History park former cell prison Moabit Civic park and memorial in the form of an architectural garden at a historically significant site

Übersichtsplan Übersichtsplan zeigt die fertigestellte Anlage© 2007 Udo Dagenbach glasser und dagenbach

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Blick in den Park vom Eingang Invalidenstraße aus Blick über die Achse eines ehemaligen Zellenflügels auf den Betonquader, der den panoptischen Bereich symbolisiert.© 2006 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

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Parkeingang Invalidenstrasse Der Eingang aus gefärbtem Beton ist wie eine Schublade durch die Gefängnismauer gesteckt.© 2007 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

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Panoptikum Betonquader, der den ehemaligen panoptischen Bereich des Gefängnisses symbolisiert© 2006 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

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Übersichtsplan Übersichtsplan zeigt die fertigestellte Anlage© 2007 Udo Dagenbach glasser und dagenbach


Blick in den Park vom Eingang Invalidenstraße aus Blick über die Achse eines ehemaligen Zellenflügels auf den Betonquader, der den panoptischen Bereich symbolisiert.© 2006 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

Parkeingang Invalidenstrasse Der Eingang aus gefärbtem Beton ist wie eine Schublade durch die Gefängnismauer gesteckt.© 2007 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

Panoptikum Betonquader, der den ehemaligen panoptischen Bereich des Gefängnisses symbolisiert© 2006 Udo Dagenbach glaßer und dagenbach

A civic park suitable for everyday use and a memorial in one - is that possible? - Yes! The history park on the former site of the first Prussian model prison, near the new main railway station in Berlin, combines both the function of a citizens' park and a memorial at an important place in German history. The long list of prisoners ranged from the Captain of Köpenick to well-known personalities of the German Resistance. Albrecht Haushofer wrote his "Moabit Sonnets" during his imprisonment, which ended fatally for him. Despite the fateful character of the place, an abstract, architectural garden was created with the means of Land Art and Minimal Art, which avoids any pedagogical attitude. Local residents were involved in a long-term collaboration and, under the guidance of local artists, children and young people in particular were involved in the design of play objects. In 2007, the park was awarded the German Landscape Architecture Prize and the international daylight spaces award by Danubia University Krems in Austria.
The project was awarded 2nd prize in the landscape category by an international jury on the occasion of its publication in the yearbook "Made in Germany" by Braun Verlag.

The park is unique in Berlin's urban landscape in terms of theme, urban space, construction and event history. The task of creating both a memorial site and a usable park for the population has been implemented in an exemplary manner. The restoration of the old architectural relics and their supplementation in a contemporary formal language have been convincingly solved. The dramaturgical use of minimalist-sculptural design principles anchors the architectural relics permanently in the dynamically developing urban space of the neighbouring main railway station. The city's population and visitors can now rediscover the site's historical significance and enjoy its recreational qualities after more than 50 years of isolation.

150 years ago, as a result of prison reform, the prison was erected as a star-shaped, panoptic brick building modelled on Pentonville Prison in London.
The cellular prison's former impact on the urban landscape no longer exists since the demolition of most of the prison buildings in 1956-1958. The remaining five-metre high prison walls have been lavishly restored. Like two bent arms, they protect the large open interior space from the outside. There has been a complete reversal of function and form. The space within the high prison walls now forms a "hortulus conclusus" - such as would hardly have arisen from "normal" planning processes.
This new quality of a protected interior space was deliberately used as an inversion of its former use. Following a clear dramaturgical concept, the symmetrical ground plan of the prison building is drawn off as a large landscape form in the park surface, so that the size and strict organization of the prison complex can be understood by the park visitor.
The star-shaped layout is traced by means of various tectonic imprints and elevations set in concrete in the flat lawn of the interior. The entire width and length of the eastern cell wings are formed as rising and falling inclined lawn planes, which act as a large sculpture in the wide parking area.
The northern cell wing is inserted into an existing grove of trees. This area therefore receives a more careful design. Hedge strips of red-leaved copper beech replicate the cells in different orientations. One cell is staged as a walk-in sculpture by concrete walls in its original size. The southern wing is recreated by a lawn that is lowered evenly into the ground. The former central surveillance area is interpreted as a circular square with a frame-shaped concrete cube in the middle.

West of the six- to ten-storey building on Lehrter Straße, a light, forest-like vegetation border of pines, birches and robinias is built up as an optical separation from the building, extending the existing tree grove to the south. In the middle of this forest structure, a three-row planting of cubically cut, red-leaved copper beech trees shows the former location of the administration wing.
The three former strollers for the prisoners' yard walk were located between the cell wings - they experience different interpretations of their former function. To the southeast, the space of one of these triangular crates is made tangible by two concrete panes set at an angle ("jumping in the triangle" is the red-welsh term for the yard walk of prison inmates in the triangular crate).
To the east, a circular depression in the lawn shows the full size of a walker's yard. In its center, framed by a concrete wall, still stands an old walnut tree - a relic of the conversion of the walk yards to ornamental beds in the early 20th century.

The choice of in-situ concrete as a material was never a question. It was clear from the outset that only this material would be up to the task in terms of its flexibility and expressiveness.
The aim of the planning was to achieve a sketchy effect that was more in thought. The concrete was to have the same colour and texture as the lime mortar joints of the old prison wall. A pale sand tone. The lowest possible colour admixture was added to the C35 grade concrete: 2% pigment.
The surface was subsequently sandblasted - violated. This gives a sense that it is a place that was and is about hurting, hurting and hurting. Therefore, bleedings of ferrous aggregate parts are deliberately left. Only rust from remnants of red wire has been removed.

To the north, the former central surveillance area of the walk yard is highlighted by the central planting of a blood maple in a dark grit area. Radiating concrete circles set flush with the ground show the separation of the walking sheds. A columnar juniper is planted in each face of a strolling shed, creating a surreal gathering of "yard walkers."

The inner area of the park (within the high prison wall) is divided into two zones by the proposed measures. The generous open lawn area with the clear image of the prison buildings to the east and the light woodland structure to the east in front of the residential development provide balancing impressions. The austerity of the articulated lawn immediately butts up against the melancholic, romantic effect of the light forest edge. This articulation allows the integration of necessary park facilities such as play areas and rest areas without violating the dignity of the site. The sparse forest area is accessed by a path-like system of paths. Parallel granite borders cross the paths at irregular intervals, creating a continuous striped pattern - material that was stored in large quantities on the site. Along the forest paths, play facilities are arranged in a very restrained form. In the middle part of the wooded area is the only building preserved in the inner area of the former prison complex - the former scale house.
Here is a sand play area for small children. The restoration of the scale house provides an opportunity for temporary use for supervised playgroups (storage of play equipment, etc.) and the placement of irrigation controls. As part of the site's history, the former use of the site as a storage yard for the Tiergarten Public Works Department led to the formation of another sedimentation "narrative" in the woodland fringe. Special materials, such as the slate block remains of the fountain in front of the Zoological Garden and the remains of the red sandstone of the Moltke Bridge, are arranged together with remnants of natural stone paving to form a circular plaza situation - a Japanese rock garden made of archaeological finds.
The Moabiter Ratschlag association coordinated the children's and youth participation requested by the Mitte district with four artists at three locations in the western part of the park.

In the concrete sculpture, which recreates the prison cell, a sound installation "Klopfzeichen" (Knocking Signs) with recitations of poems from Albrecht Haushofer's Moabit Sonnets and cassiber-like knocking signs, which can be heard when entering the cell, was built in according to an idea and under coordination of the poet and filmmaker Christiane Keppler. This work was accompanied by pupils.

In the western part of the forest, a climbing wall and a seating wall were created, in which the theme of keys is dealt with. Sculptor Bärbel Rothhaar worked with children in Moabit schools and local residents to press and burn key signs and poem fragments into bricks, which were then arranged to form a seating wall.
The theme of keys is also found in a wooden climbing wall designed by Bärbel Rothhaar and children.

At the former scale house, sculptors Gabriele Rosskamp and Serge Petit designed a star labyrinth. A labyrinth-like situation was created from existing granite shelves and stone remnants of the stockyard. Stars were the only thing prisoners could perceive from their cells at night. Constellations were chiselled into the stones by children from the neighbourhood under the guidance of the sculptors.

A fragment of the Haushofer poem "In Fesseln" was written on the wall at the north-eastern part of the former prison wall. Christiane Keppler chose the text passage and the form of writing:
"Of all the suffering that fills this building, a breath is alive under the masonry and iron bars, a secret trembling..."
On the one hand, the inner part of the park is made accessible by paths of chippings-strewn asphalt that follow the remaining prison walls and lead to the park's three entrances. On the other hand, a north-south axis as a dark asphalt path (corresponding to the original pavement of the ground floor) connects the western former cell wings A and D.
The three entrances to the interior of the park differ greatly in their design. In the south, the park is reached through a wall breakthrough from Invalidenstrasse. The arrangement and type of breakthrough follows a dramaturgical concept. The direct view from the street and from the park is blocked by a concrete wall panel in front of the wall. Through the wall, a series of framed concrete stirrups leads to the inner park area, on the axis of the former cell wings A and B. The light and shadow play of the stirrups is a dramatic concept. The play of light and shadow of the bracket construction as well as the reduced views into and out of the park lead over into the total view of the central area and the park.
In the east, a square designed from the building ground plans of the former "lunatic ward" allows views into the park. This was formerly the site of the prison's execution site. An entrance structure folded like a right-angled origami creates an opening in the fence and hedge of red-leafed copper beeches. To the west, the park is reached via a paved plaza planted with nine linden trees on Lehrter Strasse.
Information panels are mounted at all three entrances, which were developed in cooperation with the Geschichtswerkstatt Tiergarten.
The park is locked at night. When locked, the gates at the entrances show the ground plan of the prison on the lock cases.

First prizeGerman Landscape Architecture Award 2007

Jury verdict: In German usage, the name "Moabit" is virtually synonymous with "prison". Since the middle of the 19th century, a number of Prussian prisons were built in this Berlin district, following the so-called "Pentonville system" (Panoptikum), which was exemplary at the time. The cellular prison on Lehrter Strasse is also one of the important sites of German history: it was here that some of the assassins of July 20, 1944 awaited execution; it was here that the famous cycle of "Moabit Sonnets" was written, in which the resistance fighter Albrecht Haushofer condensed freedom and human rights into impressive verses.

On the site of the prison, which was demolished in the 1950s, the "Moabit History Park" was created between 2003 and 2006. The project is characterized by the combination of a citizen's park suitable for everyday use and a memorial in the form of an architectural garden. The jury particularly emphasized in dealing with the historical significance of the site, the planning in many years of cooperation with local residents (history workshop), as well as the high-quality concept and the appropriate structural implementation.

The fact that the largely known repertoire of land or minimal art was used to make the claustrophobic space of the former prison exemplary comprehensible and tangible (Panoptikum, "walking courtyards") did not detract from the jury's verdict. The special and unique task was solved in an exemplary manner by the plan authors.

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Planning offices

glaßer and dagenbach

Project period
2003 - 2006

28.000 m²

Construction amount
3,1 Mio Euro

Bezirksamt Mitte von Berlin und Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin

Bezirksamt Mitte von Berlin und Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin

Invalidenstrasse 55
10557 Berlin

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Prices & Awards
German Landscape Architecture Award 2007
First prize