The Domain of Bad Zwesten

The History

We were invited to Bad Zwesten by Dr. Uwe Seeger who, after seeing the meadow wie had made on the roof of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, DBR in Bonn, had asked if we could create a meadow form that could improve the space around the two buildings of the Hardtwaldklinik. After looking at the clinic grounds, we were invited to lunch by then Mayor Heinrich Haupt, who asked that we address the finding of continuity between the town an the four villages in the township or town grouping of Zwesten. We discussed locating the watershed of the area in which the towns were located, since the European Union was interested in the improvement of watersheds and had made the environments its third priority: We then agreed to locate the watersheds or sheds with a view to future improvements as a later part of any project.

Dr. Seeger had originally invited us as his guest, bat soon begun the function as Projekt Manager, offering information about the area, making sure we became thoroughly familiar with the area, making sure knew where to find all the necessary facilities, assuring us studio and workspace, helping to find personnel, and networking us with the community. His offer to continue doing the ensured that we would be able to undertake this work should be community decide to proceed with the project.

Our response at the time was that the landscape here was very attractive, certainly more beautiful than many. We had never before been asked to find way to add value to an already effectively working cultural landscape as was apparent here. However, the questions that the European Union was asking about landscape and watershed had to do with sustainability – the ability of the environment to continue into the future to support is populations – and so we began to look at the landscape from the perspective of the twenty-fist century.

Therefore, after an initial four day visit to Bad Zwesten of June 1998, we proposed the basic theme that we would later develop into a vision. The theme was in three parts, addressing three layers of culture in the domain of Zwesten. The first, a healing circle für the Hardtwaldklinik; the second an eco-cultural meander, many layered, that would connect the five towns that comprise the Domain of Bad Zwesten. The third part was entitled, the leaf which took up the drain basins that are part of the political boundaries of Zwesten, but extend beyond that into the Land area of Bad Wildungen. Therefore the title of this work became the Circle, the Meander and the Leaf, a work for the domain of Bad Zwesten. These themes were developed during a two week residency in Bad Zwesten in April and refined somewhat in a four day period there at the end of June. Thereafter time has been spent in writing and organizing images to go with the text. Typically; in this beginning phase of work, two weeks on site requires at least a third week of reflection and organization in the studio.

It should be understood that our work differs from the normal process of work which has been assigned by others, as is the case with the landscape architect or planner. A multi-leveled vision must be created where none existed before. A vision of this sort is a pre-condition to the second phase of a project, which is design development. Design development, as will be apparent from the following pages, requires community participation. Design development requires two groups to be formed; one of the people from the community, the second of people with particular expertise who can on the one hand, honor the vision as laid out by the artist and on the other integrate and modify as needed the vision expressed by the group from community, who will become involved in the process of designs development.

Future Path:

Thinking about Events Along the Way

This Future Path, in its travels through forest, field, town and village, counterbalances the usual urban connectivity which is, in the main, about asphalt roads and automobiles. Moreover it can functions as a singular ecotome between the forest and the farms through which the majority of the path will travel. We feel that these four elements of the Future Path can function to co-equally benefit two communities, the ecological community as well as the community of people who will use it, and it is singular, in that respect differing markedly from typical countryside walks.
Now, Germany is a country of walkers and is known for its walks and paths, nature walks, mountain walks and countryside walks. The eight kilometre walk at the Kurpark in Bad Wildungen is a typical example of the latter. But the path through the domain of Zwesten will be planned to be different in many respects from other walks. The principal difference will be in its complexity and layering of activities and its orientation towards the future that will make it singular and attractive, not only to the citizens of the towns but to residents of a much larger area.
The path will meander through an approximately one kilometer wide band composed of flowering meadow and woodland or meadow and forest. We envision its border as an intensified forest band that encourages the beech, oak, and wetland forest ecosystem to re evolve and complicate itself. We, as others, are concerned with the loss of memory of, and experience of, nature and are therefore concerned with what happens when people live lives disassociated from diverse habitat.
Although in Amerika we have a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, true familiarity and understanding of nature in all its complexity and variety leads to wonder and respect.
This path would travel terrain that would be variously flat and hilly. It would cross streams and small rivers and potential wetlands. It would cross a variety of landscapes and therefore be exposed to full sun as well as to full shade and all manner of light in between, thus offering full play for diversity of habitat with little actual needed, as nature over time will do the work if islands are made available.
We envision the physical path as made, in the main, of decomposed granite varying between two and three meters wide and bordered by stone as required. The actual site selection for the path would be made by a group of volunteers from the community in discourse with the artists, an external group of environmental designer planer, a landscape architect and a soils engineer.

Special Features Along the Way

Here we envision:
A. A seating area amongst shrub, tree and flower grouping that would be planted to be particularly attractive to song-bird species.
B. A seating arrangement where, in season, the aroma of wild flowers and herbs would be particularly evident.
C. A seating area where the sound of running water would be particularly evident.
D. Several seating structures on higher ground where the sense of panorama would be dominate the visual field.
E. Two small stone amphitheatres, one closer to Oberurff, the other closer to Betzigerode, both situated far enough from street noise to permit small performances to take place.
F. Several small walk up towers similar to animal blinds would be located in the vanity of view sites or in areas where birdwatching could take place.
G. A maze would be sited on a flat hilltop area
H. Specially designed picnic areas would be sited, which would have areas for simple outdoor children’s playgrounds
I. A story system, scattered throughout the paths, would be designed to tell of the unique ecological properties of each kind of terrain, while other stories, derived from ecological information would be told in simple everyday language.
J. Another Story system would tell of the history of place and of interesting in that history. Some of these would be gathered from the memories of people who live here and/or once lived here. Also there would be stories of important personages from the history of the area, with space for stories to be added in den future.
K. The biodiverse elements through which the path moves would also have an educational value, which specially marked species areas that might be developed in cooperation with local schools and be useful to other schools as well. The overall ensemble would be designed for the general public, but might be designed with the local universities to also serve as research areas for graduate students. The educational layer could well attract environmental research monies, as it would functions as a unique biodiversity band with interesting topographical properties.

On Connectivity and Layering

A meander for the Domain of Zwesten: A Walk into its Own Future

If a path were created that physically connected the town and four villages of the Zwesten domain, then many of the oldest connections between villages, which were footpaths through farm and forest, would again come into being, but in an entirely new context.
For instance, there still exists a forest walk between Wenzigerode and Betzigerode and there exists as well a partially developed river walk between Oberurff and Niederurff and fragments a walk exist between Oberurff and Bad Zwesten, while a reasonable path remains between Bad Zwesten and Betzigerode. With some changes and additions, there is an eleven kilometre path through village, farm, field and wood wanting to happen. We have encountered many people walking on one part of this or another. Now the transformation of these simple pathways into a many layered cultural structure happens when the pathways serve multiple functions. The recreational interests of people in everyday life is one, as is the ecological value of connectivity associated with a powerful aesthetic experience. A pathway such as this can function as a tourist attraction in addition to a neighbourhood one.
It can also serve as an enterprise attractor to those small electronically sophisticated units that find isolation within the more pristine small high ground sites an advantage and a stimulus to creativity, this is a trend that we have seen operate in California, and Colorado, as well as North Carolina, New England and other places in America. This phenomenon is also happening in parts of the Pennine Mountains in England and other places in Europe.

A Healing Ring 

A Perimeter Marking the Hardtwaldklinik at Bad Zwesten
as a Coherent Place in the Landscape

We hold that healing the problems of the psyche and healing the difficulties emerging in the physical self, the image of self, or self in relations with others that emerges from the problems of the psyche, can be more easily resolved in the presence of a consciously constructed healing environmental surround. In fact we hold the one as being automatically affected by and in transaction with the other. Further, we hold the creativity and improvisation embedded in the cultural landscape such as we propose can be, prima facie, healing. Every enriching experience can act as an overlay, which creates distance from problems, permitting a new perspective to emerge.
We believe that energy follows thought. For instance , if a problem exists wherein resolution appears impossible, when attentions is paid to issues larger than self, then although the problem may remain the same, the self is not in the same relationship to the problem. Such a change in relationship, brought about by a change in perspective, sometimes, although not always, makes the solution t such a problem, particularly a psychological problem, more accessible. We see the construction of a new biodiverse landscape that explicitly demanding, although continuously available, can perform the function.

On the Clinic and its Physical Terrain

Presently, the clinic is composed of two large multi-story undistinguished buildings that are out of scale with the rest of the landscape. Moreover, the terrain that the buildings occupy, and the space between them, has nothing that would identify this environment as singular. From almost any angle, the eye passes through the space between these buildings into either the Kurpark below, or the farm and forest beyond. Thus, there is no particularity, uniqueness or singularity of place for the Hardtwaldklinik community that uses it. To give the Hardtwaldklinik a clarified sense of place or singularity, we propose an oval or circular forest form be planted, springing from the existing forest at one edge, which would be designed in such a way that the space between the two buildings would become a ground plane that holds the two structures together.
Thereafter, we propose for the clinic what we have been calling a healing circle, in which the ground plane in between the buildings is transformed into a flowering meadow and the existing fountain is transformed into a small wetland wildlife sanctuary. Elements along the charge circular walk would be designed in consultation with the staff therapists in the clinic for their possible therapeutic value to different populations of patients.
For instance, certain of the patient population at the clinic comes with the fear of open space that is, in its most extreme form, fear von leaving the home, in effect, agoraphobia, as Dr. Seeger told us. We believe there is a way to design a mini-walk that permits such a patient to successfully leave a place of safety by taking small steps in that direction and quickly returning and with each return, building the confidence to enlarge his or her sphere of activity. There are patients who fear their heart will fail them if they walk any distance at all. We believe that a therapeutic walk with, for instance, many resting places, that builds confidence, would also have a therapeutic effect. These are simply two examples. We believe that many more would emerge from discussion with the healing community in Zwesten. This would have the Hardtwaldklinik unique among healing centers in this type. It is for these reasons that we define this park of our vision a Healing Circle.