Sondern got a new face: The restructuring of the area between the railway station and the lake in the village of Sondern enhances the tourist infrastructure along the shore of the lake while fulfilling its aspirations to establish a recreational destination for decades to come. One critical element was minimizing the barrier effect of the railway tracks to connect the location more intimately with the lake and to significantly boost its appeal as a place to linger for residents and visitors alike. The design of a lake promenade that runs along either side of the railway minimizes the visual blemish of the tracks and refashions the railway’s linear transection of the landscape as an aesthetic characteristic. As new tourist infrastructure, the shore of the lake in Sondern works to upgrade the location for local citizens and projects an image of progressive and sustainable landscape for the region.

The lakeside railway station represents the central access point for the recreational region around the lakes of Biggesee and Listersee that allows a direct transition from the regional train to waterborne travel. However, the railway tracks separate the location from the shore of the lake; the site was marked by outdated asphalt parking areas meant to accommodate the excessive amount of vehicles associated with visitors on weekends. This ultimately compromised the livability of the town.

Despite its scenic charm, the number of visitors to the region has long been in decline. Although the town is home to fewer than 500 residents, Sondern offers public amenities such as a bathing beach, a surfing school and a boat rental facility. While this provides clear evidence of the importance of local recreation for the location, it also speaks to the tourism the region once enjoyed. The transformation of the lakeshore seeks to re-discover the village’s leisure potential with benefit both for locals and tourists.

Railway becomes landscape architecture

The contrast between the organic nature of the lake and the rectilinear railway tracks expresses the location’s uniqueness and reconfigures the tourist infrastructure of the lakeshore. The backbone of the design is the promenade that runs along either side of the railway line, reinforcing the prevailing linearity. The railway lines are visually integrated into the whole of the design, which in turn minimizes their barrier effect.

The lower, lake-facing side of the promenade unfolds in a level, straight line that intersects the two bays. Here, the promenade widens into expansive lakeside balconies, whose elongated form corresponds to the linearity of the tracks and orchestrates the junction with the lake. They offer an open view over Biggesee – a place to linger and observe the goings-on. Both provide barrier-free access, while their clear span conveys a feeling of spatial bounty, which continues to unfurl across the surface of the water.

The inland side of the promenade proceeds at the same level as does the railway platform. It serves as a connecting axis from the new parking places to the south of the project area, over the multifunctional space that provides a stopping place for coaches, and on to the square by the railway station and the lakeside park. As it fulfills this access function, it serves to refocus attention back onto the recreational qualities of the location. Groves comprising narrow-leaved white ash trees, under which long benches beckon strollers to rest their feet, punctuate the gravel paths. A specially designed play area adds recreational fun for young families. Its form adapts the topography of the region: one can climb, balance and slide over green ranges of hills.

New tourist infrastructure

The reduction of parking spaces and their relocation to the inland edge of the site meets the goal of a town center with a minimal number of cars. The expansion of individual recreational facilities has made possible a lakeside park that meets aspirations for an attractive destination to lure tourists.

The importance of recreation, leisure and tourism is on the rise in rural areas just as well as in urban. The new tourist infrastructure along the lakeshore in Sondern enhances the immediate surroundings for local citizens and projects an image of a sustainable, forward-looking landscape for the region. The role of landscape to the identity of the region as well as the qualities inherent to landscape architecture for the upvaluation of a location were critical to this project. The area’s enhanced utilization potential for residents and visitors alike makes today’s Sondern lakeshore a scenic location with excellent recreational offerings. Sojourns, strolls, interactions and, above all, the lake itself are once more in demand.

*The exceedingly low amount of rainfall in summer 2018 has caused the water level of the Biggesee to appear unusually low in the photos.

Photos: © Hanns Joosten

Project location: Strandweg, 57462 Olpe, Germany

Design year: 2014

Year Built: 2018



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