Project 26 : Landscape art: "The Hand" in Altdöbern

Artwork out of dump

Thanks to lignite, many Lusatian communities have disappeared – bulldozed into oblivion. Other communities were separated from their neighbours, finding themselves on the edge of a sandy trench, isolated amid a moonscape. Once neighbours, the towns of Altdöbern and Pritzen were separated by a huge hole – which today is gradually transforming into the Lake Altdöbern. In future, a huge land artwork in the shape of an over-sized hand will symbolically restore the lost connection between the two communities.


The Greifenhain open-cast mine was shut down in 1992. It left behind a destroyed landscape. There is still a sign on the road out of Pritzen with an arrow pointing straight ahead and the lettering »Altdöbern 3 km« – but today it stands right on the edge of the open-cast mine. The road that once led to Altdöbern no longer exists. Between the two former neighbours is a gaping hole, like a wound in the landscape. Even when the dusty trench becomes a lake – bringing change to the two towns – the inhabitants of both will still be painfully aware of their loss – with no direct connection, the journey to the nearest town is now twelve kilometres.


The IBA’s »Die Hand« project has close links with its »Pritzen Art Landscape« project, which aims to recreate the connection with Altdöbern lost through open-cast mining. A floating pontoon was considered, but proved impractical for geotechnical reasons. When almost three million cubic meters of soil on the Altdöbern side slipped in 2006, an opportunity to redesign the edge arose. In 2007, the IBA brought the American architecture critic and artist Charles Jencks here for a visit. He developed the idea for a large-scale Land ART Project that would symbolically recreate the connection between Pritzen and Altdöbern.

Jencks worked together with Andreas Kipar (KLA-Kiparlandschaftsarchitekten), and finally designed the landscape structure »Die Hand« for the lake’s Altdöbern bank. The Altdöbern earth sculpture stretches out a hand towards Pritzen, in a gesture that symbolizes the way mining both gives and takes away. Mining took away so many things – but it has also given the region things in return: a new lake landscape and a new future. The hand will also enclose a park with the working name Lausitz 9 (Lusatia 9), where the design of more »green hands« will provide a connection with the nine IBA landscape islands. This twenty metre-high earth sculpture will be over half a kilometre in length, and will create quiet bays, waterside areas, and interesting elevations. There will be two large open spaces suitable for multiple uses. Each will have a »protecting« backbone and be attached to a piece of the lake’s bank and separated by the »thumb« (which ends with a wooden deck where special events can be held). Deeply sculpted embankment areas will be the »fingers.« Beyond its symbolic significance, the plan has a very practical purpose: it is planned to include a single large beach area, a path network, a car park, and a kiosk.

For this design, Jencks used motifs from his most prominent large-scale work, »The Garden of Cosmic Speculation« in Scotland: sweeping lines of rising and falling earth contrast with expanses of water, light and shade are carefully deployed, and the sculpture has striking high points. As well as reestablishing a connection with the »Pritzen Art Landscape«, the design is a reinterpretation of motifs from classical garden art, which gives it an affinity with the nearby Schlosspark.


The project is geotechnically feasible and could be integrated into the LMBV’s ongoing restoration work on the former mine dump. The LMBV also commissioned Jencks and KLA’s joint design. This landscape art design will give the lake’s bank a highly individual and unmistakeable character, making it stand out within the Lusatian Lake Land.

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last update: 1/26/2017 13:13