Prof. Dr. Kai Tobias has died

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An obituary by Kerstin Berg

Who doesn't know these moments: You open a message, stare at its contents, hear your heart rumble once, and then stammer quietly to yourself "no, don't let it be true, it can't be." But then it is.

Far too soon we had to say goodbye to our esteemed colleague, companion and dear friend Prof. Dr. Kai Tobias, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 11, 2022 at the age of only 60.

Born in 1961 in Helmstedt (Lower Saxony), he completed studies in landscape management at the Technical University of Munich-Weihenstephan between 1981 and 1986 and worked there as a research assistant at the Chair of "Landscape Ecology" (Professor Wolfgang Haber). The thematic focus of his dissertation "The hierarchical system method - conceptual basis for applied ecosystem research", with which he received his Dr. agrar. from the same university in 1990, accompanied his scientific, professional and journalistic work in the following years. After leading positions in different federal and state authorities such as the office "Ecosystem Research Wadden Sea" at the Federal Environmental Agency in Berlin and the field "Landscape Planning / Intervention Regulation" at the State Office for Environmental Protection Saxony-Anhalt, he changed to the free economy and worked as project manager at the planning office Dr. Schaller between 1992 and 1994.

Together with Prof. Beate Jessel at the honorary membership award ceremony for Prof. Haber in 2008. © Jörg Jannasch

In 1994, he then returned to academia and taught for five years as a professor of landscape planning in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt. Since September 2000, Kai Tobias headed the teaching and research area "Ecological Planning andamp; Environmental Impact Assessment" at the Department of Spatial and Environmental Planning at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern and since 2007 the teaching and research area "Landscape andamp; Open Space Development" at the department of the same name.

Member of the bdla since 1994, Kai Tobias was closely connected to the association over many years of his professional and honorary work. He was passionately and emphatically committed to the interests of landscape and environmental planning, and so it was only logical that he took over the office of landscape planning spokesman in 1997 and headed the working group of the same name between 1997 and 2009. As the successor of Prof. Gerhard Hahn-Herse, he not only set important impulses for the joint work, but also shaped the external perception of the association with a sure feeling for current topics and professional-political positioning requirements. His wealth of experience from a wide range of professional activities as well as his comprehensive honorary commitment, of which his many years of activity in the state nature conservation advisory board and chairmanship of the foundation board of the Thuringia Foundation for Nature Conservation as well as his participation in the editorial advisory board of the journal "Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung" should be mentioned here, have sharpened his eye not only for the planning essentials.

In his standard work on landscape planning "Ökologisch orientierte Planung" (Ecologically oriented planning), published together with Beate Jessel in 2002, there is a clear commitment to the necessity of (landscape) planning and at the same time the appeal to be aware of its limits. The authors link the paradigm shift in the prevailing views of science, which are characterized by strict rationality and causal or feasibility thinking, with an insight into a limited capacity for knowledge and prognosis as well as the complex dynamics of constantly changing systems, with an attribution that could not be more current: Planning in the well-understood sense must always be accompanied by ongoing feedback on planning goals and the possibility of error correction. And so they give us and the students, to whom the compendium is primarily addressed, the simple and yet not self-evident statement that planning also means learning from experience. What could be more groundbreaking in the current debate about ways to shape the transformation process and the landscape change that accompanies it?

After 12 years of productive cooperation, our spokesman was able to hand over a well-tilled field and a highly motivated working group to his successor in office, Bernhard Gillich.

With Kai Tobias, we are losing a colleague who is highly esteemed on all sides and whose professional competence and friendly approach have earned him great respect far beyond our professional circles. However, Kai will always be remembered not only as a visionary colleague with a passion for technical and political provocation, but also and above all as a valued travel partner in technical excursions of the AK Landschaftsplanung.

Petri Heil at Lake Baikal. © Kerstin Berg

Thus, neither the "BfN boat" capsized under the weight of responsibility in the Masurian lake landscape nor the icy waters of Lake Baikal ever caused him to lose his sense of humor and wit. On our joint trips, Kai not only ensured that technical disputes were conducted at a high professional level, but also that the evening exchanges in the circle of colleagues allowed us to experience the mutual bond. Poland, Siberia and the trip to Georgia organized by him will remain in wonderful memory for all of us. Professionally interesting, humanly connecting, in short: wonderful rays of hope in the sometimes quite nerve-racking everyday life of planners.

I have experienced Kai as sociable in the best sense of the word, seeking and granting company in equal measure. Whether in a professional exchange or in a friendly collegial round, Kai was always an enrichment for all those who were attracted to his proximity. Dear Kai, as a self-titled "Baikal Seal" you will continue to swim in the current of our memories.

Kerstin Berg, bdla-speaker landscape planning

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