A showcase for nature in the Ostbahnhof neighborhood?

A rooftop in the Werksviertel.

In the Werksviertel the urban future of Munich is being reinvented. The development of the former industrial district is based on a social vision: inclusion and bringing together diverse elements. The site—once home to the potato factory Pfanni—hosts experimental projects alongside tried-and-true, a youth hostel beside a hotel, people in the pub and sheep on the roof. It is planned with a view to people and city. But equally clear is the desire for nature. One of the stairways houses an ant colony in a glass pipe, graffiti animals romp about on dumpsters and walls. Is it also possible to find “pristine” nature here? How fresh is the air of the neighborhood? Where can we find traces of the Munich loam deposit? And what is a potato washing road? The Werksviertel has a rich history, and the plans for the future are ambitious. Is it possible to find a successful balance between past and future, between city and nature?






The Werksviertel-Mitte has many green areas. One example are these mobile plots, which are used to plant herbs and fruit.


Apart from a few trees, more than 90% of the grounds in the Werksviertel-Mitte are sealed. In fact, Munich is the city in Germany that has the most sealed areas. In total, about 47% of the city area is sealed. The Werksviertel is no exception.


Chimneys, pipes, and old train tracks 

In the past, this street transported and washed potatoes, that were then processed into dumplings and purée. Today, grids cover the street.

A collection of odd objects tell the history of a village and a potato empire. Today a district of Munich, the first recorded mention of Berg am Laim is from 812, where it is referred to as the hill (Berg) along the clay field (Lehm). It was not incorporated into Munich until 1913, when the growing city was in urgent need of space. Industries emerged. The largest industry to occupy the district after the Second World War was Pfanni, a dumpling and mashed-potato production factory. Each year, 1,200 workers processed up to three million centners of potatoes from the Munich region. To enable the tubers to be stored for long periods, the water was extracted from them—a global innovation. After food manufacturing within the city ceased and was transferred elsewhere in 1993, the Pfanni factory closed its doors in 1996. It was replaced by cultural centers—the Kunstpark Ost and Kultfabrik. Urban gardens, compost heaps and raised beds—showcases of nature—have replaced industrial food production. A journey of discovery through this district still reveals remnants of the old potato washing facility. Tracks, canals, and pipes reveal the manufacturing activities of the past.




The laws of nature are being turned upside down in the Werkviertel

Here, sheep live on the rooftop, whales on the walls, and ants in pipes. On the roof of WERK3, there is an alpine pasture school. School classes come here, so students can learn conscious interactions with the environment.

However, the sheep and chicken are not the first encounters with animals when one visits the Werksviertel. Colorful graffiti of animals can be found on walls and on containers; they create the impression of a world rich in wildlife. Is this displayed nature the only one that can be found here? Which animals do come here, apart from ants, nocturnals rats and foxes? 

Stone by stone, Berg am Laim became a part of Munich’s history

The suburb is located where a “tongue of clay,” an elongated clay deposit, once existed. Princes used this excellent building material for their buildings. The factories in Munich-East delivered bricks, which added to the rapid growth of the city. The technological advancements also multiplied the brick factories. Landowners enriched themselves and began to hire Italian seasonal workers for the strenuous work. The beautiful bricks within Munich’s walls are visible to this day. The factors, however, were they were created do not exist anymore. Exploiting the geological clay deposit for centuries resulted in its complete disappearance. Only the name of the suburb, Berg am Laim, refers back to the past of a “hill of clay.” 

The Werksviertel-Mitte station during the Ecopolis München 2019 exhibition.

About the curators

Helena Held

Helena Held.


Helena Held studies visual anthropology and is always interested in the interface between anthropology and art. Therefore she presented her outcome of the research of her bachelor thesis in an exhibition. She made a film together with some fellow students about the wool production on the Shetland Islands and presented a short film at the Venice Bienniale. She studied at the Venice International University (VIU) and the University of Oslo (UiO), where she visited transdisciplinary courses and worked on environmental topics like food studies and ecofeminism.

To me it is really interesting how such a small and constantly changing suburb as the Werksviertel can combine art, culture, and nature in such creative ways. At the same time, we should not loose sight of the fact that the city is also an important habitat for non-human beings.
—Helena Held 

Vera Klünder

Vera Klünder.


Vera Klünder studies public health.

I find it particularly fascinating how large the influence is that greenways and fresh air have onto the urban climate. In a time that is impacted by climate change, measurements of climate regulations such as these are essential.
—Vera Klünder

Talitta Reitz

Talitta Reitz.


Talitta Reitz is a graduate landscape architect and urbanist, and a certified heritage conservationist from University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Originally from Brazil, she has a background in architecture and urbanism from Federal University of Parana, Curitiba, where she worked for architecture offices and local and federal institutions for heritage conservation. In 2016, she was the recipient of the ASLA “Student Design Merit Award,” and of the Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society in Architecture and Allied Arts “Design Excellence” Medal. Currently, she is an early stage researcher of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie RECOMS Innovative Training Network and a PhD candidate of environmental humanities at the Rachel Carson Center at LMU Munich.

Cities are not just layers on top of the natural environment, but they are influenced by landscapes, societies, and the collective memory. All of it forms an interconnected network that is constantly changing.
—Talitta Reitz

How to cite: Held, Helena, Vera Klünder, and Talitta Reitz. “Werksviertel-Mitte.” In “Ecopolis München 2019,” edited by Katrin Kleemann. Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2020, no. 2. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. http://www.environmentandsociety.org/node/9021.