For the team at Glaßer and Dagenbach, interpreting a space also means connecting to both its past and future. By using the three elements of green, stone and water, the office creates harmonious and contemplative designs aimed at forming a connection between human and place.
Text: Cornelia Brelowski | Photos: Glaßer and Dagenbach | Main image: Garten von Ehren, Hamburg.
The Berlin-based office was founded in 1988 by landscape architects Silvia Glaßer and Udo Dagenbach as co-owners, and engages in hotel and resort projects, as well as park and landscape design for public and private clients across Germany, Austria, Russia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Italy.
Glaßer and Dagenbach’s “smallest projects to date” combine geometrical, Bauhaus-related design with Japanese minimalism. As Udo Dagenbach, who has worked with stone sculptor Prof. Makoto Fujiwara during the ‘80s, explains: “It took a while to find a way of creating the European version of a Japanese Zen garden.”
The cuboid sculpture boldly parts stone and plant by way of a shifted cut. It won the 2018 German Design Award due to its “sophisticated combination of two natural opposites”.
United World College, Dilijan
The comprehensive planning of the outdoor areas of the United World College (UWC) was another project for the firm, and tackled together with Tim Flynn architects, of London. The award-winning design for the international school combines vertical ‘living walls’, natural roof greening, stone, green and water elements in a contemplative yet dynamic layout, with a signature fountain set at a shifted angle within the central axis. The integration of young locals and visitors in the creation of the living walls was part of the concept.
Garten von Ehren, Hamburg
The gardens for the Von Ehren Garden Design Forum, meanwhile, present an enchanting mix of Baroque and contemporary elements. The central, circular patch, with a translucent arc, forms the representative entry section, followed by a vast array of show gardens and greenhouses. The forum is connected with its environment by a spacious parkway, structured by sculptured stone elements.
A former confectionery complex was transformed into a business centre and private apartments. The outside area, by Glaßer and Dagenbach, is marked by green squares, set at slightly shifting angles, as well as finger-like cutouts in the stone paving, allowing the framing greenery to ‘conquer’ the walkways. The design won the silver diploma of the IX. Russian National Landscape Architecture Award 2018, as well as the German Design Award 2020.
Geschichtspark Zellengefängnis, Berlin
The Berlin Moabit Prison Historical Park is a highly acclaimed project which took 16 years to plan and realise. Today, both locals and visitors can rediscover the site’s historical significance after more than 50 years of inaccessibility.
The star-shaped layout is based on the original prison architecture and creates a peaceful, contemplative atmosphere on the very grounds where political prisoners were detained during the fascist regime. An open cube, the ‘Panoptikum’, is set right at its centre: It marks the spot from which prison guards were able to survey all tracts simultaneously.
The former layout was recreated by way of slightly sunken versus elevated lawn levels, as well as hedgerows. Glaßer and Dagenbach made a point of involving children and young people from surrounding communities in the creation of the play area, in cooperation with artists.
In Prussian times, the former cell prison was regarded as modern, because it featured single cells as opposed to group cells for the first time in history. It was later used to detain members of the resistance and was finally demolished in the ‘50s.
The atmospheric park is still enclosed on three sides by the five-metre-high, sunlight-reflecting original brick prison wall. A reconstructed cell allows visitors to listen to a recording of Albrecht Haushofer’s ‘Moabit Sonnets’, secretly composed during his incarceration in 1944 to 45, before his execution through the Gestapo. Highly spiritual in parts, it is an ode to overcoming fear.
The ambitious project has won the German Landscape Architecture Award 2007, the Daylight Spaces Award 2007, as well as the A’ Design Award 2017.
John-Locke square, Berlin
This recreational square, another source of pride for the firm, combines invigorating water elements, stone paving and green patches as part of comprehensive modernisation measures to create new quality of life for the Lichtenrade borough on Berlin’s southernmost border. Playful fountains mark the layout, one of which features life-sized stone hippos, happily resting around the pool.
While keeping their clients’ needs in mind, Glaßer and Dagenbach approach the design of gardens, parks and landscapes strongly depending on both the existing character of the space and its future role: “Our aim is to create gardens and parks with which we can identify on an emotional level, yet which still retain a lasting, timeless clarity.”