Alternative Futures for Pueckler – Muskau Land

In the early nineteenth century, Prince Hermann von Pueckler-Muskau(1785-1871) laid out a huge landscape park on his estates at Muskau, nowdivided by the German-Polish border. As author of Hints on LandscapeGardening, Pueckler-Muskau is regarded as the founder of Germanlandscape architecture. Like Prince Franz of Anhalt Dessau,Pueckler-Muskau had visited England for long periods. He saw the workof Brown, Repton, and Nash, and was inspired to remake the Muskau park,some 1,300 acres in extent, in the English style. His extravagantdevotion to landscape as art, and a disregard for practicalitiesresulted in the forced sale of the beautifully embellished Muskau in1846. He retired to his smaller property at Branitz, near Cottbus, andbegan work there, creating more English inspired gardens, and the famouspyramid tomb in which he and his wife are buried. Pueckler-Muskau diedin 1781, leaving the property to a nephew, who completed the landscapeproposed by his uncle in 1888, by which time Branitz covered 395 acres.The landscape park at Branitz has survived the twentieth century insurprisingly good condition, and was carefully maintained during itsyears as part of the G.D.R.Muskau and the surrounding region were not so fortunate, however. Thepark at Muskau was sold to Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, whoextended and improved it between 1852 and 1881, with the guidance ofEduard Petzold. The Schloss was rebuilt in Renaissance style, used as ahospital in the Second World War, and burned down in 1945, leaving astanding shell as a reminder. The portion of the park extending intoPoland has been completely neglected since 1945, although concerns havebeen expressed about this situation. The G.D.R. maintained the Germanportion until reunification. The region surrounding the two landscapeparks has suffered major devastation and related pollution problemsresulting from extensive open cast lignite mining and industrialdevelopment. With the demise of mining and heavy industry, economicconditions in the region have deteriorated, resulting in very highlevels of unemployment. Although efforts at reclamation and economicstimulation have been made, the problem is enormous.Recently, the possibility of a study of Fuerst Pueckler-Land hasbeen raised. With the improvement of regional economic andenvironmental conditions as its goal, the study would investigate thepotential of the area as the site of an IBA (an international buildingand landscape exhibition) and its longer term benefits; identifyopportunities for improvement to capitalize on its considerable tourismpotential, and assess the appropriateness of the Muskau/Branitz area forinclusion on the World Monuments Fund list (see: overall concept of the IBA proposes a set of linked \”LandscapeIslands.\” The most important and problematic one, and the focus of thisproposal, is the preservation and remaking of the Fuerst PuecklerlandCultural Landscape (or, as we call it \”Fuerst-Pueckler-Land\”). Thisregion includes the town of Bad Muskau in Germany and its Polishsister-city, Leknica, with Pueckler\’s large landscape park as a\”backbone\” and the surrounding area, including the vast and stillpartly active brown coal mining area of Nochten. Additionally, thehistoric and current routes between Muskau and Branitz will be studiedfor their potential landscape, history, and tourism opportunities. Interestin the study has been expressed by the regional planning authority inCottbus, and by the IBA director Rolf Kuhn.A collaborative, sponsored, option-level studio will be held in thefall semester between the Harvard GSD and the Anhalt University ofApplied Sciences. Th