Diversity Gardening: Validating the 'Script of Green Strategies for Inclusive Urbanism'

Doctoral Researcher: Elisabeth Haefs, M.A.

Advisors: Prof. Dr. Jens Martin Gurr and Prof. Dr. Randi Gunzenhäuser

U.S. Mentor: Prof. Hajo Neis, University of Oregon

Graphic of projects. Project Diversity Gardening is highlighted.

Urban planning in the postindustrial Ruhr region is deeply informed by the green city vision. Essen’s application as “European Green Capital” supposedly adapts planning models from ‘eco’ cities like Portland, Oregon. Essen’s tagline – “From Green to Grey to Green” – denotes a figure of thought that symbolises a green ‘reconquest’ of the formerly industrial region. Simultaneously, the story of grey industrial times is rewritten and expanded. Additionally, utopian as well as romantic narratives permeate non-literary textual productions of the garden in the green city. In this form of urban planning, the phenomenon of ‘diversity gardening’ acts as a cultural practice that is supposed to help build green and inclusive communities – like in Portland’s community gardens.

The underlying structures that characterise the Ruhr region, however – for instance, large-scale social segregation into north and south – lead to complications in the adaptation of transatlantic models. Moreover, from a metaphorical point of view, practices like ‘weeding’ and ‘sowing’ indicate that gardening-related social processes are intertwined with excluding mechanisms. Thus, the cultivation of urban soil does not automatically build inclusive communities. It can also have divisive effects.

This project benefits from the unique opportunity for one year of field research, working with Essen’s Green Capital Agency and the Collaborative for Inclusive Urbanism in Portland.