What we can do for the River

rethinking the relationship between river and city


Cities depend on water and rivers, and yet create conditions that cause continual damage to the quality of this resource. Berlin’s relationship with the river Spree is no exception. Turning the tables on what has long been a destructive relationship, this proposal challenges us to consider what the city can do for the river.

The inlet ‘Rummelsburger Bucht’ is chosen to be the exemplary situation. Localised problems to be addressed include heavy metal toxicity in the sediment, sewage discharge, polluted rainwater runoff, and poor accessibility from the embankments for wildlife.

The proposal combined an ecological remediation strategy for the sediment, with an urban design strategy to connect neighbourhoods across the bay, aimed at supplementing the mono functionality of these neighbourhoods with educational and cultural functions, and at softening the treatment of embankments around the bay for the benefit of wildlife and humans.

The overall result is a wetlands plan, with four phases (closing off the bay with a dyke, drying it out, planting to draw metals from sediment, collection and replacement of planting) and an infrastructure of walkways, public spaces and atmospheric zones.