bdla honorary member Dr. Erhard Kister deceased

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An obituary by Regine Schmalz and Wolfram Stock

On April 8, 2022, Dr. Erhard Kister, landscape architect bdla and bdla honorary member, passed away in Erfurt after 90 fulfilled years of life.

On March 18, 2004, in Erfurt, Prof. Arno Sighart Schmid, Leonberg (left) and Dr. Erhard Kister (right) were awarded the title of "Honorary Member of the BDLA" by the then bdla President Prof. Adrian Hoppenstedt. © Frank Sommariva

On January 7, 1932, Erhard Kister was born into a family of gardeners in Bad Salzungen. This early horticultural imprint was probably also a reason for his later professional career. At the age of 16, he began his gardening apprenticeship, among others with Günther Thimm, the later advisor for garden monument preservation in Thuringia; five years later, he began his studies at the Engineering School for Horticulture, today's University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt.

The three years of study were followed by four years in which he gained his first professional experience at the water management directorate and structural engineering project planning in Cottbus and city and village planning in Dresden. For the next ten years, he worked in building construction project planning in Erfurt, where he set up his own group for open space planning, which he headed until 1970.

At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the individual specialist project planning departments in the GDR's district cities developed into housing construction combines, which brought together all the necessary planning departments. At the age of 38, Erhard Kister took over the "Brigade Freiflächengestaltung" in the WBK Erfurt, which also maintained branch offices in the larger cities of the then district of Erfurt. The planning of the new large housing estate on the Herrenberg also took place during this time. In the course of the preliminary planning for Herrenberg, there was a heated confrontation between Erhard Kister and his fellow architects. The responsible urban and structural planners of the WBK had given insufficient consideration to open space design and urban ecology issues, and Erhard Kister vetoed the plan very clearly in front of the assembled team.

The equal importance of open space design alongside structural and civil engineering was therefore not least due to Erhard Kister, who actively intervened in the area-preparatory planning and always called for green infrastructure.

Despite limited possibilities in the use of materials and plants with constantly decreasing financial planning figures, there were always new impulses, which were suggested on his initiative and implemented in cooperation with his colleagues. Keywords such as the development and updating of an open space catalog, the inclusion of art in the outdoor space, tenant gardens and the incorporation of existing green structures in the residential areas can be mentioned as examples. But also the monthly further education events of the colleagues from the individual planning departments of the different cities of the WBK and the annual professional excursions to different areas of the GDR and the neighboring socialist countries were perfectly prepared by Erhard Kister through good contacts.

So when we as a professional association discussed the interaction of green, gray and blue infrastructure with the University of Applied Sciences two years ago in the context of the "Erfurt Dialogue" or met at the end of March 2022 under the motto "Landscape Architects Shape the Climate", these are topics on which Erhard Kister had his thoughts long in advance.

In order to bring these thoughts not only into the projects of the WBK Erfurt, but also to deal with these topics in society as a whole, it seems in retrospect only logical that Erhard Kister earned his doctorate at the TU Dresden in 1983 and moved to the University of Horticulture in Erfurt as a lecturer in 1987. There he was strongly committed to the transition from the engineering school to the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, which was completed in 1991.

But also the professional exchange of colleagues from East and West Germany after the political change was very close to his heart. We owe numerous interesting and stimulating excursions in the 1990s, which took place in exchange with the colleagues from Rhineland-Palatinate, to his organizational talent.

When in February 1991 - still at the Engineering School for Horticulture in Erfurt - interested landscape architects met to found the BDLA Thuringia, Erhard Kister was a member of the founding committee. From 1991 to 1997 he was managing director of the BDLA Thuringia.

Until 2002 he taught at the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt in the department of landscape architecture. In addition to the technical teaching content, he has always passed on his philosophy of life and his zest for life to the students. For many years, he took his students on a walk through "his" city of Erfurt to welcome the freshmen.

Dr. Erhard Kister's activities at regional and national level were characterized by a special commitment to the profession within the framework of the political possibilities; in GDR times, this was also associated with personal difficulties.

In 2004, he was awarded honorary membership of the Association of German Landscape Architects in a moving ceremony at the historic Erfurt City Hall.

As an emeritus university lecturer, he did not retire from professional life, but continued to teach by the hour at the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt. He followed with interest new projects and developments on federal and state level, but especially the urban development of his hometown Erfurt, about which he discussed with us in the regional group, expressed himself in letters to the city administration and individual colleagues, and to which he contributed his own ideas and suggestions.

Petersberg station during the advisory board excursion on 8.4.2017. In the picture Dr. Erhard Kister, landscape architect Barbara Herre and Till Rehwaldt, bdla president from 2014 to 2022. © Petra Baum

In 1997, he started seminar events for elderly people interested in gardening at the Marienstift Erfurt, which he held until the end. In this new format of his own, he also passed on to interested people his enthusiasm, his high level of general knowledge and his sometimes fantastic visions, for example a pedestrian bridge from the Domberg to the Petersberg as a contribution to the Federal Garden Show last year.

His death fills us with deep sadness for a valued colleague and good friend, but also with great gratitude for the guidance he gave us, his enthusiasm for our profession. He was a role model for us to see this profession also as a vocation, and thus to contribute our part to a better, resilient living environment for us, our children and our grandchildren.

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