Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin

The Global Urban Humanities Initiative presents Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin, which focuses on the urban wilds of marginal spaces in Berlin as they are transformed into parks and public spaces–or allowed to remain vacant. The film is by Matthew Gandy, the noted geographer from the University of Cambridge and author of The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity and the Urban Imagination among many other books. Co-author and executive producer of the film Sandra Jasper (now at Humboldt University in Berlin) will talk about the film.


Natura Urbana tells the post-war history of Berlin through its plants. The film takes us from the Trümmerlandschaften and their unique ecologies to the abandoned roofs of the Friedrichshagen Waterworks on the edge of the city. Encountering an extraordinary variety of spontaneous vegetation from all over the world that has sprouted along railway lines, street corners, and in the distinctive Brachen of Berlin.


In Natura Urbana the changing vegetation of Berlin serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geo-political division, and the newest phase of urban transformation. Natura Urbana takes us on a unique journey through Berlin ranging from the botanical microcosm of cracked paving stones to elaborate attempts to map the entire city in terms of its distinctive ecological zones.


Sandra Jasper is Junior Professor of Geography and Gender in Human-Environment Systems at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her research interests are in urban nature, soundscapes, and feminist theory. Her research has been published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, The Journal of Architecture, and Dialogues in Human Geography, among other journals. She is currently completing her first monograph on the experimental spaces of West Berlin for which she received a Graham Foundation grant. Together with Matthew Gandy, she is co-editor of the book The Botanical City (Berlin: jovis, 2020).


This event is sponsored by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, the College of Natural Resources, the Institute of European Studies, and the Goethe-Institut San Francisco.