How Green Became Good: Urban Greening as Social Improvement in Germany’s Ruhr Valley


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Though urban greening is generally explained as a reaction to slums, density, or lack of green space in the industrial metropolis, this practice unfolded in Germany’s Ruhr region in the absence of precisely these conditions. Instead, a social imaginary of nature as a vehicle for social goods turned green into a planning tool, which was recurrently used to help “fix” the Ruhr’s urbanism in the service of a changing ideal middle class. The dissertation compares the social goods delivered through gardens and green space in 1910, 1970, and 2010 to show how “urbanized nature” is (1) consistently used aspirationally, as a bearer of indirect social goods; (2) better understood as a tool to make the city than as a reaction to it; and (3) distributes narrowly defined social goods widely, in the name of the public good.