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COLOGNE’S GREEN SYSTEM – A CUTTING-EDGE HERITAGE

The European City gruensystem.koeln

The green system of Cologne consists of an inner green belt, an outer green belt and radial connections that extend into the urban hinterland. It originates in the 1920s resulting from in-depth analysis and creation by the former lord mayor Konrad Adenauer, the city planer Fritz Schumacher and the horticulturist Fritz Encke. For the well-being of the citizens of Cologne, the green system was inspired by issues of ecology, public health, urban climate, aeration, air pollution control, traffic control, social justice, education and artistic design. In the tense socioeconomic and political period between World War I and World War II Adenauer, Schumacher and Encke faced the central question of metropolitan development in a rapidly growing city - notably, a current and global topic of these days urban planning.

Consistently, the visionary conception of Cologne's green system emerged from holistic deliberations that in nearly 100 years did not loose any of its timeliness. This conception is unique in Europe and serves as an ideal general principle for urban development. At present Cologne - like other metropolitan areas globally - faces similar challenges as in the 1920s and new ones: climate change, air pollution and the much-needed transformation of transportation are prominent examples of pushing urban problems. Uncontrolled land use and soil sealing specifically threaten urban green. By uncontrolled development into existing green infrastructure cities not only loose their ecological air conditioning; the socio-cultural heritage is likewise endangered: despite of the fact that the green system of Cologne is largely protected by a landscape and monument conservation status, it constantly attracts investors and massive urban development is implemented or imminent. Moreover, a lack of care and respect for the substance significantly afflicts this green heritage.

Consistent with this threat scenario and in the context of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 'gruensystem.koeln' campaigns for the historic, climate-relevant and artistically outstanding green heritage and initiates an interdisciplinary dialogue by asking the following: Is it possible to install a special and fail-safe protection status for Cologne's green system? Which guidelines can be developed for the program 'European City' ('Europäische Stadt') based on the example of Cologne's green system? Which disciplines / fields have to be incorporated into urban development? Which disciplines are more important? What can be transferred from the social reforms of the 1920s to current, sustainable urban development? What would a sustainable expansion of Cologne's green system look like? How much courage and vision is needed to preserve and expand a cultural heritage such as the green system of Cologne in the broader sense of an identity endowing European city?

These topical questions will be addressed in events such as guided excursions, lectures and discussion panels. Additionally, sustainable elements such the installment of an internet platform with scientifically upgraded charts, maps, expert knowledge and background information as well as an international expert meeting with published proceedings are scheduled. All measures will highlight the exemplary character of Cologne’s green system for the contemporary European city.

The Europe-wide impact of Cologne’s green system is complex: the perspective of the cultural heritage results among others from the ‘Canberra Declaration on Historic Urban Parks’ of the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL) that was ratified at the 18th ICOMOS-plenary meeting in 2014 in Florence. The appraisal of urban green spaces, e.g. Cologne’s green system constitutes an exemplary green infrastructure that has the potential to strengthen metropolitan areas globally against the ordeals of climate change. In an unprecedented manner Cologne’s green system connects ecosystem services, offers green space for quality of life and protects the means of livelihood for future generations of all: metropolitan citizens, flora and fauna.