/THE SPREE CANAL YESTERDAY
Initially, the Spree – the canal between Fischerinsel and the Bode Museum – was used for transportation, trade links, hydroelectric power station needs and swimming. One of the latest forms in which the Spree canal was actively utilized was the pool next to the Berlin City Palace. However, the swimming zone was closed in 1925 due to hygienic issues. Since then, the access to water anywhere along the canal was prohibited.
/THE SPREE CANAL TODAY
Nowadays, the canal is in poor condition. During the past decades, the canal has been closed for navigation, though it actively used for sewerage. The contamination is most severe when the sewerage levels become too high due to heavy rains, which happen 20 to 30 times per year. When this happens, the amount of water in the whole system is larger than the capacity of the whole Berlin sewerage. As a result, all the contents, including feces, discharge water and sanitary waste, seep into the river. After that, it takes several days for the canal to recover.
/ BIOLOGICAL FILTER IS THE SOLUTION
The idea of the project is to create a system that will filter the water in the river and in the sewerage. The project was initiated by a group of architects and artists known as Realities:united. In 2014, the project gained the support of Germany's Federal Ministry of the Environment as part of the National Town Planning program, as well as the support of the Department of Urban Development and Environment. Since 2012, theFlussbad BerlinNGO is at the head of the project, enabling its implementation. Over the past few years, the interest in the project has risen. The biological filter project continues to be part of a public discussion involving mass-media and the society at large.
/ FLUSSBAD BERLIN TEAM
The NGO Flussbad Berlinwas founded in December 2012. In November 2014, it obtained € 4,000,000 from Berlin and German governments as funding within the National Project for Urban Program Development. The urban programs and the funding allowed the Association to organize project development. In February 2015, the Association created the management unit, which now has a staff of 7 persons. In December 2015, the Association published its first annual report that contained the full description and presentation of the project.
The project has several goals and objectives:
- water purification in the canal
- increasing water accessibility
- creating attractive non-commercial public spaces in the city center
- development of unused areas along the Spree canal and creating an ecological water environment around Fischerinsel
/AREAS AND ZONES
The project team suggests to create three zones in the canal:
1) The project suggests making the existing water space look more natural in the upstream area – between the bridges Inselbrücke and Gertraudenbrücke– . It is proposed to demolish some of the concrete walls along the canal in order to create a softer and smoother embankment. Some 1,8 kilometers along the canal will become a "recreation space" for the aquatic flora and fauna. This would help redress the ecological balance of the Spree river.
2) Another goal is to provide the pedestrians with access to water. It is proposed to create a system of filtration inanother area of the canal known as Friedrichsgracht, which would involve300 meters of biological filters to purify the water flowing into the pool. The actual swimming area will be situated between the bridges Schleusenbrücke and Monbijoubrücke, i. e. in the area between the Humboldt Forum Museum (now under construction) and the Bode Museum. There are also two water access points – at the Lustgarten Park and next to the Humboldt Forum. Here, the visitors would be able to go in the water or just enjoy the view.
3) A new spillway located at the north end of Museum Island will separate the clean water zone from the main flow of the. The project involves creating a swimming area in the canal so as to demonstrate the improvement of water quality in this part of the Spree. Thus, the project aims to become a model for similar projects for efficient ecological use of city resources.
The main technical issue is related to the flow of a great amount of waste water during heavy rains. Despite the filters at Friedrichsgracht that purify the waste water before it proceeds into the swimming area, there remains another problem – the big interior drain near the swimming area at the Schleusenbrücke. In order to control the amount of waste water, the Flussbadteam has suggested creating a special system inside the sewer line, which will collect waste water and slowly redirect it back to the treatment facilities once the rains stop. This will protect the swimming area from waste water.
In 2011, the project received the Holcim Award Europe (Gold) of $100,000.
In 2012, it received the Holcim Award Global (Bronze) of $50,000.
In 2014, funding was obtained from the LOTTO Berlin Fund to develop the project in detail and receive hydrologic certification (€ 110,000).
In the same year, Flussbadofficially became a part of the National Project for Urban Development and obtained funding from the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of € 2,600,000 and an additional support of € 1,400,000 from the Department for Urban Development (Berlin).
In 2014, the Flussbad Associationused the funding from the LOTTO Fund in order to conduct a feasibility study of the project. The results of the study were published in 2015. According to the analysis, the water purification system and the ways to use the Spree canal suggested by Flussbadwere qualified as implementable.
It is obvious that Germany has strong and diverse federal and municipal support for projects for urban development, including those initiated by civil movements. The case of Flussbadillustrates that even such complex and large-scale projects as full reconceptualization and technical re-equipment of the canal can become real, if various stakeholders are interested in it deeply enough and the budget is sufficient.