LEIPZIG, GERMANY 1994
The landscape south of Leipzig – once a picturesque landscape of villages, waterways, wetlands, forest and elds - is now dominated by a series of huge, abandoned, open-pit, soft coal (lignite) mines. Although an economic and environmental disaster, this astonishing moonscape is tremendously powerful as visual and cultural artifact and offers a crumbling museum of the industrial monoculture of mine pits, slag heaps, briquetting works, energy generation, chemical plants, railways, and the rusting carcasses of dinosaurian machinery. Although mining began as early as the 17th century, current conditions are largely the product of the twentieth. Since the 1920’s, twelve cubic kilometers of earth have been moved, entailing the destruction of 60 settlements, the forcible relocation of 24,000 people, and enormous pollution.
Our proposal is to allow the mines to fill with water (a process well underway) and to use the old machines to dig channels connecting them into a chain of lakes. This water connection – extending into the center of Leipzig – would form a new circulation armature for the towns and villages of the Sudraum and a site for new villages to replace those lost to the mines. By recontouring the permimeters of the mines to accommodate “island villages” just off shore, the entire edge of the lakes would be saved for public use and access. The new water-related development, it is hoped, would inspire a distinctive style of life, an interconnected island culture of boats and bridges, with a high degree of sustainability, a rich mix of uses, recreational activities close by, and direct access to green space. By freezing construction on non-reclaimed sites, the existing landscape would be protected, threatening urban sprawl contained, and a unique pattern of settlement created on the new islands reclaimed from the mines.
Credits: Michael Sorkin, Andrei Vovk,