The Dynamics of the Rhine
In the Middle Ages, it depended on the whims of the river, whether the city of Cologne could be said to lie on the left or the right bank of the Rhine, as the river occasionally did »change sides«. With comprehensive technical regula- tion in modern times, the Rhine has become an »object« judged mainly by its utility value. Today people live with the Rhine as a traffic artery, a recreation area and an economic location factor.
The dynamics of this river system as well as the mythological notion of the Rhine and the influence of its essence on the country it runs through have increasingly been forgotten.
The Rhine is now largely channeled. Its former sprawling system of main and side arms and riverside meadows has »shriveled«. The river is restricted to a one high-water stream running between terraced banks. The side arms which meandered through the lowland have disappeared. These lowest-lying areas are subject to recurring flooding. In spite of this, they are partly built up, in places also with factories such as in Wesseling.
What does the Rhine call for? How would the river behave?
Today, there is a return to respecting the river as a body defined by its own natural laws.
Is it possible to interpret the Rhine’s flood plains as a space of negotiation between nature and the demands of a civilized society? What new correspondences between urban space and the space of the river will emerge if both parties negotiate with each other as peers? The conceptual approach presented here experiments with a change of perspective.
Riverside Meadow System and »Rheinwerthe’: New Locations in the Front Stalls’
(The term »Werthe« means landscaped and stabilized islands in the river.) The design aims to redesign the Rhine region from a different perspective by creating a new flood-plain system and new Rhine islands. Restructuring the area based on the old natural landscape form should not be an end in itself, but should be treated a synergetic spatial concept geared towards serving the different interests as to its use.
We need concepts which give space and scope to the possible natural re- development of the Rhine and which at the same time create new locations along the riverbank, for example densely built-up urban locations »in the front stalls« overlooking new riverside pastures. This confrontation and encounter between Rhine flood plains and human settlements could define the characteristics of this region – an inimitable fusion of urbanity and nature.
Henri Bava, Dirk Christiansen, Undine Giseke, Daniel Lauber, Hans-Joerg Reinicke, Marcus Schuette, Jorg Sieweke