Park Fiction

Project – Hamburg, Germany

1994 – 2005

Park Fiction is a project that began in 1994, evolving out of a campaign by a resident's association against the development of a site in the harbour area of Hamburg, Germany. The work of the Hafenrandverein (Harbour Edge Association), prevented the execution of a housing and office development for this highly prominent site. Instead, in a parallel planning and design process, the association drew up plans for a public park that they managed to get initiated. Although Park Fiction was a collective and participatory planning project, there were a number of key figures that led the process, negotiated with the local officials and organised the campaign, including the artist Christoph Schäfer, the film-maker Margit Czenki, and Ellen Schmeisser who was later employed by the city to liaise with the residents.

The project is based in the St Pauli neighbourhood of Hamburg, an area which has a history of dissent, with the squatter movement of the 1980s being especially prominent. In the context of the prolonged neglect of the area by the city authorities and the relative wealth of much of West Germany, this local activism developed into a demand for a public amenity rather than private development. Highly embedded in its context, the Park Fiction project would be difficult to replicate elsewhere, although the methodologies and tools developed during the incredibly lengthy process can be applied in other situations. One of the most successful strategies was to not only protest for a public space but to act as if one already existed. To this end, the group organised a series of public events in the site, including talks, exhibitions, open-air screenings and concerts. Schäfer points out that this continual use of the 'park' by residents and visitors made it a 'social reality'.

The initial phase of the project, financed by funds from the 'art in public space' programme of the city's culture department, developed the idea of a 'collective production of desires'. Throughout the process, Park Fiction developed special tools and techniques to make the planning process more accessible. This included the temporary events organised in the park, as well as the installation of a 'planning container' on site which could be moved around the neighbourhood to collect residents' wishes. A film by Margit Czenki, Desire will Leave the House and Take to the Streets, was produced and a game about the planning process was developed to make transparent the opaque workings of bureaucracy. Other strategies included presenting the project at international art and music events, including Documenta 11 to which took the 'planning container' was taken, and an event in St Pauli where groups involved in similar initiatives were invited to present their experiences. Such exposure ensured that Park Fiction was widely known and made it difficult for the authorities to block the proposals. The park was finally realised in 2005.

Other Work

aaa, and Peprav, eds., 'Park Fiction', in UrbanACT (Montrouge: Moutot Imprimeurs, 2007), pp. 22-33.

Margit Czenki, Park Fiction: Desires will leave the house and take to the streets, 16 mm blow up from Super 8, 1999.

Christopher Schäfer, 'The City is Unwritten: Urban Experiences and Thoughts Seen Through Park Fiction', in Belltown Paradise / Making their own Plans, ed. by Brett Bloom and Ava Bromberg (Chicago: White Walls Inc., 2004), pp. 38-51.

References About

Imomus, 'Park Fiction becomes Park Fact' <> [accessed 7 December 2009].

Kester, Grant, 'Case Studies: Toolbox of Working Methods',, 2009 <> [accessed 7 December 2009].

Meisel, Timo, and Wanda Wieczorek, 'Traveling Through the Inner City: Form Follows Fiction',, 2003 <> [accessed 7 December 2009].


It wasn't just about having the park as a green area, but also about parks and politics, about the privatization of public space, about parks all over the world, about skateboarding and the pace of the city and accordingly it was about community conferences and democratic planning procedures.
- 'Sabine' in the film: Margit Czenki, Park Fiction: Desires will leave the house and take to the streets, 16 mm blow up from Super 8, 1999.


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