The urban riverscapes of the River Neckar in the heart of Heilbronn appeared fragmented and were characterized by spatial obstacles such as roads and railway lines. Many plots were inaccessible and vacant. Triggered by the development of the “Neckarbogen” (bend of the river Neckar) urban scheme on a former brownfield site, the city’s urban fabric is now being re-stitched.
In this process, landscape has been playing a most prominent part. Dividing traffic infrastructures were abolished and the urban landscapes and waterfronts unfold as a connecting tissue for the whole city.
Existing structures and atmospheres were combined with new elements into several continuous landscape strips: the landscaped gardens of the river islands, the urban parks connected to the new housing scheme, the narrow band of Hafenberg, or the nature experience along Neckarhabitat. Each strip develops its own authentic landscape theme embedded into the overall flow of a contemporary, “smart” landscape imbuing the city.
BUGA Heilbronn, the Federal Garden Exhibition, has set in motion a comprehensive rebuilding of the city of Heilbronn, with the “Modellquartier Neckarbogen” housing scheme as a spatial kick-off, completed to one third so far in 2019. New urban landscapes here provide the main qualities for public space and inform overall strategies of urban planning. In the competition entry of 2011, the urban fabric was interpreted in a landscape based fashion, identifying main landscape strips along the riversides of the river Neckar and the “Neckarkanal” canal. They help to strengthen the continuum of the riverscape and to link spaces across existing barriers.
The urban landscapes designed to remain after the temporary Garden Exhibition frame the urban core of the scheme. More than two kilometers open space developments along inner-city riversides have been created or regained from wasteland for the urban public. At the same time, essential landscape functions such as noise protection, stormwater retention, or urban wildlife protection are merged into multi-coded, “smart” landscapes. Respect for the value of the inner-city landscape and the demand to use it economically were motivations to create a wide variety of layered functions and innovative designs.
With Felsenufer, the Hafenberg park features embankments of earth and stone rising up to 12 metres, creating an artificial landscaped spine in front of the industrial backdrop of the Neckarkanal. Notwithstanding the constrictions of space, the skywalk on top allows wide vistas into the countryside beyond the city. The walls and gorges make for climbing walls and a vertical playground. Rock fragments and gravel fields on the Hafenberg hill slopes provide biotopes for lizards and thermophile insects. Gabions and vines reminiscent of the river Neckar’s eroding banks tie the design scheme to regional references.
Karlssee lake features a beach and wooden decks for recreation and also serves as a stormwater retention pond. The lake is connected to the river Neckar via “Wassertreppe” water steps.
North of Neckarbogen, Neckarhabitat urban wetlands shows how an experience of nature can be offered in the midst of the city. Terraced floodplains have been planted with shrubs and grasses and will be left to natural succession. A “floating” wooden footbridge 500 metres in length runs across the habitat, serving as a pedestrian connection as well as offering places of quiet rest.
Same as Karlssee, Floßhafen waterbasin is a reminiscence of the port formerly located on the site, repeating the shape of its basins. In the future, when the housing scheme will be completed, Floßhafen will form the very heart of the new urban development. Stairs and seating steps around the lakeshore invite to rest. The artificial island features a water playground.
Neckarufer embankment park is the local waterfront park for the people of Neckarbogen, but also connects to the historical city centre. Its terraces offer much space for recreational use, but also serve as flood retention area. Some of the sandstone blocks used were recycled from the walls of the historic port basins. New outdoor sports and recreation areas are part of the design scheme as well as historic and existing elements, for example the red brick building of a shipping company and locks.
On the other side of the river, in the existing landscape parks Campuspark and Kraneninsel island with their valuable large trees, new spatial programmes were introduced that react to neighbouring development schemes: the campus of Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences and “Experimenta” science museum.
Role of the office in the project: Landscape design and planning work phases 2-9 HOAI
Photos: Nikolai Benner
Participation in civil engineering
Participation in Structural planning
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Machleidt GmbH für Städtebau, Berlin;
Wald + Corbe GbR, Stuttgart;
Polyplan GmbH, Bremen-Hannover;
BIB Kutz; Ingenieurbüro, Karlsruhe;
CDM Smith Consult GmbH, Stuttgart
Project location: Paula-Fuchs-Allee, 74076 Heilbronn, Germany
Design year: from 2012
Year Built: 2019