Welzow-Süd Landscape Project

The Idea of an Artificial Desert

The Welzow-Süd open-cast mine is one of the four last lignite mining areas in the region. The lignite seam lies 80 to 100 metres below the earth’s surface. As a result, the overburden or cap rock produced is immense. Mining initially leaves desert-like sand surfaces behind. IBAIBA Internationale Bauausstellung see aimed to recultivate them and make them accessible to visitors.

The goal of the project was to translate the peculiar fascination of the current mining landscape to a new landscape form. The idea came from an international workshop for new landscapes of IBA see in 2001. Precision work by the mining machinery created a roughly 700-hectare topography with hills, peaks and plains to resemble deserts and mountains, with plants only growing in some areas and slowly, developed in a single process with the mining work, and serving as a reminder of this later.

A feasibility study raised many questions, and critics expressed their concerns: How much dust pollution do landscapes like that create? Can positive tourism effects be expected? Is the design compatible with the legally binding lignite plan? A lively debate started and it was soon clear that the project would not be feasible.

However, this failure has generated new impulses for the future of the former mining landscape, as changes start in people’s minds first. The landscape change in Lusatia will continue in the dacades to come. Yet the “artificial desert” has become a partial reality. A mining tourism association offers a range of tours of active mining, and allows visitors to see the wild landscape, which is usually not accessible, in a new way.

Further IBAIBA Internationale Bauausstellung