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April 2005

It's Grow Time

Munich goes plant-potty with the German national garden show

Flowers, flowers everywhere. And not just flowers, but hundreds of thousands of trees, vegetables and plants, exotic and indigenous alike. Munich will be in full bloom when the Bundesgartenschau (BUGA) opens its gates on April 28. The German national garden show is held every two years and in 2005 it will be hosted by the Bavarian capital.

An estimated four million visitors will smell the flowers, admire the plants and walk through the show’s 200-hectare park at the Messestadt-Riem, 16 km east of Marienplatz. Some 30,000 trees, including pine, ash, linden, oak and maple, and approximately two million flower bulbs will be planted to cover the Munich district in color. The site of the garden show is more than half the size of New York’s Central Park and the event is one of the most important to be held in Munich since the International Garden Festival in 1983. BUGA promises to pack three gardening seasons into five months of colorful bloom, between April 28 and October 9. Organizers plan to showcase rare plants, demonstrate gardening art and display a variety of flora and fauna in 25 rotating exhibitions.

The festival’s theme is Perspektivenwechsel, or a “change of perspectives.” The aim is to encourage visitors to look at plant life in a different way by playing on perspectives, such as the shift between large and small. And, BUGA’s organizers hope, these new perspectives will encourage people to reassess their views about the earth’s natural resources of water, air and soil and about nature in general.

The centerpiece of the show is the Cell Garden, which plays on the perspectives theme by displaying giant-sized versions of microscopic plant structures, thus enabling humans to experience horticultural creations from the point of view of small creatures, such as a mouse or a mole. The Cell Garden’s overall layout mirrors the cell tissue of a plant, magnified many times. Each of the plant’s 12 cells is between 600 and 1,200 square meters in size and each contains an “event garden,” focusing on a different theme.

In one of the cells, called Die Wiese, or “the meadow,” visitors feel as if they shrink to the size of a mouse as they wend their way through a labyrinth of giant reeds and bamboo until they reach a clearing and beds planted with four-leaf clover. Thickly planted herbaceous perennials give people the impression that they are walking in high grass.

“The puddle,” or Die Pfütze, cell was designed with the help of children, and with them in mind. Viewed from above, it looks like a giant puddle that someone has walked through, leaving behind two huge footprints. Water jets create rings in the water to simulate the ripples caused by a person’s steps. Rings of rushes at the edge of the cell reiterate the ripples in the water. Children can look for hidden treasures in the puddle or float around on a leaf-shaped raft.

Die Zelle, or “the cell,” is modeled on a plant cell. Hedge-like structures symbolize the endoplasmic reticulum, the cell’s transport system, which carries visitors past plant cell features such as chloroplasts, chromoplasts and mitochondria and helps explain their functions. The vegetation becomes increasingly lush as visitors move towards the cell’s nucleus and learn how plants create life from light and minerals in the soil.

People can pretend to be moles in Der Maulwurfshügel, or the “molehill,” cell. The structure is 20 times larger than a real molehill. A system of tunnels and nests made of wood and soil aims to show the soil as a habitat for plants and animals. In Die Fuge, or “the gap,” cell, visitors shrink further and move around like ants or worms between paving stones that are 50 times their normal size to view the habitat that is normally hidden in the cracks.

After all that subterranean activity, visitors can be transported to fictional heights in a giant bird’s nest with Das Nest, or “the nest,” cell, which is made of spruce tree trunks and large branches. Inside, people can move among a giant clutch of bird eggs on paths of white gravel.

The forest laboratory, or Das Waldlabor, cell seeks to illustrate how life can spring from dead wood. The centerpiece of the cell is a structure made of bark, surrounded by water. Visitors can collect mushrooms in the damp forest climate. Der Kick, or “the kick,” cell, meanwhile, is presented by Munich City Council and is meant to symbolize how open land can be transformed for public use. The cell is also intended to provide a link to the Football World Cup Championships taking place next year and, as such, visitors can flick soccer players across a 400-square-meter pitch. The field’s turf is laid out so that the ball automatically rolls directly to a player.

Such a plethora of plant life wouldn’t be complete without a few animals. And traces of these can be found in the middle of a rhododendron jungle, where giant rabbits, foxes, ducks and wild boars have left tracks in the sandy ground. The tracks give off the scents of the animals that made them.

You can stand eyeball to eyeball with normal-sized animals in the Tierblick, or “animal view,” cell. Visitors see the world from the point of view of penned-in farm animals as they stand inside an enclosure and watch sheep, pigs, sows and a boar run around freely outside. Humans and animals can make eye contact with each other through slits in the pen walls. There’s no escaping the whims of the weather in Der Wetterwechsel, or “the change in the weather,” cell, which surrounds visitors with fog, courtesy of water sprayed in a fine mist from 120 nozzles in the ground and from the front of stone slabs. The fog thickens as you approach the cell’s interior. Willows, grasses and mosses add to the damp effect.

Anyone who secretly talks to their potted plants will feel at home in the next attraction, Das Gartengeflüster, or “the garden whispers,” cell. As soon as you approach a flower or bush, the plants start to talk quietly. They introduce themselves. The rosemary is likely to engage in a conversation about which recipes it enhances or to tell a story about its home in the sunny south. Park benches are liable to invite visitors to stop and rest a while.

The Cell Garden isn’t the only area to play on the idea of large and small. Complex tissue structures are also displayed in giant dimensions in the show’s Sunken and Leaf Gardens. In addition, a cable car hanging over the BUGA grounds offers passengers views of the surrounding Alps, affording them yet another change of perspective. Finally, organizers encourage visitors to walk up the two sledding hills on the site, to view the event from a different angle again.

With so much to take in, visitors may fancy a lie down—and what better place than on a carpet of wildflowers? Alternatively, they can take a dip in the 14-hectare lake to freshen up. For the livelier among you, the show’s “activity strip” includes beer gardens, playing fields and adventure playgrounds that will remain features of a large municipal park, called the Landscape Park Riem, after the festival closes.

Indeed, the garden show’s second theme is “sustainability,” and not just in forestry terms. In the future, the site of the BUGA will be used as a permanent park, residential area and a trade-fair center designed to last long after the final petals of the show’s exotic blooms have fallen. The BUGA 05 aims to push ahead the development of a new district in Munich and has been used as part of the city’s urban planning. The site at Messestadt-Riem, where 10 years ago the former airport München-Riem once stood, is being planted with varieties that are endemic to the region, such as oak and pine trees. These will grow and add a touch of greenery to a recreational open space expected to be large enough for 40,000 people. Not everything will stay after the end of the show, however. Large parts of the gardens will be torn down and rezoned for the construction of residential buildings. According to plans for Messestadt-Riem, 16,000 people will eventually live in the new district and 13,000 will work there.

Clearly, a lot of work has gone into the whole event. Construction on the permanent park began in 1998, three years after the bid for the work was won by French landscape architect Gilles Vexlard and his Parisian firm, Latitude Nord. In planning the area the renowned architect has incorporated elements from the former airport site into his angular, straight-lined designs. The concept behind BUGA 05 itself is the work of Munich-based landscape architect Prof. Rainer Schmidt. <<<

The BUGA 05 will run from April 28 until October 9. Day passes cost € 14 for adults, € 3 for children and € 12 for concessions. Season passes are € 65 for adults and € 20 for children. Advance purchase season passes are € 55 for adults and € 10 for children (these need to be bought before April 27).
For tickets, call (01805) 04 20 05.
For further information, contact:

Bundesgartenschau München 2005 GmbH
Paul-Wassermann-Strasse 3, Tel. 41 20 04 41, Fax 41 20 05 90

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