In 2005 we applied and got a subvention of the Capital Cultural Fund of Berlin in order to transform four empty plots of Berlin-Mitte into gardens for the summer. The name of the project was woistdergarten? [where is the garden ?] and was an invitation for the citizen to admire his environment, and to appreciate two sides of a place: the abandoned empty plot, open to all, and a place where someone takes care, the wild plants and the cultivated plants and other such delicate differentiations. We also wanted to show the value of these empty plots in the middle of the city; the value to have free spaces and wild vegetation in a densely built area. We did not know what would happen to our gardens after this summer 2005. Some of these gardens would again be abandoned, or the plot could be developed. Indeed, eight years later, there are many less empty plots in the middle of Berlin. And what has been left from our gardens? One has been built upon, one is under construction, and one has been transformed into a bigger garden, and after that into a playground for the school. And the fourth one, the Blackboard-garden, which is born behind the Museum for contemporary art “Hamburger Bahnhof”, is still for the public to enjoy.
We did get only the half of the subvention we asked for and this project would not have been possible without the participation of 15 students of landscape architecture from all over Europe (from the association ELASA). That is how it became a participative project. Students wanted to have an experience of Berlin and a building experience. We did sketch and construction principals and the young students had to find out how to build it in reality and to complete the drawing in the space. It has been a wonderful learning process for everyone and gave some impulse for some students to ground their own office later.
The fourth project which is still there eight years later is situated in a corner behind the museum. It is almost hidden and has to be discovered. It is a relic of an old waiting-room of the ex-Train-station which has never been rebuilt after the Second World War.
With a modest and respectful intervention we transformed it in one week. We did not plant anything but just took care of what was there: black locust, birches, willows, tree of heaven, linden tree, and hazelnut. We underlined the existing structure and space organization by bringing black gravel, a long wood platform and a green blackboard. We also built a small stair in order to rise up on the wooden planks. This garden does not need any watering and almost no maintenance. Once a year, in spirit, we go through it and just cut some branches which are blocking the path or take out some wild grass in order to make the space more visible and pretty, or to rediscover the contrasts between different areas.
The trees are still growing; developing their own personalities.
It is a place to go when one wants to be quiet, and retire from the noisy traffic of the city; alone with the birds, the sky, and the plants. Some foxes come by sometimes.
It is also a place for some birthday-parties, with musicians and singers.
It is also a place for some artists to create some work, most of the time in relationship with the specificity of the spot, its architecture or its special atmosphere.
It works on its own. It is still not really defined and this allows a lot of freedom.
For all these reasons it can be seen as a TOPIAS.


Atelier le balto
atelier le balto was created in 2000 and is now composed of two landscape architects (Marc Pouzol and Marc Vatinel), and a city planner by training (Véronique Faucheur).
atelier le balto works mainly on redefining and improving public spaces in an urban environment. The landscape architects and gardeners try to recognize and understand the qualities of places, as well as to assess and show their potentials for improvement and appropriate transformation. The great majority of creations by the Berlin and Le Havre-based studio are gardens, places of communication and interaction.
The first projects were the Garden KW-01 in Berlin (courtyard of KW-Institute for contemporary art) and the Jardin sauvage [Wild-Garden] in Paris (Palais de Tokyo). Since that, they have gone on to work with different cultural- and art-institutions such as Intermediae/ Matadero (Madrid/Spain), Ludwig Forum for International Art (Aachen/Germany) and the Villa Romana (Florence/Italy).