Folgelandschaft (eng: After-Landscape) is a manifesto of caretaking for Europe's largest open-pit coal mine, located in Hambach, Germany.
40 years of extraction have resulted in a 400m deep, 7km wide, and 10km long depression in the landscape — uninhabitable and useless. It is the epitome of our society's ingrained understanding of land as nothing more than a mere commodity. Aggressively used and disposed of, without any consideration for the resulting damages.
This project is about fundamentally challenging this destructive paradigm through the simple act of caretaking, in which the traditional understanding of care is subverted and extended into a form of empathetic reparation to the ground.
In 2030, Germany will officially phase out coal energy. No more coal, humans or machines within these 45sqkm. Leaving behind a barren wasteland that, under German Federal Law, needs to be reclaimed.
This project will intervene in 7 years. The existing infrastructure and machines of extraction will be retained and transformed into tools of reconstruction that will delicately tend to the landscape. They will be recalibrated to become less efficient in coal extraction, but more suitable in reshuffling gargantuan amounts of sand. Creating a 2m deep protective layer that will cover the entire surface of the mine. This layer will not be permanent, it will slowly erode with time until re-excavated and reproduced elsewhere.
This post-extractive approach of tending will gradually change the mine’s image and purpose. Constructed solely through different types of sand, it will form a new spatial condition that is neither architecture nor landscape.
A spatial condition that can host multiple timescales of inhabitation. It will be occupied by seasonal plants that further the sedimentation of the ground, animals that will never leave this site, and machines that will accompany it for at least a century. It will also be suitable for humans staying for a few hours, a couple of days or even a week. Hiking across this tundra-like space, while at the same time compacting the ground with their own weight - acting as voluntary caretakers.
The intervention will attempt to move beyond mere ground remediation. The project’s 100-year timeframe alone suggests that it will not be just for humans, but for everyone and everything.
The Hambach mine will never return to what was there before, nor will it become a useless wasteland. Instead, the landscape will continue to reinvent itself until one day the ground will reach its final composition. Or will it ever?
This proposal puts forward an architectural intervention that bridges extreme scales and timeframes, a project that cannot exist anywhere else but within this coal mine. With caretaking being the sole purpose of the project rather than a function simply applied to spaces, it offers a radical alternative to reclaim Germany’s fading mines.
Perhaps in a distant future, this repaired land will become a new city form, where sand dunes become walls, floors or roofs. Forming the architecture of a post-extraction society committed to caretaking.