Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Freiburg: A River Runs Through It

The Dreisam is a river that runs straight through a large portion of the city and is diverted around town for a variety of purposes. The river, which has been artificially constructed away from its original flow in the late 1800’s is surrounded by greenery and excellent bicycle and pedestrian pathways. The city has an unusual system of gutters (called Bächle) that run throughout its centre. These Bächle, once used to provide water to fight fires and feed livestock, are constantly flowing with water diverted from the Dreisam. These Bächle were never used for sewage, as such usage could lead to harsh penalties, even in the Middle Ages. During the summer, the running water provides natural cooling of the air, and offers a pleasant, gurgling sound. It is said that if you fall or step accidentally into a Bächle, you will marry a Freiburger, dor 'Bobbele'.

The river contributes to drainage for the city helping the water flow through parts of the city easily (no flooding due to diversion)
People along side the river use it for irrigating their plants, crops, and gardens
There are many areas for recreation such as swimming, biking, walking, exercise for people and their pets, and a calm place to sit
It is also a prime area for artists to perform graffiti and “rock art” giving them creative spots away from buildings and downtown
Not much of a use but it is aesthetically pleasing to view in downtown areas
Another possible use although I did not see any might be fishing

Frequent access points make the river accessible from many places along it.
A paved path on one side eases in bike, roller blade and wheel chair use, making pedestrian traffic safer on the unpaved side.
All stairways on the paved side are equipped with ramps to facilitate wheeled travelers.
Clear signage makes it clear where bikes and mopeds are allowed and forbidden.
A variety of vehicles and travelers were seen, including different kinds of bicycles, mopeds, Nordic skiers and service vehicles.
The river itself was easy to access from the paths, and many people were seen sticking their feet in, rinsing their hands, and wading to their ankles.
Although there were a few benches along the way, there could have been more places to sit.

Public Art In Underpasses & Connection To Biodiversity:
Along and inside the river, it is easy to spot formal and informal art installations. From sculptures to graffiti, there is evidence that the Dreisam incorporates art into public spaces.
In the core of the city, the sculptures emerge midstream in the Bächle or punctuate the end of a Bächle path. See pictures of the crocodile and hands & feet in the slideshow for examples of this.
Alongside the river, train tracks and road overpasses are host to a variety of murals and graffiti pieces. These walls are thickened by an unknown number of paint layers beneath the current (and temporary graffiti) murals at the surface. We learned that the City of Freiburg issues graffiti permits to some artists, allowing graffiti in certain areas of the city. Some of the graffiti pieces are more artistic and sophisticated than others, but at minimum, the use of color in all of the graffiti provides a pleasing compliment to the interplay of natural and urban landscape.
Some murals seem to reflect on the uses of the river, with one saying, “Keep it Cool,” perhaps referencing the river’s ability to act as a natural cooling system for the city.

Physical/Social/Psychological Benefit:
The Dreisam river not only contributes to the aesthetics of the community, but to the physical, psychological, and social health of the citizens as well. One can find individuals strolling, sitting, and splashing around in the river at all hours.

Physical health:
Contributes to an active life style
Walking (alone, with a friend, dog)

The soothing rushing of the river allows individuals to unwind and relax. There are numerous benches conveniently dispersed along the river bank; giving people a place to sit and meditate.

Psychological benefit
Relax, unwind, meditate (after day of work)
Quick getaway: free, close in distance.
Reconnect with self/personal growth

The river bank is also a great place to hangout with friends and family, contributing to the social health of the city's citizens.

Social benefit
A place to come together with friends/relatives and chat/hangout
Nurture relationships

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