Berlin Moabit Prison Historical Park

Berlin Moabit Prison Historical Park

Glaßer und Dagenbach
Berlin, Germany | View Map
Project Year
Udo Dagenbach

Berlin Moabit Prison Historical Park

Glaßer und Dagenbach as Architects

Reason for the creation of the park The park's theme and urban planning and its architectural and political history are unique to Berlin’s urban landscape. The task of creating both a memorial and an area for people to relax and learn has been accomplished in an exemplary manner. Historical landmarks have been preserved, restored and enhanced using contemporary styling. The dramaturgical approach of minimalist sculptural design principles once again anchors the structural remains permanently in the disordered urban space of the neighboring Central Station. Local people and visitors to Berlin can rediscover the site’s historical significance after more than 50 years of inaccessibility and enjoy its recreational resources. Local borough residents were deeply involved throughout the almost 16 years of planning and developing of the park. The Borough of Mitte, represented by the Streets and Parks Office, would like to submit this bid to illustrate how complex urban spaces can be upgraded and maintained through energetic, yet prudent landscaping.

Explanation The design for the history park is the result of an intensive study of the site’s history, beginning with Moabit Prison construction 150 years ago. The park is replete with hints and references to the physical layout and the former use of the grounds. The park is enclosed on three sides by the five-metre-high prison wall which remains intact. The wall and the three former guard dwellings (No 18) give visitors a good idea of the size and shape of the prison.

Visitors can enter the park through three variously designed entrances (Nos 1-3). Inside the park, sheltered by the high walls, the star-shaped layout of the former prison building is recreated. Wings BD (Nos 5-7) are depicted by sunken or elevated lawn levels. Hedgerows depict what was once Wing A and show the arrangement and size of the solitary cells (No 4). Visitors can explore a reconstructed cell in its original dimensions (No 4a) while listening to a recording of several of Albrecht Haushofer “Moabit Sonnets” written during his incarceration in winter 1944-45.

The former central surveillance area of the prison, which enabled guards to monitor all wings simultaneously, is designed as a circular space framed by a concrete shell cube in the middle (No 9), the Panoptikum. Adjacent is a copper beech cluster which portrays the site of the former administration building (No 8). The three circular exercise yards used until 1910 to prevent any communication among prisoners on their outdoor walks are alluded to in a variety of ways, all conveying their magnitude and absurdity. (Nos 11-13). “In Fetters”, a passage from the “Moabit Sonnets”, is inscribed in large letters on one of the prison walls (No 19). When entering the park, visitors immediately become aware of two different sectors: the spacious empty lawn depicting the former prison buildings and the gradually overgrown western part, which shields the park from the adjacent housing. The sparse wooded area can be toured on a trail-like network. The routes incorporate recreational and rest areas constructed with materials from the Civil Engineering Office which used the space as a storage location for nearly 60 years. These include natural stone paving, old granite curbs, slate bloc remnants of the fountains in front of Berlin Zoo and leftover red sandstone from Moltkebrücke.

The Moabiter Ratschlag Association, a local citizen’s group, organized a project to involve community children and young people in the creation of the play area (Nos 14, 16, 17). Working together with artists, they produced edutainment facilities inspired by the area’s history. Some explanation to the sketches: The first sketches from 1990 and next planning step in 1994 and 1996 differed little if one regards the way we defined the space, but the 1996 concept was the one which was realized from 2003 to 2006. The long planning period results from organisation reasons of the local authorities. When we started 1990 still a plan are drawn by hand with ink. In 1996 the standard of CAD was already high, but we did not use it for this project. My friend, Alexander Khomiakov – now Russias most important landscape architect and also a famous architect -did the beautiful drawings (as above mentioned). It was his idea to lift up the central panoptikum Cube. The cube itself changed its face about ten times during the design process. It took some long discussions with our team member Andreas Steiner from Switzerland until it finally ended up with a cube. The cube should be some kind of information desk. But during the construction we cancelled this for design reasons. In 1999 when the final design drawings were made Cad was a big help for us. All scetches are made with pencil except the perspektiv-Vogel-2 tif. This was made by Alexander with 0.13 rapidograph – the smallest possible size – direct on paper. I don´t know how he could survive this kind of drawing method…..

The “lageplan with legend” is a result of many team members work on the project. We also once (about 1998)had the whole project in a complete 3d rendering but it did not help a lot. At that time the renderings were still a little dull. The so called “first sketch” is actually copy of the real first sketch. I threw it away and some days later made the next one in a discussion with team members to explain the idea

14.1.2008 Udo Dagenbach

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