Integrating Geomancy and Town Planning
An Interview with Susanne Lutz
Susanne Lutz lives and works in Berlin. She studied town planning, urbanism, regionalism and is also a yoga teacher. She became interested in geomancy when she realised that as a town planner and in the planning process, decision making is based on economical interests, environmental issues and public need but never does the Place itself have a ‘voice ‘. I spoke to her about her experiences of integrating geomancy into urban development in her hometown, Berlin, and the inspiring projects she has initiated.
Susanne: I was feeling physically hurt when I realised that the place has no voice, and decided to take a break from this work (urban planning). I knew I didn’t want to do the traditional urban planning anymore so I went on to teach yoga for a few years. That’s when I was introduced to geomancy. Before I was only aware of feng shui but I thought that there must be a European way of working and then I found Marko Pogacnik in 1998 when he came to Berlin to teach. I learned Vastu Vidya, the Indian Feng Shui as well.
In yoga I also went through a process where on one side I saw it’s very popular and good but on the other side in sessions everyone keeps to themselves and there’s no communication to the place as well. So I offered some yoga classes outside and we did some tuning in exercises. With the wind, with the elements, and the trees and the birds. The Participants really liked it and felt the soul of these elements so they could connect even better with their own soul. At the beginning of each yoga session we would tune in like we do in geomantic work, feeling the ground, and the heart of Gaia and they all felt it and felt very touched.
During this time I tried different ways of proposing geomantic projects to the council. I made many mistakes. At the beginning I thought I can apply for competitions and funds but I tried it mainly on by my own. I presented ideas to the council, sometimes also with other architects, but it never worked. But then I realised it is better to do it through networking, so I really had to open up and involve other people. It was a process I had to go through with
myself. I recognised that I was limiting them in my mind, having pre-conceptions about certain groups of people and initiatives. This process was not even my decision, I was guided, or pushed into it, and got to know many people who were active and they were quite open to the idea of combining geomancy and urban planning. But to be honest, I had to be aware which terminology I should use. I didn’t say ‘I am working with geomancy’ but I said ‘I am interested in the emotional context of the surrounding, to feel this realtionship with nature in the spaces we design’. The nature of the place, the soul of the place, how people can get to know themselves better. I pointed out the relationships people can have with their environment. It was the participation process that was really important to get people involved to support it.
Karmit : What was the first project that came into fruition?
Susanne: The first project that took off was the NATURE & HEALTH PATH – NATURE EXPERIENCE SPACE ORCHARD. It is on a wasteland in the former East Berlin. There was a lot of money flowing in to regenerate the place, and to exchange the soil in this former industrial area where the soil was polluted. There was already a big planning process taking place. So I joined an association that was supporting the regeneration, and then I took part in another competition but this time I had the support of many many people. It worked and I was sponsored.
I then invited the Berlin geomancy group, which I help organise, come to the place to look at it. It was important for me that I would not be the ‘planner’ or the ‘artist’ but rather work in a way where I am collecting people’s ideas, so it’s a community work. We looked together at the site, to see what the issues are, the history, and the natural features. We were finding and defining the places that seemed interesting and that people would find they could develop a relationship to.
Then with each spot, I was looking for what kind of body expression would suit it, so that people could engage with, in that place and it would be on the one hand a healthy activity and on the other a relationship building action.
Karmit: So you created a body movement that corresponded to the essence of the place and all these points were mapped on a route that people can walk and engage with?
Susanne: Yes, they can follow the route and stop at each point to do the exercise, and they can read about the place. For example where there is a tree – there would be some information about it, the medicinal properties, some geomantic info. We were also creating some artistic spots, with mosaics with some material that we actually found on the site.
(To read about the different points follow this link: http://lebensplan.com/landschaftspark-herzberge/parcours/drachenpunkt )
Karmit: This sounds great!
Susanne: We made the Information signs with the council, because they wanted to have the information available. I proposed a young design office who had great fresh ideas. All in all it was a lot of fun but I have to admit that the process was sometimes challenging. The dynamics between people with different interests and so on.
Karmit: How long did it take you between conception and completion of the process?
Susanne: Two years.
Karmit: And do you see people using it? Are people coming to the park and do the exercises next to the places?
Susanne: Yes they do it. And there are even groups forming, like retired people, who go together every wednesday and so on.
Karmit: What feedback did you get?
Susanne: People really love it. Before we started some people said there would be lots of vandalism, as often in Berlin things get destroyed, but the kind of vandalism we got so far has been this (Susanne point at a heart grafitti on one of the signs).
Karmit: Do you have any other projects going on?
Susanne: Yes, there is something in the centre of the city now, where there is a mixed population, with immigrants from many countries. It is a poor neighborhood, with a lot of social conflicts. I got to know people who live there who were interested in starting something. There was an idea competition and there I won a prize as well. There it’s not so easy.
At first we did a one day action event called ‘Here speaks the Place’ for the people to reactivate the ‘lost’ green spaces that are still left. With people from that place.Karmit: What language do you use on an action day like this to describe the geomancy experience?
Susanne: I’m holding back a little – I think I could be even more courageous but I’m still in a learning process about this. I just say – let’s look at the beautiful places and where you feel well, and how you could develop these places so we can enjoy them more. One of the women in this group who lives there, is very active and very spiritual and she uses more direct references about the spiritual and soul aspects of the places. We are trying now to initiate the public participation process, because in Germany this is very important in the town planning process.
Karmit: So this work is now in process.
Susanne: Yes. We are doing this now and looking for funds.
Karmit: Well, keep us informed and good luck with the integration work that you do, it seems very important for these times!
To read more about Susanne’s work : www.lebensplan.com