LILA 2023 Special Mention in Public Landscapes

The Park of Encounters by +

2023 Public Projects / Germany / Built in 2022 / +

The Park of Encounters is a complex design that deals with the public use of a once-army base. Built by the Nazi regime in 1937 and taken over by Allied forces after the war, Campbell Barracks later served as NATO HQ for Europe, which closed in the mid-2010s. Decades of army use left a palimpsest of traces that were waiting to be reinterpreted.

The jury recognises how difficult and yet successful it was to redesign this army-charged site with ‘respectful lightness’ and a ‘slight twist of humour’ as if the designers wanted to decompress the site and add play in a witty, nearly mischievous way. That is evident, for example, in a stripe of play elements that run through the entrance checkpoint, emphasising its disuse, or colouring and displacing the found artefacts from the 1970s. In a different configuration, stripped of their original use, these artefacts represent the retreat of control, repression and are abstracted into new constellations, provoking new interpretations and ways of interaction.

The jurors appreciated this underlying attitude, also resulting in elegant and much more subtle means of change, for example, mixing and shredding of the existing pavements and using them anew. The material/colour palette is exceptionally well thought-through; it communicates the different layers of the site’s palimpsest and connects different parts into a coherent whole.

- from the award statements

The new Park of Encounters for the former military base Campbell Barracks formulates an innovative weaving of narrative history and contemporary needs for an urban park. The site built by the Nazi Regime in 1937 as Grossdeutschland became an American military base and NATO Headquarters for Europe. The concept for the winning international competition entry reinterprets elements of military power and control into places of social encounter and reflection. The new design reinterprets and decontextualizes the history of the site, repurposing found artifacts and historic spaces. With respectful lightness and slight twist of humor the park offers visitors direct and personal access to and experience of the complex and weighted history.

In 2022, for the first time in its history, the site has been transformed to a public space.

The international competition was won in 2018 by landscape architects Robin Winogrond with Studio Vulkan. The design interprets the site anew, asking for a personal encounter of the visitor with the site’s history, becoming a catalyst of curiosity and reflection. In a wide array of plays on history, the design uses artefacts found on site to juxtapose a narrative of the history of the site with new, everyday needs of the users. Reinterpreted, re-coded, decontextualized and re-named, the artefacts and historic spaces allow the visitor to experience the history of Campbell Barracks, and therefore war, with respect and yet an accessible lightness.

The former identity of the major historic spaces (The Forum, The Lounge, The Cultural Market, The Vitrine, The Checkpoint and The People’s Park) is retained as its new central identity, making memory and reflection a main intention of the design. New uses are subtly woven into these spaces. Artefacts found on site, such as surveillance cameras, control stations and furnishings from the 1970’s, are painted sepia color. Abstracted and taken out of context, the “Found Objects” take on a sculptural appearance of rust or old photos.

The fragmented, former military open spaces are framed into a whole by the Red Band. Paving materials from the entire history of the site, 1930-2013, are shredded and recycled. The Red Band unites and frames the main spaces of the park, each with its own new identity, its historic and atmospheric world, its new uses and spaces of encounter.

The heart of the park is The Forum, the former Parade Grounds. A place of military exercises becomes a place of public encounter, discourse, exchange, play and appropriation. Areas of grass consciously frame the eerie void of the former parade grounds, giving clues to its former identity. Contemporary forms of water management are integrated into the site as rain gardens.

On the main entrance to the former barracks, the Vitrine gathers artefacts once used for power and control in the form of surveillance cameras, lighting masts, bird’s nests and loudspeakers. In a strange juxtaposition they enter into dialogue with the stone carved “Nazi Regime Eagles” and decorative reliefs of Soldiers marking the gate to the barracks. A sound installation here creates atmospheric portraits of the historical layers of the site.

The Lounge, next to new student housing, gathers and recontextualizes 1970’s furnishings to create an informal space for chilling and greeting passersby. In the Checkpoint traffic radii are reinterpreted, spun out in all directions into a multifaceted landscape of play. The former Riding Grounds are transformed into the Cultural Market for outdoor cultural events.

In the People’s Park, a classic, historical park area formerly only accessible for the Nazi elite, tiny plazas made of existing stones found on site are inserted into the space for appropriation by workers, residents and park visitors. The Common Ground is an open space tucked among the former barracks housing. Here there is space for urban gardening as well as sports and events curated by local residents.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Faktorgrün Landschaftsarchitekten bdla Beratende Ingenieure Partnerschaftsgesellschaft mbB, Denkstatt sàrl
Location: Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany
Design year: 2018-2021
Year Completed: 2022


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