to companies to compensate for their negative environmental impacts from services or products, for example.

*”Ecosystem services are the services provided by nature to humans through habitats and living organisms such as animals and plants. Ecosystem services provide the basis for basic human needs, such as access to water and food. Functioning ecosystems depend on an interplay of numerous organisms, such as primary producers (e.g. plants), herbivores, carnivores, destructors (decomposers), pollinators and pathogens. Biodiversity with all its levels is therefore considered the essential cornerstone of ecosystem services” [1].

 What is the HeimatERBE principle? What components does it consist of?

The HeimatERBE principle describes the process that leads to achieving environmental neutrality. At the beginning of each project, the life cycle assessment of a person, organisation, product or service must be calculated. This analysis determines all environmental impacts from production to disposal, including the manufacture of consumer goods. (This balancing is standardised in DIN EN ISO 14040/44.) The results are then monetarised – i.e. converted into environmental costs according to the standard of the Federal Environment Agency. The environmental costs are a purely monetary amount which we receive from our life cycle assessor (e.g. greenzero.me). It describes the actual environmental impacts. This then results in the environmental value, which creates a balance between the environmental costs. The environmental value represents the amount of money needed to compensate for the harmful environmental impacts. What we have to spend financially for the production of efficient and functional ecosystems – i.e. the production costs up to “biotope maturity”, corresponds to the environmental value.

How can HeimatERBE then work with it?

Life cycle assessment and monetisation are of course always aimed at causing some damage. Of course, it is important to reduce this damage as much as possible in the process first. HeimatERBE only offers compensation for such processes that have already been optimised. What we then do is reinvest these identified environmental costs. The environmental value we create is the reflection of the environmental costs. This is the momentum where environmental neutrality is achieved because the costs are reinvested at this point in the process and the externalities are internalised. The customer has to pay one-to-one for the compensation of the environmental costs. By monitoring the development status, HeimatERBE can check whether the goals of its compensation measures, which we describe in a development plan beforehand, are being achieved. For HeimatERBE, the focus is on environmental neutrality. In addition to the greenhouse effect caused by the emission of climate-altering gases, components such as acidification, overfertilisation (eutrophication), ozone pollution on the ground (summer smog) and destruction of the (protective) ozone layer in the stratosphere are also included. Compensation strengthens the protected goods of biodiversity, climate and human health. The terms explained above, such as life cycle assessment, monetarisation, environmental value and ecological enhancement performance, are elementary components for achieving environmental neutrality.

What are your current projects and what are your next plans?

A current example is the former Ewald 5 shaft site in Herten. There, an old forge stands on the site as a very special feature. The area was still relatively heavily used as a construction site until August 2021. Today, calm has returned and we decided to convert the building into a “species protection forge” – we had already found traces of (previous) colonisation by a barn owl and bats, so the rededication was perfect. This means that the whole building is for species protection only. We have closed the building completely to humans and have only created entry points for animals, especially for bats and for birds that live in the building. In addition, we have created nesting aids and roosting structures on the façade and inside the building, which can be used as habitats for the animals. But there are also small entrances for ground-dwelling small mammals and co, which can also find shelter there. However, this building only makes up a small part of the 8 ha area. In other parts of the site, HeimatERBE will also carry out unsealing and deconstruction measures, remove rubbish, preserve and optimise existing biotopes (e.g. convert afforested stands into native forest communities or convert damp open land into extensive cultural landscape use) and create new habitat types or encourage/allow their development (e.g. fields with pioneer and spontaneous vegetation, flower-rich herbaceous borders, wild fruit stands).

Another very interesting site is the Kurl 3 area in Lünen. There, for example, goldenrod is relatively widespread and actually determines the whole character of the area. At first we thought it would probably make the most sense to remove the soil. But in contact with NABU from Unna, it turned out that various orchids were already present there. Now we are in the process of gently converting this area so that we can preserve the orchid populations.

A very special project, which far exceeds our previous work in complexity and scope, is currently underway in Duisburg-Ruhrort. Together with the Haniel company, we at HeimatERBE and greenzero.me have set ourselves the task of transforming the district into the world’s first environmentally neutral neighbourhood by 2029. There will be a lot of work to do with the city, local businesses, interest groups and, of course, the citizens of Ruhrort. It will be a challenging project that has great potential for the district, the whole city of Duisburg and the Ruhr region.

Further purchases of degraded and devastated areas, which do not necessarily have to be former industrial sites and in the Ruhr area, are planned in order to be able to meet the growing demand for holistic, multi-dimensional and local compensation, according to our previous working methods.

All further information about the current projects and much more can be found on the HeimatERBE website. There is also a film explaining further details.

* lala.ruhr takes over the Instagram account of vier.ruhr, the alliance of Mülheim theatres, for three weeks with the takeover in January 2022. Our theme: the rubbish complex. We’ll take you on a digital journey through the region and beyond – to places where something is created from rubbish or where work is done with what we colloquially call it. We invite you to also think of the urban landscape of the Metropole Ruhr in a circular way and to discover all materials as part of cycles. We present the HeimatERBE company because, among other things, it takes care of the conversion of areas that were previously considered “useless” in the public perception and enables business enterprises to act in an environmentally neutral way.

Author: Stephanie Stiehm

[1] Umweltdachverband (n.d.): Ökosystemleistungen – von der Natur kostenlos erbracht https://www.umweltdachverband.at/themen/naturschutz/biodiversitaet/oekosystemleistungen/

The “Species Protection Forge” at the Ewald 5 shaft site in Herten – one of HeimatERBE’s projects. © HeimatERBE

The role of urban biodiversity

The role
of urban

Biodiversity is one of the central issues of our time and also an important topic in the work of von lala.ruhr in an urban context. The contribution of urban nature to a livable environment not only promotes the quality of life of the human inhabitants of our cities. A high level of biodiversity enables our cities as green infrastructures to meet the demands of today’s world. For this reason, Stephanie Stiehm, an intern at lala.ruhr and a master’s student in geography with a specialization in urban and landscape ecology, has broken down the role biodiversity plays in our cities for our blog in this post.

The global population is growing – with more and more people living in urban areas, increasing the level of urbanization. By 2050, over 68% of people are expected to live in cities. Species extinction and the associated loss of biodiversity is also one of the great crises of our time. In the last 50 years, about 50% of all species have become extinct. What role do cities play in this? Our cities are also part of an interconnected ecosystem and thus also provide a good living environment for people. 

The term biodiversity is generally divided into three levels: Genetic diversity, species diversity and habitat diversity. They are subject to constant temporal and spatial dynamics: “urban biodiversity” does not only encompass natural processes, but also includes deliberate anthropogenic (human) actions. Consequently, biodiversity in urban areas is not found, but also co-created by citizens [1]. Furthermore, regional biodiversity impact refers to the influence of human life in the city on the surrounding countryside. On the global scale, regional influences are then transferred to distant countries and their ecosystems.

But where exactly does biodiversity exist in the city? Urban wilderness includes pavement crevice vegetation, areas of free succession, or completely pristine areas [2]. Biodiversity is actually higher in cities compared to rural areas due to their many different habitats. These include urban forests, urban parks, open green spaces, watercourses and many other micro-biotopes.

The high occurrence of species in urban areas is explained by many areas in the city that can be left to natural succession as well as different stages of succession coexisting. Examples include railroad tracks, rooftops, houses, industrial sites, roadsides, and brownfields. The number of therophytes (annual plants) increases with the degree of urbanization. This is due to the structural richness of the urban habitat explained above, as well as the availability of a variety of food and habitat. In addition, animals may live under reducing competition with other conspecifics. A common feature of cities is the increased occurrence of neobiota. The term neobiota refers to all species that live in an area (in this case, the urban area) by being non-native [1].

First, the difference between rarity and endangerment must be noted. The term rarity includes the actual occurrence of species without human intervention. If organisms occur infrequently, they are classified as rare. The endangerment is to be described with a negative population development. The cause of this is often man, which is why we also speak of anthropogenic rarity. The “Red List” serves as a directory or overview table of the endangerment status of animals and plants and is used as a data source. 

In North Rhine-Westphalia, 43,000 fungi, plants and animals exist [3]. Many of these creatures are endangered and are designated as species relevant to planning. Special attention must be paid to these species during construction projects and if their habitats are destroyed, replacement and compensation areas must be created.

Biodiversity is measured by means of biotope mapping (especially for plants) and counts of species groups or single individuals. In the process, values for population density are determined. In the end, species guidelines are often developed for the cities, whereby biodiversity can be increased in a targeted manner.

Activities in the Ruhr area 

The Urban Biodiversity Network has existed in the Metropole Ruhr since 2012. It consists of numerous researchers and institutions of the Ruhr area, which deal with the topic of biodiversity and develop a strategy for the Metropole Ruhr. The aim is to develop measures that preserve and promote regional biodiversity. Since mid-2020, the “Regional Biodiversity Strategy Ruhr Area” has been funded by the state government. It is a sub-project of the “Green Infrastructure Offensive 2030”, which is being carried out by the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR). 

In March of this year, position papers were produced that focused on nine key topics: Species and Biotope Protection, Industrial Nature, Urban Agriculture, Urban Forest Use, Open Space and Biotope Connectivity, Climate Change and Climate Adaptation, Urban Green and Social Cohesion, Urban Green and Health Care, and Environmental Education. They provide a guideline and serve as a basis for discussion for the future regional biodiversity strategy.

It is widely recognized that animals, plants and microorganisms are important to our natural and water balance. They provide numerous ecosystem services, such as cooling the ambient temperature, serve as natural retention areas, and can filter or break down pollutants and produce oxygen and store carbon, for example. In addition to these provisioning and regulating services, there are also cultural services. Biodiversity also brings a lot of aesthetics, spirituality, education and recreation [1]. The health and well-being of residents inside increases due to a biodiverse urban nature.

Now it is also up to you to rediscover biodiversity in cities and perhaps also contribute a small part on your doorstep to make our cities green and livable.

Author: Stephanie Stiehm


[1] Breuste, J. (2019) Die Grüne Stadt. Stadtnatur als Ideal, Leistungsträger und Konzept für Stadtgestaltung. Berlin. 375 S. 

[2] Keil, P.; Hering, D.; Schmitt, T. & Zepp, H. (Hrsg.) (2021) Positionen zu einer Regionalen Biodiversitätsstrategie Ruhrgebiet – Studie im Rahmen der Offensive Grüne Infrastruktur 2030. Oberhausen, Essen und Bochum. 228 S.

[3] NABU (o.J.) Tiere und Pflanzen Nordrhein-Westfalens. Artenvielfalt erhalten und schützen https://nrw.nabu.de/tiere-und-pflanzen/index.html

Image of spontaneous urban nature at the Ruhr-University Bochum © S.Stiehm

The future of centres is inclusive, green and productive!

The future of centres is
inclusive, green and

How do you bring more quality of stay into the city centre, how more culture and identity? This year’s Kulturkonferenz Ruhr in Herne addressed this question with an extensive programme. At the invitation of the Regionalverband Ruhr, lala.ruhr contributed a workshop – the title of which also referred to our approach: The future of the centres is inclusive, green and productive!

We were able to win over three organisations from our network to examine Herne’s inner city with us from different perspectives: The Dortmunder Urbanisten e.V. (speaker: Annette Bathen) addressed the idea of productive inner cities. The group from kitev (Oberhausen, speaker: Petra Jablonická) dealt with green stations as special transit spaces. “Gemeinsam für Stadtwandel” (Essen, speaker: Martina Nies) focused on the collaborative city. All three presented their perspectives on the city in short inputs before a tour together with the participants of the cultural conference – cultural workers as well as representatives from administration and urban planning – collected concrete ideas and suggestions for the transformation of concrete spaces in the city centre.

During the tours, exemplary ideas for transformation were discussed in concrete terms and recorded photographically – the basis for our memory maps of the potential places in Herne’s inner city.
One example: the car park on Cranger Straße as a busy main street: during the excursion it became clear that it is empty for most of the day and is only used during “rush hour” in the afternoon when parents pick up their children from the adjacent primary school. The idea that emerged during the tour: with simple means such as plants, the square could be quickly, effectively and clearly separated from the main road. Some of the hardly used parking spaces could be replaced by benches and a bike (repair) café with music could be placed there during the midday rush hour to encourage parents and children to cycle to school and spend time together in the new green oasis.

This idea is exemplary for many of the impressions, photos and visions that were discussed in the final round: to be implemented with simple means, commitment and cooperation. In addition to concrete results on site, this also promotes a process culture that involves different actors and empowers them to shape the inner city as a place worth living in. All participants in the workshop agreed that the multitude of exemplary approaches found in all three tours can also be used in your daily work with cities.

Impression from the workshop for lala.ruhr at the Kulturkonferenz Herne. Photo: RVR / Oberhäuser

Imagine Green Urban Futures at Places Festival 2021

Imagine Green
Urban Futures

Imagine Green Urban Futures: This was the motto of lala.ruhr’s programme at the Places VR Festival. Because: We need images for the future of our urban landscapes. Conventional plans and illustrations are difficult for many people to grasp. Extended Reality, on the other hand, makes visions come alive and vivid, as became clear in the programme around Bochumer Straße in Gelsenkirchen.

Three teams created their augmented reality applications especially for the festival, in which they each designed a section of Bochumer Straße – a 120-year-old street in Ückendorf – in a green and visionary way: Via smartphone and tablet, the festival visitors were able to see for themselves how powerful these impulses are when they are not only transported via paper, but become four-dimensional and thus come to life.

The respective offices, or protagonists, had previously qualified through a competition and pursued different approaches:

The respective offices, or protagonists, had previously qualified through a competition and pursued different approaches:

Anja Cambria Oellermann, scenographer from Hamburg, placed the discovery of urban nature and the curiosity of visitors at the centre of her vision for Bergmannplatz, including nature islands, a wildflower field and a small pond.

The Cologne-based firm Greenbox Landschaftsarchitekten invited visitors to discover the “Green Canyon” and transformed the street, which is dominated by car traffic, into a lively spatial installation that can be used on several levels, including details such as integrated photovoltaic elements and a charging infrastructure for e-cars.

The Berlin agency pimento formate focused on edutainment for sustainability and combined elements such as virtual palm trees, flowers and bubbling fountains with information on suitability under aspects of climate neutrality.

In a fourth section along Bochumer Straße, the visitors could become active themselves and not only provide greenery, but also wish for elephants, zebras and sofas.

In the courtyard of the Quartieroase, visitors followed impulses and panels on digitality in planning on both days. In the adjacent garages, which were transformed into lounges with the help of sofas, carpets and the like, our technology partner for the implementation of AR applications, the Aachen-based start-up Cityscaper, as well as pimento formate with the project “futureleafmission” and the team from Greenymizer with their vision of an app for more digital participation in the Green City of the future presented themselves – a very special reunion, as the team had formed at the hackathon at the Places Festival 2020 and won two awards with a prototype. In addition, a video loop in the Garage Lounge offered the opportunity to get to know other innovative XR projects.

The programme was complemented by a poster exhibition, through which the following international projects and offices were presented with references to the respective project pages:

  • AVP (Düsseldorf): Presentation of complex real estate projects in virtual animation.
  • Anja Cambria Oellermann & Shaouhan Hu: Ensō – Analysis of the Boundary
    between water and land in Japanese temples and in the urban space of Kiel.
  • Form Follows You GmbH (Berlin): Digital Participation Bahnhofstraße Lichtenrade
  • Green4Cities (Vienna): Developing Urban Green Visions
  • Greenymizer: Vision of the app “City Greenymizer” for citizen participation
  • Dr. Nadina Galle (Amsterdam): “Internet of Nature” for building smart green cities
  • Jan Kamensky (Hamburg): Utopia for Bicyclists – Utopian animations
  • LAND (Milan/Lugana/Düsseldorf: CariGO GREEN3 – Digital Landscape. Programme for the territorial development of the landscape Gorizia on the border between Italy and Slovenia
  • pimento formate (Berlin): Futureleaf – AR-Mission on microplastics in the city
  • Katie Patrick (San Francisco): Can Gamification save the planet?

“Imagine Green Urban Futures” was made possible by a grant from the E.ON Foundation and cityscaper, our technology partner for the development of the AR applications.

Sincere thanks also go to our speakers:
Stephan Muschick (E.ON Foundation), Stefanie Hugot (Head of the Department of Urban Planning at the City of Gelsenkirchen), Dr. Volker Settgast (Fraunhofer Austria), Hilke Berger and Immanuel Schipper (HafenCity University Hamburg), Matthias Funk (scape Landschaftsarchitekten GmbH), Burkhard Drescher (Innovation City Management GmbH), Prof. Dr. Ismeni Walter (University of Applied Sciences Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Ismeni Walter (University of Applied Sciences Hamburg). Dr. Ismeni Walter (Ansbach University of Applied Sciences) & Michelle Adolfs (Team Greenymizer VR), Elle Langer and Markus Mende (pimento formate), BIMa.solutions – Virtual Reality for Architecture, Sebastian Witt, Juliane Ebeling and Robin Römer (Cityscaper Aachen).

Imagine Green Urban Futures – a visitor uses the AR applications. Photo: Places _ VR Festival/Ole-Kristian Heyer

polis AWARD 2021 for lala.ruhr in communicative urban design

polis award:
3rd place for

The lala.ruhr team is delighted about the polis award: we won 3rd place in the category “Communicative Urban Design”, which honours instruments that involve people creatively and at eye level in urban development processes.

1st place went to the online public participation process for the urban open space planning competition “Am Alten Güterbahnhof” in Duisburg, 2nd place to the audio walk of the model project “Rathausblock” in Berlin. Congratulations to all nominees and award winners, also in the other categories!

The polis award of the polis Magazine for Urban Development is presented annually in various categories to projects in urban development and the real estate industry that are based on a spirit of partnership in the development of solutions for the city of the future.

Presentation of the award to lala.ruhr at the polis Convention 2021 in Düsseldorf.

Green Infrastructure Offensive: Handing over the recommendations for action to the RVR

green infrastructure offensive:
handover of
recommendations for action
to the RVR

The time has come: The team of lala.ruhr, commissioned by and in cooperation with the Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR), has developed a strategic-conceptual contribution as a building block for the communication offensive Green Infrastructure of the RVR in a process lasting several months. This has now been handed over to Nina Frense (Councillor for the Environment and Green Infrastructure). In essence, the aim was to develop proposals and to win over actors from different areas for cooperation.

The results of the “Festival of Landscape”, which reached over 200 participants in digital space in February, as well as interviews with innovative landscape and urban designers, people involved in non-institutional planning contexts and artistic perspectives were incorporated. Hints and approaches for goal-oriented communication and the involvement of actors in the design of green infrastructure in the Metropole Ruhr were compiled and described in the present recommendations for action, which can serve as a basis for the regional joint project of designing and communicating a sustainable urban landscape.

lala.ruhr would like to thank all those who contributed their expertise – whether as interviewees or participants in the Festival of Landscape or participants of the digital festival formats!

Handover of the recommendations for action to Nina Frense (Deputy for the Environment and Green Infrastructure of the Ruhr Regional Association, RVR, centre) by the lala.ruhr initiators Sebastian Schlecht (left) and Melanie Kemner (right). Photo: RVR/Volker Wiciok

Podcast tip: the one minute city and the Internet of nature!

Podcast tip:
the one minute city
and the
internet of nature!

At the lala.ruhr festival in February this year, there was a very special live session that was recorded and has now been released as an English-language podcast: The one minute city and the internet of nature! It is an episode of the Urban Landscape Lab podcast with Tommaso Bassetti, expert in urban and climate policy, which provides a platform for discussing experiences, innovative ideas and projects at the intersection of urban quality of life, green performance and quality.

As a result of the pandemic, we have had and continue to have less or no access to offices, bars, restaurants, museums and open spaces. Never before has urban quality of life been so dependent on the spaces that lie outside our doors. Together with Dr. Nadina Galle, ecological engineer and pioneer of the concept “Internet of Nature”, and Andrea Balestrini, director of LAND Research Lab, we explored during the festival how ordinary urban streets can be redesigned to benefit their inhabitants even after the pandemic, while increasing resilience to an accelerating climate crisis through green performance.

If you missed the session during our festival, you can now listen in here:


Apply: Imagine green urban futures - lala.ruhr goes places!

Imagine green urban future
- lala.ruhr goes places!

Are you a tech-savvy (landscape) architect, urban planner, designer or innovator?
Then lala.ruhr in cooperation with the Places_Virtual Reality Festival in Gelsenkirchen-Ückendorf has a very special challenge for you, namely the competition “Imagine Green Urban Futures”!

What is it about? The task: You develop a green and sustainable vision for Bochumer Straße – a 120-year-old street in Ückendorf, based on existing 3D data. The 3D models will then be converted into real AR applications by our technology partner cityscaper and can be explored by visitors to the Places _ VR Festival (17 & 18.09.2021) via smartphone or tablet.


Picture: Ravi Sejk

The process:

  • You submit your application with the selected street section of Bochumer Straße by 11 July.
  • A jury of experts will select three participants/teams.
  • You will receive an allowance of 1,000€ and work on your vision for one month.
  • Visitors to the Places _ VR Festival can experience your vision live in augmented reality on 17 & 18 September 2021.

The Places _ Virtual Reality Festival is Germany’s first, largest, freely accessible and free festival for virtual reality. In 2021, the festival will enter its third round. The Places _ VR Festival is aimed equally at a professional audience, but especially at a broad public audience, and has been taking place in Gelsenkirchen-Ückendorf since 2018. Places is a meeting place for the German and European XR industry as well as a contact point for many people interested in VR.

The project is realised together with cityscaper as a technology partner and the e.on Foundation as a sponsor. Together we want to test the concrete use of augmented reality in urban planning in order to give new impulses for participation and citizen involvement – so that the city of the future can be experienced and the debate about it becomes lively.

Apply now with your idea, become part of our “Imagine Green Urban Futures” project, work on your vision from mid-July to August and receive 1,000€ expense allowance and implement your 3D model, which visitors to the Places _ VR Festival can then test and experience in AR!

All information and the link to the application form can be found here. 

lImagine Green Urban Futures – be part of the Places_Virtual Reality Festival with your vision! Photo: Cityscaper

lala.ruhr - the film: On the road with the actors in the region!

lala.ruhr - the film:
On the road with the actors
in our region!

In order to shape the green city of the future, many perspectives are needed – lala.ruhr has set itself the task of collecting these, promoting exchange and discussing visions and concepts for the future of the Metropole Ruhr. After the participatory festival of the landscape of the Metropole Ruhr, which took place in digital space in February, we have been on the road in Essen, Gelsenkirchen and Oberhausen in recent weeks to visit innovative projects and capture exciting voices and faces.

With the support of the Regionalverband Ruhr and three protagonists, the result is a 12-minute film from a variety of perspectives. What is the job of landscape architects? Have you ever heard of organism democracy? And what happens on the roof of the Oberhausen Job Centre? You can find the answers in the film! We are looking forward to your feedback!

In order to shape the green city of the future, many perspectives are needed – three of them are captured in our new film.

Workshop report: Urban gardening in the Ruhr area

workshop report: Urban gardening
in the
Ruhr area

More community gardens in the Ruhr area – how does that work? Jonas Runte and Nils Rehkop recently explored this question in a digital workshop organised by lala.ruhr. As members of the Dortmund Urbanists, they can report from years of practical experience in the implementation of community gardens.
Public, communal and voluntary – these are the core elements of the definition of urban gardens. More than 100 urban gardens and about 1600 allotment gardens exist in NRW. In the city in the form of community gardens, school gardens, guerrilla gardening and “edible city” areas, close to the city as rented fields or areas for solidarity agriculture. The facilities serve a variety of aspects: in addition to environmental protection and the strengthening of biodiversity, social aspects in particular are in the foreground. Gardening together promotes, among other things, encounters and exchange, identification with the neighbourhood, and saves money through the aspect of self-sufficiency.
However, it is not enough to “put a garden in front of people’s doors”. According to the urbanists’ experience, it is much more important to build up a motivated group that is willing to get its hands dirty. Not only with soil, but also with the sometimes exhausting filling out of papers. Nevertheless: gardening together in the Ruhr area is possible and it is fun, so the conclusion. If you are interested in the various examples from Dortmund and the surrounding area as well as information on funding opportunities, you can find the presentation on the workshop here: Urbane-Gärten-im-Ruhrgebiet-die-Urbanisten

Text: Jonas Runte/Sonja Broy
Foto: die Urbanisten e.V.

The urbanists are active in Dortmund’s Westgarten, among other places.

green-blue streets: planning task at the rwth aachen

green-blue streets:
planning task at the
rwth aachen

green-blue streets: Water-sensitive city Essen-Altendorf. This is the title of a planning task of the Chair of Landscape Architecture at RWTH Aachen University, which was co-developed by lala.ruhr. The project involves the development of a neighbourhood model for liveable, green-blue streets, its elaboration for a street and square space as well as another open space of one’s own choice in the neighbourhood.

The background to the task in the current summer semester: our cities must become more water-sensitive. Under the conditions of climate change, green and blue infrastructure play an increasingly important role in coping with extreme climatic events. In the area of water, this means that public and private open spaces must buffer heavy rainfall events as well as remain attractive during longer dry periods. A gradual conversion is also necessary in the existing city. In addition to the classic green open spaces such as gardens and parks, streets and squares should also be considered for a holistically conceived system of a water-sensitive city. They are the most used public spaces in the city and the capillary vessels of the urban infrastructure, both above and below ground. Liveable streets in a sustainable city should therefore combine many demands: Ensuring traffic and access, absorbing, storing and draining rainwater – at the same time offering residents a beautiful environment and urban flora and fauna a habitat.

The district of Essen-Altendorf, which borders directly on the Niederfeldsee lake, was chosen as an example neighbourhood for the planning task. With the lake and the surrounding areas, a green-blue infrastructure has already been created here, but its integration with the existing city is not yet sufficient. In order to be able to maintain the lake even in dry phases, precipitation water must also be obtained from the neighbouring neighbourhoods in the future. How these can be developed into a blue-green system is being worked out in detail using the example of Weuenstraße and the surrounding area.
We are already looking forward to the students’ designs, which will also be presented here on the blog from the end of July!

View of Weuenstraße in Essen: Liveable streets in a sustainable city should combine many demands. Photo: Sebastian Schlecht.

workshop report: urban biodiversity

workshop report:

The connection between our actions, the degradation of our ecosystems and the acute loss of biodiversity is obvious. But what role do cities play in this global context? What effects do they have, who do they provide habitats for – and what possibilities do we have to act from cities and enable positive developments? These are questions that lala.ruhr also asks itself time and again, most recently in the context of a workshop during the Metropole Ruhr Landscape Festival.

The terminology

Urban biodiversity as a term refers to the biological diversity of cities themselves. By regional biodiversity flow we mean the influence of human life in the city on the surrounding countryside. Global biodiversity flow refers to our influence on distant countries and their ecosystems – which is drawn from our global consumption patterns.

Biodiversity in planning

In general, it can be said that “nature in the city” is still a fairly young phenomenon in research, which has only been scientifically explored since the 1970s with the emergence of the discipline of urban ecology. While nature and species conservation have a long tradition, little attention has been paid to animals and plants in the city. A weighty reason for this is seen in the long-prevailing separation between human space and nature, reflected in terms such as natural landscape and cultural landscape. In the meantime, planning concepts link spaces and functions – park areas, for example, are no longer defined only as places for recreation, but also with a view to the animal and plant species to be found on them – for lala.ruhr, too, nature already begins on the windowsill.

Biodiversity in the Metropole Ruhr

The Urban Biodiversity Network has been in existence in the Metropole Ruhr since 2012. It brings together important partners who work on the topic of biodiversity and promote a strategy for the Metropole Ruhr. Only a few weeks ago, position papers were published that focus on nine topics: Species and Biotope Protection, Industrial Nature, Urban Agriculture, Urban Forest Use, Open Space and Biotope Connectivity, Climate Change and Climate Adaptation, Urban Greenery and Social Responsibility, Urban Greenery and Health Care, and Environmental Education and Environmental Education Centres.In concrete terms, the Urban Biodiversity Network monitors the species in the Duisburg Landscape Park, for example – an extraordinary diversity with over 700 plant and animal species. An example of this is the 35 different dragonfly species on the grounds of the former industrial site alone.

Biodiversity also plays an important role in the Emschergenossenschaft’s action programme for the development of a climate-silient region through blue-green infrastructures. The necessary solutions for climate adaptation also open up a scope for action. For example, the way a green roof is constructed determines whether insects and birds also find a complementary habitat there.

NABU NRW is also involved in many projects. Thorsten Wiegers emphasised during the festival workshop that biodiversity can be an indicator for liveable cities – not only on the factually necessary level, but also emotionally with enthusiasm. According to a study by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, 89% of people in Germany agreed with the statement that “biodiversity in nature promotes their well-being and quality of life”. It is important, especially in the city, that people connect with nature and biodiversity and perceive it as a natural part of their living space.

Another exciting project on the topic of urban biodiversity can be found in Dortmund: Naturfelder Dortmund e.V., embedded in the EU research project “productive Green Infrastructure for post-industrial urban regeneration” (proGIreg), which aims to strengthen the green infrastructure in formerly industrial areas. To this end, the association wants to upgrade areas in Dortmund with the municipality and citizens as flowering meadows with high biodiversity. The first areas were already sown in spring 2021.

Decade of Restoring Our Ecosystems

Together with climate change, the loss of biodiversity is one of the great named crises of our time. Against this background, the UN has declared the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. Our cities play a major role in this, as they are increasingly evolving from the idea of a medieval bulwark to a real living space for their inhabitants. Animals also see an opportunity here and are migrating to the cities. Exciting in a global context: the work of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. The organisation’s website provides an overview of biodiversity activities in Europe. There is also a lively international exchange via the platform.

Conclusion of the workshop

The Metropole Ruhr can develop further qualities from its transformation, which are already manifesting themselves in many places that were formerly characterised by heavy industry. However, this will not be the solution to a global crisis. There is still a great need for action to also use urban biodiversity as a basis for a liveable and climate-adapted city, and in doing so to have a positive effect on the global situation – directly through the projects, indirectly through the emerging awareness. In this context, the fragmented structure of the Metropole Ruhr and the current climate adaptation activities offer a potent framework for action that can build on the successful transformation to date: Understanding the Metropole Ruhr as a functioning ecosystem and also shaping it as such.

Text: Sebastian Schlecht
Photo: Bille Helbig

A fox in the middle of a train station: even if we are not always immediately aware of it, our cities provide habitats for animals and plants. Even in places where we don’t suspect it.

New home: Arriving in the urban landscape of the Ruhr region

New home:
Arriving in the
urban landscape
of the Ruhr region

Omar Mohamad compares the urban landscape of Aleppo with that of Mülheim an der Ruhr for lala.ruhr

New home?

2015. The alarm clock rings at 7 am. It is still dark outside. I want to get out of bed, but my mind doesn’t realise that the new day has begun. And I ask myself, has the day already begun? Maybe I am still dreaming? Why is it still dark? I am used a little brightness to start the day. Something in me doesn’t seem to want to understand. Having light in the morning is a feeling of home for me. But my home is 2,936 km away. Deep loneliness overcomes me in the morning silence. In the darkness one is always lonely alone. It is my first winter in Germany. I come from Syria. There, the sun rises at 6:30 a.m (even) in winter. With the first rays of sunshine, people wake up from their dream world and start the new day. But here in Germany, an alarm clock rings. I have to get out of bed and go about my duties. I get up and get ready. I dress warmly, take my bag and leave the gym where I am staying with many others. I am now waiting for the bus. It is cold and dark. I get on the bus and it is still dark. I ask myself: is this a dream or reality? Am I dreaming or is it getting light again? If it remains dark, then I am dreaming. I look out of the window at the houses. They look like the houses of my childhood. Houses I saw in cartoons as a child. To me, all the houses here look the same. I close my eyes and remember the house fronts of my home. I open my eyes. I have finally arrived. I get off the bus and cross the street. Have I really arrived? When does a person actually arrive in Germany? On my way to the language school, I walk through a park and suddenly stop. I look at the lawn. The deep green fascinates me and holds me for a moment. I had never seen such a deep green before. No one who comes from Syria knows such a green. The green of my homeland is a different green and so I wonder if I will ever arrive here. It’s almost light now and it’s clear that everything here is not a dream!

Old home!

Aleppo is a very old city that has been affected by war so it has been destroyed and rebuilt three times. Now it has been destroyed once again. The difference between rich and poor is very big. Here you find a colourful diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and religions. Arabs, Kurds, Arameans, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians and Turkmen. Many of them  are descendants of displaced peoples from the 19th and 20th centuries. Aleppo has become their home. People live close together there and every 100 metres the cityscape changes completely. There are often many more families living in each house than in Germany. The houses in Aleppo generally do not have pitched roofs so you can look out over the city. Every flat has a balcony decorated with plants which is big enough for the whole family to enjoy a coffee in the morning. Like Mulheim, some parts of Aleppo are very mixed but other neighbourhoods are less so and some are homogenous. In any case, the city’s cultural identity is characterised by diversity and tolerance. I miss the vibrant diversity of the pulsating metropolis, the many smells, the good food and, of course, my family and friends. Aleppo is not only the largest industrial city, but also the cultural capital of the country. The city has developed rapidly in the modern age without paying attention to the environment. It has been neglected: residential and industrial areas are mixed together. It was only later on that they thought to establish an industrial area outside the city to improve the quality of life of the city dwellers. This is now located a few kilometres away in the north-eastern part of the city. At the time, I was working in urban development in Aleppo. In the historical development of the city, industry had spread directly into the urban area. A big challenge of my work was to convince the companies that had settled there to use the newly created industrial area.

New ideas for my new home

2021. I get off the bus, finally arrived in Germany. I feel free! No more fear, no more worries! I feel free to express my opinion without being censored, persecuted or tortured. For me, German democracy is like the air I breathe. Now I’m used to the winter darkness and the lush green of the lawn is the green of my new home! But when I walk through the streets, I wonder why they can’t have a car-free city centre, or at least a car-free day. These streets remind me of the streets of Aleppo, which are not very clean either. Aleppo’s streets are no greener than Mülheim’s, but there are very large parks there. There are a lot of concrete buildings at the train station and in Mülheim’s city centre. The Ruhr is a green lung that saves the cityscape. In Aleppo, one Saturday a month, residents and non-residents would clean the streets together. Afterwards, they’d eat, drink and celebrate together. In this way, people from different ethnic backgrounds could come into contact with each other and form friendships. It would be great to establish something like this here in Mülheim as an intercultural initiative.

I continue to ride the Metropolrad to my new job. After completing my training as an event manager at the Ringlokschuppen, I am now an employee at the Theater an der Ruhr. The road is good, but there are still holes and the kerbs don’t make it any easier. Many car drivers show no consideration and claim the road for themselves. A comprehensive extension of the bicycle lanes could be pushed forward. It is difficult to find a safe place to park my bicycle, many parking spaces are occupied by old, forgotten bikes. I still can’t believe it. Some time ago my bicycle was stolen, right in front of the building of the public order office. A parking space with a security system that is insurmountable for the thief. That would be it! I continue on a short passage along the beautiful Ruhr. How quiet and peaceful everything is here. The only thing missing from my dream Mulheim is Mediterranean weather and crystal-clear water!

Omar Mohamad (*1989) is interested in intercultural projects and working together. He studied business administration in Syria and trained as an event manager in Germany. Since 2016, he has been volunteering in various projects in the Ruhr area, including the “Free University of Oberhausen”, a socio-cultural education project. He is also a member of the Grün-Bunte list for the integration council of the city of Mülheim. Since September 2020, he has been responsible for PR and audience development at Collective Ma’louba at the Theater an der Ruhr.

Workshop "Urban Gardening" on 6 May!

for the workshop
"Urban Gardening" on 6 May!

Unfortunately, the workshop “Urban Gardening in the Ruhr Area” had to be cancelled during our festival in February due to illness.

We are pleased to announce the date of the workshop:

On Thursday, 6 May from 3 to 5 p.m., Jonas Runte and Nils Rehkop from the Urbanists from Dortmund will present various forms of urban gardening digitally via zoom and give an overview of the scene in the Ruhr region (in German). They will also discuss the hurdles and challenges faced by people who want to garden together in their neighbourhood. Afterwards, suggestions and ideas will be discussed on how to improve the conditions for the creation and long-term existence of these gardens.

Anyone who wants to take part can register free of charge! Registration is open to everyone – regardless of whether or not they are already registered for the original festival date.

Urban Gardening in the Ruhr are – register now  for the 6th of May!

Project "Wild Ruhr Area" introduces itself

urban nature

The project “Wild Ruhr Area” introduces itself

At first glance, the Ruhr area does not seem to be the ideal working environment for nature photographers. Nevertheless, or perhaps precisely because of this, a number of nature photographers who grew up in the Ruhr or now live here have joined forces in the “Wild Ruhr” photo project. Together, they want to show with their photographs that there are indeed natural spaces and all kinds of beautiful things to discover in the Ruhr region. Of course, there is a lack of large-scale wilderness, which is now hard to find anywhere on the globe. But between the shopping centre, heavy industry, traffic routes and the ubiquitous “Ruhrpöttler” (a person who lives in the Ruhr area), there are small areas everywhere where many a herb and even more animals feel at home.
Wildes Ruhrgebiet wants to show these, make them visible and thus speak out for them. This also means drawing attention to the habitats that nature needs and that are actually there.

Copyright: Sabine Fabritz

For example, there are very natural forests and even meandering streams like the Rotbach, which flows from Bottrop via Oberhausen to Dinslaken into the Rhine. Such a body of water has become rare throughout northern Germany.
Herons and kingfishers hunt in the floodplain forest remnants of the Ruhr, and we encounter hare and deer on the farmland and meadows bordering the Ruhr everywhere. Almost like everywhere else in Germany, too, if it weren’t for the rooftops of houses and the chimneys and pits in the background.

But there is also life in the shadows of industrial plants and their ruins, along railway tracks, in our immediate neighbourhood on the balcony and in the garden. These smaller habitats need to be portrayed more often, as such areas are usually not perceived as biotopes at all. Yet it is precisely our brownfield sites that represent a type of landscape and habitat that exists almost exclusively in the Ruhr area and that represents a last refuge for many special species, since their actual, original homes have long since disappeared. Without brownfields, we lose these species completely, but also the typical character face of the Ruhr region. And with it a piece of what makes us special here.

If you want to discover the Ruhr for yourself, there are many places to do so. In the far west are the Rhine meadows in Walsum, where you can take a look at a stork’s nest. From the many footpaths along the waterways, you can also observe various water birds. A particularly atmospheric morning can also be experienced on the Ruhr in the south of Bochum or near Witten, when the fog lies in the Ruhr valley in spring or autumn.

But there is also nature to discover in the midst of industrial culture. High up on the winding tower of the former Nordstern colliery, for example, the peregrine falcon nests at a dizzying height. And in La Pa Du (Duisburg North Landscape Park), numerous wall lizards can be found on the railway tracks and embankments as well as on the buildings. At the right time of year, you can hear the concert of the natterjack toads, which are at home here as well as on other derelict industrial sites in tiny bodies of water. With patience and careful behaviour, the animals can not only be observed but also excellently photographed. In addition, it shows very beautifully how various wild plants make even the smallest niches their habitat.
Good photo opportunities can be found wherever the animals are used to humans and therefore show little shyness. For example, at the numerous park waters, parks and local recreation areas as well as the renaturalised tailings piles common to our region. Examples include the Abtsküche in Heiligenhaus, the Phönixsee in Dortmund, the Stadtteich in Bottrop and the Ruhraue in Essen-Heisingen. The best photographic results are achieved with telephoto focal lengths from 200 mm. But because of the familiarity of the animals with the visitors, it is also possible to take pictures with a smartphone.

In any case, we wish all those interested a lot of fun discovering nature on their doorstep!

A colliery tower is representative of industrial culture in the Ruhr region. The change to more green is symbolised by the singing robin on the tower.Wildes Ruhrgebiet wants to show these, make them visible and thus speak out for them. This also means drawing attention to the habitats that nature needs and that are actually there.

Article: Stefan Fabritz (Wildes Ruhrgebiet)
Pictures: Sabine Fabritz, Stefan Fabritz

Between the shopping centre, heavy industry and traffic routes there are small areas everywhere where many a herb and even more animals feel at home.

Shaping space is linked to major issues for the future

shaping space is
linked to major issues
of the future

Pleading  for a strong landscape architecture

Few professions are as influential on space as landscape architecture. As soon as we move outside, we are already in the midst of the work of landscape architects – whether in the park, on the playground or schoolyard, on the bike path or on the marketplace in our own neighborhood. Nevertheless, only a few people can really classify the profession, sometimes it is even considered an “exotic niche”. Landscape architects who talk about their work with friends and acquaintances after work are sometimes asked why they need a degree to “put up a piece of playground equipment or a bench”.

Why is that?
On the one hand, it’s because many clients think they can take over our work right away or delegate it to people outside the field: “We’ll just do the outdoor area quickly”. Or they take over the open spaces and pour concrete. The remaining square meters can then basically only be described as residual areas – the origin of bulky terms such as clearance green and verges. And you don’t need experts for that, do you?

Yet the field of landscape architecture is growing steadily, and is becoming ever larger and more urgent, not least due to advancing climate change. Well-designed, sufficiently dimensioned and functioning urban landscapes satisfy elementary needs – the pandemic has just shown us all how valuable green open spaces are.

The requirements for multifunctional urban landscapes are becoming increasingly diverse and comprehensive:

  •  As a space for people, they should enable encounters (open space is always also social space) as well as serve movement and thus health.
  • From a climatic perspective, the focus is on mitigating climate change (rainwater management, preservation of cold air corridors, local absorption and storage of rainwater in cities based on the sponge city model, etc.).
  •  Enabling mobility for all (mobility turnaround, cycle lanes, transformed road spaces, etc.)
  • Preserving space for animals and plants (promoting biodiversity, urban habitat…)

The profession of landscape architect has expanded enormously over the past twenty years and is currently linked to many issues of the future. Landscape architecture as an integrating discipline faces up to these tasks, brings experts together and often finds forward-looking solutions for challenging issues – and this despite the fact that the discipline continues to operate only in the background in the public perception. As a design discipline, landscape architecture is also interested in aesthetic and at the same time technical solutions – how many professional fields are based on such a challenging balancing act?

Model solutions for many of the new challenges arising from the pandemic and climatic changes do not yet exist. Accordingly, a great deal of courage will be needed in the coming years – on the part of planners as well as municipalities and clients – to try out model solutions and set new landscape standards and break down outdated notions of roadside greenery.
We need a collaborative professional practice to develop solutions that move us forward. And, most importantly, we need more young people to choose this wonderful and little-known profession – it sometimes doesn’t even appear in career counseling databases for high school students – because it is exciting and offers so many challenges.

As a partner in a planning office, I am also concerned about the educational situation in the Ruhr region in particular: a huge, transformative metropolitan area without a single landscape architecture degree program. This is a wasted opportunity for the region, as it is students in particular who develop fresh ideas for their surroundings – beyond the familiar solutions.

Isabella de Medici hat Landschafts- und Freiraumplanung in Hannover und Barcelona studiert und lebt seit über 20 Jahren im Ruhrgebiet. Seit 2017 ist sie Gesellschafterin bei der Planungsbüro DTP Landschaftsarchitekten GmbH, hat einen Lehrauftrag bei der FH in Dortmund, ist Sprecherin für Freiraum beim bdla nrw und Teil des Teams von lala.ruhr. 

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!

In conversation with Daniel Bartel from SEND NRW

"social entrepreneurs
need other
framework conditions"

lala.ruhr in conversation with Daniel Bartel from SEND NRW

How does SEND define social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurs are people who use their creativity, their willingness to take risks and their entrepreneurial spirit to develop and disseminate innovative approaches to overcoming social problems. The primary goal of social entrepreneurship is thus to solve societal challenges. This is achieved through the continuous use of entrepreneurial means and results in new and innovative solutions. The social or ecological added value is always in the foreground, profits are seen as a means to an end, and social goals are lived out internally and externally. The work is therefore aimed at impact, not primarily at profit. This is ensured by a controlling and regulating dimension.

While the social entrepreneurship sector is strong in many countries, above all in Great Britain, Germany scores relatively poorly when looking at the data from the Atlas of Social Innovation. Why is that?

Mainly because in Germany there is a very strong distinction and separation between the common good, non-profit and profit orientation. Entrepreneurship is accordingly associated per se with a capitalist profit motive, not with a social-innovative impact. A good example in this regard is Viva con aqua, an international network founded in Hamburg that campaigns for safe access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation. The company makes revenue and uses it for social purposes – according to the German guidelines it is difficult to define whether this is a public good or profit orientation.

According to SEND, social entrepreneurship is still in its infancy, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia and thus also in the Ruhr region. Why?

The problem described above applies here: In North Rhine-Westphalia, politicians do not yet recognise that social entrepreneurs need different framework conditions and pursue different goals than traditional companies. While entrepreneurs are primarily oriented towards making profits and using them to create more jobs, social entrepreneurs have set themselves the goal of working in an impact-oriented way and thus making themselves obsolete as soon as the problem is solved. Because profits and the common good have so far been considered separately, there is still a lack of support and funding programmes for budding social entrepreneurs in NRW. Other federal states, such as Hesse, are already a step further. Here, there is the funding programme Sozialinnovator (Social Innovator), which offers advice and financial resources for entrepreneurs without a capitalist profit-making intention. Only in some municipalities, for example Dortmund, are there positive exceptions with the Start Grow programme. The Impact Hub in Essen also promotes social innovation. But basically the infrastructure is still missing, so to speak. Structural investments on the part of politics are urgently needed here, because a profit-oriented market will be reluctant to provide them.

What else would be needed, besides counselling and start-up funding for founders?

Adapted federal and state procedures. For example, official purchasing of materials and services usually takes place according to the criterion of the cheapest price. Social criteria are not taken into account or are only given second place. However, these could lead to more frequent use of social entrepreneurs.

This is an exciting aspect, and it is worth taking another look at Great Britain. Under the approach of “community wealth building”, such aspects are increasingly being considered by more cities, including Preston as a pioneer. Community wealth building is about creating a resilient and inclusive economy for the benefit of the local area. For its part, Greater Liverpool has over 80 social enterprises with an explicit socio-spatial approach. These range from a launderette as a community hub to a cooperatively organised bakery to The Womens Organisation, a social enterprise that, among other things, promotes and supports the professional path of women as entrepreneurs through workshops and coaching.

Yes, that’s exactly the kind of approach we need here too! Authorities in particular can control their budgets. The municipal district of Höxter, for example, is currently working on a balance sheet for the common good. Currently, there is even a petition to make it possible for public institutions to balance their budgets according to the common good. Furthermore, these examples also show a structural dimension. What rules should the Ruhr region follow in future? Should profit continue to be the only priority? Or do we ensure that public welfare-oriented entrepreneurship and public welfare innovation are actively promoted – by imposing appropriate conditions on the awarding and approval of contracts. All the way to an exaggerated vision: Will only laundromats with a socio-spatial approach be allowed to open in the future?

Should the public sector dare to cooperate and collaborate more?

Absolutely. Open Social Innovation is the keyword here. A good example of this has just started at the federal level with the Update Germany Hackathon. The clear advantage is that public authorities act very slowly, while entrepreneurs act quickly and pragmatically. However, it is important that the institution sees itself as a neutral, effectiveness-oriented platform, approaches potential partners such as the Impact Hub Ruhr, and formulates clear rules. For example: The profits must remain in the Ruhr region and the local structures.

lala.ruhr focuses on green infrastructure and cooperative landscape development. A topic for social entrepreneurs?

Definitely! Especially in forestry, social start-ups are playing a big role at the moment. Actively planting and redesigning – there are many conceivable models that combine modern means and technologies with challenges such as the greening of our cities.

Finally, let’s look beyond the Ruhr region: which national and international examples should we keep an eye on?

The EU-funded programme BRESE (Border Regions in Europe for Social Entrepreneurship) and Las Vegas as a city where the increasing number of casinos has structurally destroyed a lot. Social entrepreneurs are now starting to rebuild the city.

And another personal question: Why are you a social entrepreneur?

Because I am passionate about it and believe that we have an enormous amount of potential in our society to solve problems in ecological and economic harmony. Liveable, regenerative and with respect for all future ways of life.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Interview: Sonja Broy 

Daniel Bartel is a bridge builder between reality and a future oriented towards the common good, social innovator and NewWork pioneer make it – a network of 100 founders that has already inspired over 1,000 (social) start-up teams of established companies worldwide. Daniel has published three books, is a changemaker dealing with the essential questions of responsible business models in a digitalised society and is the organiser of Unfuck Düsseldorf. He was recently voted one of the “Top 40 under 40 – Macherinnen und Macher im Rheinland”.

Workshop report: creative use of brownfields - blueprints for space pioneers

Workshop report:
creative use of brownfields -
blueprints for
space pioneers

The appropriation of space by creative pioneers – how is that possible, how does it work in the Ruhr region? Svenja Noltemeyer (Büro für Möglichkeitsräume, Urbanisten e.V.), David Coerdt (Pandora2.0) and Frank Münter (Transition Town Essen), three activists who have been taking responsibility for brownfields and promoting a do-it-yourself mentality in urban development for many years, discussed this in the context of the lala.ruhr-festival.

The starting point of the debate: the project idea “land for free”, launched almost 20 years ago in the Ruhr area but never implemented, which was supposed to enable experimental, creative-entrepreneurial projects to revitalise brownfields in the then still shrinking Ruhr area. Outside of building regulations and restrictions, intermediate sites were to be made available to space pioneers with innovative ideas in order to achieve social and economic effects. An idea that never officially came to fruition – and is now being implemented in a do-it-yourself manner in various places in the Ruhr region.

Change through culture, culture through change

Spatial planner Svenja carries on the core of the idea and creates frameworks for the implementation of ideas with her Büro für Möglichkeitsräume and the Dortmund Urbanists. Through networking, cooperation and support with funding applications, people in the city should be enabled to actively shape their environment.

“Cities worth living in are made by local people. But it is very difficult to get through the jungle of authorities alone. In order to continue the strategy of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 ‘change through culture, culture through change’, the city of possibilities and creativity, better structures are needed in the Ruhr region. It must be made easy for people to get involved in their city.”  (Svenja)

The self-growing city as a DIY proposition

David, who has rented an area for Pandora 2.0, has been working in the north of Dortmund for some time now, where a “self-growing city” is to be created from sea containers under the aspects of upcycling and climate neutrality. Thus, disused festival decorations and recycled building materials will be used to design the communal areas, which will be transported by bicycle trailer.

“Pandora2.0 is a place where everyone can develop freely. A place for culture, exchange and encounters that can grow according to people’s needs. Not a party space, but a networking place for developing and advancing common ideas and projects, where free spirits meet.” (David)

Pandora2.0 is supposed to develop further on the rented former commercial site through the constant docking of further containers – not an easy undertaking in view of the legal situation in Germany. At the moment, David is working as a private person to create legal certainty in terms of a fixed, commercial use and a concession for events, which should bring financial security.

Doers and enablers

Frank comes from the “community garden corner” and, together with his fellow campaigners in Essen-Altenessen, has joined the worldwide Transition Town movement, which wants to encourage as many people as possible to act and manage differently in their environment. In Altenessen, he and his team are transforming derelict, littered plots of land into green gems using mobile garden elements such as raised beds.

“We help with knowledge, heart and hammer and as a Transition Town we want to upgrade our neighbourhoods, fill dreary, loveless, neglected places with positive life again.” (Frank)

Transition Town cooperates with the city of Essen. “We are very well supported,” says Frank. Because the city administration sees the advantages: Areas that are designed by Transition Town for a few years no longer have to be maintained by the city. Transition Town has a corresponding agreement in the administration and is offered abandoned playgrounds, for example.

The activists of Pandora2.0, on the other hand, have had different experiences in dealing with the administration and politics. David remembers: “Originally, the idea came up in Lünen, where we presented a real concept, on a slag heap, with a composting toilet and container. We were laughed at, with the motto “let the kids do it.” The idea was on ice for seven years before David started talks again in 2018 after moving to Dortmund, and got started in February 2019 with a few fellow campaigners. “The Kliemannsland project in Lower Saxony gave me the courage to take up my idea again and put it into practice. For two years I could see on YouTube that a similar concept works and is accepted.” At the moment, he is increasingly trying to get in touch with the Emschergenossenschaft and – analogous to the Transition Town concept – to occupy areas in the future that he no longer wants to manage and maintain in order to initiate community gardens with raised beds there, for example.

But can interim use, as is the case with both Transition Town and Pandora2.0, really be sustainable? After all, pioneers invest a lot of time and resources in areas that may be built on and used for other purposes by investors or the city after a few years. The answer is clear: yes, it is always better than remaining in a state of inactivity. In addition, both initiatives rely on mobile elements that can be easily rebuilt on new sites, so that new spaces of experience can quickly be created there.

Helping to shape the city of the future

The final wishes of the three pioneers for the creation of more enabling spaces and culture can be summarised as follows:

  1. Administrations should be willing to give derelict spaces to appropriate networks for (temporary) use – a win-win situation, as maintenance by the municipality is no longer necessary and space pioneers can test their ideas at the same time.
  2. People who want to help shape their city should be able to easily contact a network of space pioneers in order to get a low-threshold introduction to participation.
  3. It should be possible to receive an initial investment so that actors do not have to finance their voluntary community work out of their private pockets – an amount like 1,000 euros can already make a big difference.
  4. Funding should work without an advance on expenses, so as not to have to take personal risk for the group involved.
  5.  Funding consultations are needed to know which ideas are eligible for which funds and how to make it possible for initiatives without their own legal form to apply.

If you missed the festival talk, which also included a discussion on the experience of vandalism in creative use of brownfields, you can watch the recording on the Pandora2.0 twitch channel:

Text: Sonja Broy
Picture: Pandora2.0

The appropriation of space by creative pioneers – how is that possible, how does it work in the Ruhr region?

Workshop report: Green ways, green spaces - new infrastructures for liveable cities

workshop report:
green ways, green spaces -
new infrastructures for liveable

We need fewer parking spaces and more cycling in our cities – many city dwellers, initiatives and planners agree on this. But if parking spaces are to disappear, all planning projects regularly end up in bitter debates. The main question of the festival workshop with Robin Römer (cityscaper) and Jan van den Hurk (Radentscheid Aachen) was therefore: How do we bring bicycle-friendly infrastructure onto the streets and communicate the reallocation and upgrading of street space?

Above all, through communication that makes the added value of the redesign comprehensible to everyone – and for that, good arguments are needed. The participants were each assigned a role for small group discussions in digital break-out rooms. It was exciting to see how participating administrative staff discussed in the role of citizens, detached from their professional position, and how citizens represented the view of politics. The results were compiled on a digital whiteboard, on which arguments and counter-arguments quickly formed a colourful mosaic of speech and counter-speech. Here are a few excerpts from the discussion:

  • Nobody rides a bike anyway!
    Where there is no offer, there are no users.
    Before a bridge is built, nobody counts how many people swim through the river.
  • Trees are very cost-intensive, need water and care, and produce leaves and pollen.
    Urban climate and environmental protection may cost money.
    Climate change adaptation through greening and less asphalted surfaces offers protection against heavy rain and alleviates heat waves.
  • Everyone drives a car anyway!
    More roads also lead to more car traffic, more parking spaces to more cars.
    The current focus on cars is unfair because people who don’t have/can’t afford a car are disadvantaged.
    Car infrastructure is more expensive than bike infrastructure (less sealed surfaces, less maintenance costs), therefore paradigm shift.

In a second round, different cross-section variants of a street were discussed on the basis of a concrete case, with the additional inclusion of 3D illustrations. The role play showed that in both public and political perception, the variant that offers the most parking space is usually preferred. But also that through the 3D illustrations of an avenue, the added value of a green street is understood in the first place and consequently judgements are no longer made on the basis of mere facts, for example with regard to the number of parking spaces and trees.

Text: Sonja Broy
Illustration: cityscaper

Through the 3D illustrations of an avenue, the added value of a green street is understood in the first place.

Workshop report: a social-ecological centre as a laboratory for a green (urban) landscape

Workshop report:
a social-ecological centre
as a laboratory for a green
(urban) landscape

At the interface between the question of social justice and a reaction to the climate crisis, the idea of a social-ecological centre (sozial-ökologisches Zentrum, SÖZ) for Dortmund emerged. Mila Ellee and Florian Heinkel reported on the founding circumstances of the still young initiative in the workshop they led during the Festival of Landscape: The SÖZ emerged as an idea for the local elections in autumn 2020, from the merger of various initiatives in Dortmund, e.g. the Harbour Initiative, the Fridays for Future Movement Dortmund and the collective “Dortmund von Unten”. It is based on demands for an “Independent Centre Dortmund” – an idea that first emerged in the noughties.

In fact, independently of the activities of the initiatives, the city council of Dortmund had already decided to support an SÖZ in Dortmund with space offers after a proposal by the CDU and the Greens. The SÖZ should address the pressing ecological and social issues of our time, provide space for discourse, but also offer the opportunity to actively and energetically help shape the future of the city and the surrounding neighbourhood with small-scale experiments.

Unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to find a suitable property. Some requirements have already been determined, for example, there is a great desire for the possibility of hosting non-commercial music events; in addition, meeting possibilities are to be created in order to provide the active people with a basis for their community-oriented work.

The second half of the workshop was dedicated to the development of ideas and requirements for use. By means of a Miro board, space utilisations for the still fictitious property were collected together. Among other things, the participants expressed the desire for rehearsal and work spaces, as well as the need for non-commercial flea and barter markets. It seemed important to all that the SÖZ should have a kitchen where people could cook together. The outdoor area was given special weight in the discussion. As an ecological project, the SÖZ should definitely have a community garden – also to get in better contact with people from the neighbourhood. This is the only way to realise the desire to be embedded in the neighbourhood.

At the moment, the initiative is still in the founding phase. The core group of about 20 people meets regularly (currently digitally) and is always open to people who want to get involved in the development of the SÖZ. The SÖZ should be easily accessible by public transport in Dortmund – space ideas and suggestions are also very welcome!

Contact via soez-do@riseup.net / Instagram: soez.dortmund / Twitter: @soez_dortmund

Text: Jan Bunse/Mila Ellee
Picture: Initiativkreis SÖZ

At the interface between the question of social justice and a reaction to the climate crisis, the idea of a social-ecological centre (sozial-ökologisches Zentrum, SÖZ) for Dortmund emerged. 

Workshop report: How do we want to deal with the landscape in the Ruhr region?

Workshop report:
How do we want to deal
with the landscape in the
Ruhr region?

The landscape in the Ruhr region is heterogeneous. It is characterised by industrial wastelands, the juxtaposition of city and countryside, small green oases in urban spaces. Just as diverse as the five million human inhabitants who benefit from the landscape. An important question that we as the lala.ruhr team want to address is how we deal with this special landscape in the Ruhr region. At the Festival of Landscape, we discussed this very question with Frank Bothmann from the Department of Landscape Development and Environment of the Ruhr Regional Association and Dr. Ilka Mecklenbrauck from the Faculty of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund University. Jan Bunse, a spatial planner from Urbanisten, led the discussion.

It is clear that specifications and measures are needed to protect the landscape from encroachment and to preserve its value. At the moment, compensation and replacement measures for interventions in nature are primarily determined with the help of concrete balancing and eco-accounts. Depending on the intervention, these C+R measures must be of a certain quality and are credited with eco-points to the eco-accounts of private and public land owners. This very calculative approach to the landscape leads, on the one hand, to a “standardised landscape” and, on the other hand, to an actual business with the landscape that is determined by developers and landowners.

On the other hand, we are confronted with a shortage of land, which is not only noticeable in the inner cities, but also in the rural areas of the Ruhr region – highly emotionalised debates and ever greater pressure on open spaces are often the result. Farmers in particular are often faced with the problem of a double loss of land: agricultural land is affected by settlement expansion and is built on in the process. These developments are in turn subject to compensation, and arable land is used for the necessary compensatory measures. Since the ecological improvement potential on agricultural land is very large, the developers receive a lot of eco-points on their eco-account for compensation on such land.

“The field is crying out for new ideas.”

In the discussion and through the contributions of the workshop participants, it is obvious against the background of the status quo in dealing with the landscape that planners, landowners and developers must rethink and that politics must enable innovative solutions. Frank Bothmann put it in a nutshell: “The field is crying out for new ideas.

How exactly these solutions and, above all, far-reaching changes in the way we deal with landscape can be realised is still an open question. For this, legislative changes at the federal level are necessary, which are usually preceded by a long process. Nevertheless, there are already ideas and proposals from planners, researchers and practitioners.

These include, for example, the integration of landscape into urban space, the further development of the economic valuation of nature and the focus on ecosystem services, temporary and flexible structures for open spaces, the productive management of landscape or the understanding of landscape as a cultural and integration space. As attractive as such ideas sound at first, it is important in the discussion to also consider the pitfalls. In this context, Ilka Mecklenbrauck argues that potential conflicts of use should be considered from the outset in the planning process and that the landscape should not be overburdened with the desired multifunctionality of areas. A particularly interesting concept – in our eyes – is the democratisation of the landscape. For unlike settlements, landscape planning is currently not preceded by a democratic process and the space outside settlement areas is viewed in a very functional way. Among other things, this approach can lead to frustration among activists who feel that they are not perceived and taken seriously, and from whose point of view climate and nature protection are strongly neglected. Other approaches to solving the problem include more education in building culture for children and young people, but also optimising teaching at colleges and universities and thinking integratively about architecture, ecology and climate.

In order to bring these ideas and new approaches forward, lobbying is needed in the coming years, above all, to anchor the treatment of landscape in the political discourse. Starting points for this are, of course, the discussion about climate and nature protection, but also urban transformation and urban-rural relations. In addition, according to Ilka Mecklenbrauck, small steps can be taken before the realisation of the big vision and temporary approaches can show success. An important aspect is also social communication and persuasion via images instead of bans, in order to prevent the emotionalised debate and break up old images.

Text: Annette Bathen
Photo: Ravi Sejk

The landscape in the Ruhr region is heterogeneous. How do we want to deal with it?

Workshop report: What now? Wanted: A new narrative for the Ruhr region

workshop report: what now?
Wanted: A new narrative
for the Ruhr region

Admittedly, it was a cheeky attempt: In two days, lala.ruhr wanted to collaboratively develop an overview of the narratives of the Ruhr region. The interim result: 60 people, working together partly simultaneously on a digital pinboard, were able to achieve a structured result. As part of the 1st Festival of Landscape, a map of the Ruhr area narratives was created (To the board on mural.co). The map shows things that people are currently saying about the Ruhr region and – more importantly – suggestions about what should come to mind first when thinking about the Ruhr region in the future.

Very different people have worked on this map: Scientists & activists, marketeers & people from the administration, Ruhris & globetrotters. They have all tried to use simple language, because that is what distinguishes narratives: they are not complicated, but simple. Not cumbersome, but easy. Only in this way is it possible for narratives to spread quickly by being retold, and at some point everyone has the feeling that they have heard it a thousand times before. Even if narratives come across as quite mundane, their power should not be underestimated. These mini-stories create meaning, carry political messages, create identity or convey moral values. And so it is that the term narrative is on everyone’s lips. Whether municipalities, regions or countries, whether politics, science or marketing, everyone is vehemently calling for “new narratives”. Most of the time, this is based on the desire to get rid of old, unpleasant narratives about oneself and to shape new narratives.

But can this succeed at all? Can we really control from above (or below) what a large number of people intuitively believe to be true? Can we invent a story on the drawing board that is so catchy that it spreads by itself and gets stuck in people’s heads?

  • The participants of the festival also discussed (in writing and orally) this meta-level of narrative search. I would like to mention three controversial positions from the debate at this point without making any judgements:
  • A narrative is more than a snappy advertising slogan, and cannot be forced through even the most elaborate campaigns.
  • A narrative must be communicated professionally and have a solid intellectual foundation.
    The discussion about narratives is superfluous and misses the real problems of the Ruhr region.

Of course, the search for new (green) narratives for the Ruhr region is not yet finished for lala.ruhr, it is just beginning! In the spirit of the open source idea, everyone is invited to use the map of narratives for themselves and to build on it. We are always happy to exchange ideas. Write to us at narrativ@lala.ruhr

Text: Matthias Krentzek, mxr storytelling, Team lala.ruhr

How do you explain to a Bavarian what the Ruhr feels like? What should a Berliner think of when she hears Metropole Ruhr?

Workshop report: Urban Re Creation - new images for inner-city open spaces

workshop report: urban re creation -
new images for inner-city
open spaces

The inner cities of the Ruhr metropolises are still dominated by individual traffic. Here, car after car jostle each other, large traffic axes restrict the possibilities for new forms of mobility and stay. In the immediate vicinity, there are often pedestrian zones that are increasingly failing to live up to their former claim to be attractive shopping areas. Using concepts and best practice examples, Julian Altmann (Essen) and Dirk Becker (Dortmund) addressed this topic and, with the support of the BDLA NRW, discussed new approaches for sustainable inner-city spaces, moderated by Isabella de Medici (Planungsbüro DTP, BDLA).

A play on words was chosen as the title for the urban re-creation event: “re-creation” of inner cities and their qualities. The impulses took this up on three levels: The idea for planning, a concept and already realised projects.

After an impulse lecture by Thomas Dietrich (Chairman of the BDLA NRW) on the topic: “how green is that?” with retrospectives and outlooks on the green infrastructure of the Ruhr area, Andreas Meissner from the project team Emissionsfreie Innenstadt Dortmund (Emission-free inner city Dortmund) presented the project “Dortmunder Wallanlagen” – today a space almost exclusively characterised by the car, for which new images are being developed. This is done, among other things, through various plan cases that work with different traffic routing, including cycle lanes.

A vision of the future for Essen’s inner city was presented on the basis of the master’s thesis by landscape architect Julian Altmann. His thoughts on fresh air supply and rainwater management for the centre ended in a strong image of a significantly greener open space design with reduced road space – the Essen Schützenbahn, which today has eight lanes, could thus be transformed into a park.

“If we always start from the status quo, we go round in circles. Lanes produce traffic, traffic needs lanes. If we have four lanes and build a fifth, it too will be full of cars. Do we then build the sixth or does traffic as a whole need to be rethought?”

Stefan Bendiks presented good practice projects that have already been implemented on the topic of “urban re-creation”. His presentation focused on the implementation and enforcement of designed street spaces. The aspect of participation and involvement of local residents was also addressed. Bendiks formulated the aspects to be considered and taken into account in projects in the form of six tricks that can be read in his book “Traffic Space is Public Space”.

The discussion in the event, which was very well attended by over 60 participants, developed in a lively manner, starting from the core question: Is it not better to think about a spatial design project from the point of view of spatial qualities instead of traffic planning? It became clear that there is still a discrepancy between the planning reality in the offices, where traffic and corresponding counts are all too often taken as the starting point. On the other hand, there is a desire to rethink and reallocate open space so that in the future more people instead of cars will dominate our city centres.

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!

lala.ruhr in enorm magazine

lala.ruhr in

It’s been a week since we celebrated the first digital festival of the landscape together with great presenters, workshop leaders and over 280 participants. The feedback, also from the media, was huge. If you want to read more about the idea behind lala.ruhr and what makes the landscape of the Ruhr so special, you can find an interview (in German) with Sebastian and Melanie about the festival and the special features of the Ruhr in the online edition of enorm: “This is the best place to experience transformation”. enorm sees itself as a business magazine for social change and reports on companies, movements and people.

Picture: Annette Bathen

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!

Workshop report: Kicking around for a good cause - Environmental protection combined with football

Workshop report:
Kicking around for a good cause.
Environmental protection combined
with football

A workshop on football at a festival of the landscape? Where, if not in the Ruhr region! Patrick Schulz from the initiative “bochumbolzt”, which combines the enormous integrative and communicative power of football with the effectiveness of active and local environmental protection, invited us. In practice, this combination currently means that, together with the Bochum Fan Project, football tournaments or sports festivals for pupils are organised on a nearby football pitch or directly on the school playground. During the breaks, bochumbolzt motivates the young football field heroes to clean the playing field and the immediate surroundings from carelessly discarded rubbish.

At the beginning of the first half, feelings and memories about the social space of the football pitch were brought up and possible multifunctional potentials discussed, such as the integration of edible elements around the pitch. Interim result: The football field in the neighbourhood conveys and strengthens the feeling of community – the football field as a spatial anchor, with the aim of creating a waste-free and edible neighbourhood.

“We are currently founding an umbrella association. In the near future, we would like to encourage and inspire people from the cities in the Ruhr region to develop the initial methods and content of bochumbolzt with our support in their city as well and to develop them further together.”

In the second half, the focus was on environmental protection and the global waste crisis, starting with the question of why we should also collect waste locally. This was about an exchange of ideas on a clean neighbourhood and early awareness raising on the production of waste. In the last third of the game, the participants were invited to leave the computer and go out into the fresh air for a short while to see if there is also rubbish on our own doorstep – and to pick it up directly if necessary.

The participants’ conclusion: “It’s very exciting how you combine environmental issues with football! Through football as the connecting language of the Ruhr region, a low-threshold approach to regional environmental protection was found in this workshop and a first, valuable impulse for focusing on the social space of the football pitch was developed.

Text: Patrick Schulz/Jan Bunse
Picture: Lucas Hagen

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!

Workshop report: Participation and responsibility for green stations

Workshop report:
Participation and responsibility
for green stations

Train stations are hubs in the urban fabric. For some, they are a transit point on the way to work or on a trip; for others, they are a meeting place and a place for (late) shopping for groceries, flowers, etc. At the same time, however, a central station in particular can also be seen as a gateway to the city and as a calling card, since its surroundings represent the first impression. This is precisely where the workshop “Participation and Responsibility for Green Stations” came in, looking for ways and methods to motivate residents and travelers alike to actively and sustainably help shape stations and their surroundings.

The vision of workshop leaders Anne Fabritius and Petra Jablonická: to transform train stations and their surroundings into green places with a quality of stay that many people like to visit and that are free from consumerism. As part of kitev (Kultur im Turm e.V.), they have been proving for a long time that this is possible in Oberhausen: The collective organizes concerts and open-air cinema evenings on the museum platform in the middle of Oberhausen’s main station, organizes exhibitions, among other things, in the shop windows of the station and in the museum. The collective organizes concerts and open cinema evenings at the museum station in the middle of Oberhausen’s main station. The collective organizes concerts and open cinema evenings at the museum station in the middle of Oberhausen’s main station, organizes exhibitions in the shop windows around the station, spontaneously sets up a screen printing workshop in public space and will soon open a new place with the working title “Leerstand” (empty space) directly at the main station, between the main entrance and the branch of a fast food chain, which will be opened and operated together with people in tolerated status.

“Lingering vs. loitering: the individual perception of a place, in this case the particular station, also has an impact on the formats and participation tools I can work with. I will have very great difficulty engaging people in co-creative processes if they don’t spend any time at all in that place, or want to leave as soon as possible.”

Based on the fact that train stations often have a negative image, ways and methods to change the situation were sought, building on the experiences in Oberhausen, but also looking at case studies from Basel and Žilina-Záriečie (Slovakia).

The result is a collection of creative approaches, for example:

  • Breaking down mindsets: Anyone who uses public transport is a “climate super hero” and should be made aware of it.
  • Use the shop windows of vacant lots around the station to share information and encourage participation. Also along the lines of, “You have 5/10/20/30/45 minutes? Here are suggestions for your green stay at the station….”
  • Organize/facilitate small actions around the station that don’t take a lot of time and have an identity-building effect (prompt: “Last week, a traveler left a plant in the raised bed across from Central Station. That took 10 minutes and now absorbs Co2 to the tune of X.
  • Make participation formats fun. Provide luggage storage and mobile play elements such as a mini-trampoline.
  • Establish cross-city network “participation stations” that issues a “station passport” -> one stamp per city/district/action.

Anyone who is now interested to get involved in the station environment of their city is welcome to contact kitev in Oberhausen accordingly. With “Liveable City”, Petra and Anne will soon be launching a new project here, of which train stations and their surroundings are an integral part.

Text: Sonja Broy
Picture: Zuzana Jančeková (KITEV)

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!

The Festival of the Landscape 2021

The Festival of the Landscape 2021

Our Festival of Landscape took place in February 2021. We are quite moved by the great interest, the inspiring contributions and the many positive feedbacks.

We have set out to develop stories for the future with the idea of the “Laboratory of Landscape” and to shape our region with it. All actors and participants have contributed a lot to this. We have shared a lot of commitment and enthusiasm, ideas and motivation for the topic. Thank you very much! We had a lot of fun!

On February 26 and 27, about 160 city makers, landscape designers, planners, activists and scientists met online to discuss and shape common visions for nature, landscape and green infrastructure in our region.

Impulse lectures, workshops and a colorful supporting program with music, readings, yoga and more created a festival atmosphere on various online stages. The festival was an innovative building block in the framework of the Offensive Grüne Infrastrukutr of the Regionalverband Ruhrgebiet.

A review of the festival and the documentation of the workshops can be found on our blog.

lala.ruhr ist das Labor für die Landschaft der Metropole Ruhr – eine Biennale der urbanen Landschaft!