Maschsee seen from the new city hall
|Location||Hanover, Lower Saxony|
|Max. length||ca. 2.4 km (1.5 mi)|
|Max. width||530 m (1,740 ft)|
|Surface area||0.78 km2 (0.30 sq mi)|
|Average depth||ca. 2 m (6 ft 7 in)|
|Water volume||160,000 m3 (130 acre·ft)|
|Surface elevation||53.20 m (174.5 ft)|
The Maschsee is an artificial lake situated south of the city centre of Hanover in Germany. Spanning an area of 78 hectares, it is the largest body of water within the capital of Lower Saxony. The lake is a popular recreation area as well as a venue for numerous water sports.
The name of the lake stems from the so-called “Leinemasch“, or simply ”Masch“, meaning swamp. This is the historical description for the area in which the lake was built, that was in a deep-lying floodplain of the River Leine.
It was first considered to create a lake in the wide river valley of the River Leine near Hanover during the late 19th century. This tied in with the by-then necessary dyking of the River Leine and the River Ihme, which would regularly flood the city after snow melted in the Harz Mountains in spring. The creation of a lake could reduce the threat of high water levels and put the Leine’s river valley area to better use.
In the course of the decades there were further, very different designs: Small solutions and larger ones, which envisaged the Schützenplatz (shooting range) as an island in the lake. In September 1925 the newly elected city mayor Arthur Menge commissioned Otto Franzius, a water engineer and professor at the Hanover Technical College (now University of Hanover), to work out the details of the construction of a lake together with the city’s building authorities. Franzius was to be responsible for the designing of the hydro-engineering and hydrological elements of the project, while the city authorities, led by Karl Elkart, would handle the urban development aspects.
In contrast to the original idea that the lake be dug down into swamp land and then be supplied with water by the Leine, a new proposal emerged to build the Maschsee atop the swamp in a bowl-like structure – raising it higher than the water level of the Leine – and having it be filled using a system of water pumps. This would eradicate the problem of a potential accumulation of mud through flood waters.
Franzius created a final design that proved both effective and financially acceptable, whereupon the city authorities provided a grant of 14,000 Reichsmarks in January 1926 toward attempts to seal the basin of the proposed lake.
Despite the plans being completed it nevertheless took roughly eight years until the beginning of the 1930s for work to commence. The three main factors behind the creation of an artificial lake in the River Leine’s river valley were:
- The embankment of the River Ihme’s flood channel
- The creation of a local recreation area close to the city that provided the opportunity for water sports
- The elimination of high unemployment levels (1932: 58,000 Hanoverians) through programmes of public works.
One factor against construction of the lake was the near 20 metre high Bismarck Tower which stood in the centre of the proposed water feature. Here, paramilitary marches took place and it was the site of a book burning in 1933. The landmark was eventually demolished in 1935 during the course of the lake’s construction.
In the 1930s, the era of the Great Depression, the city of Hanover lacked the necessary finance for the commencement of the Maschsee project, even though the project had already been planned some ten years earlier. The project was favourable for the Nazi Party that came to power in January 1933 as it would help reduce unemployment levels, which was a central theme of their propaganda. On 28 November 1933 the project was approved at a meeting of the city council.
On 21 March 1934 the first ground was broken in the Leine swamp. Despite the unsettled financing of the project, it provided many people with work. Driven by the harshness of the economic situation of the time, they took on tough working conditions and low pay which was barely much higher than unemployment support.
During construction fourteen locomotive trains with 365 tipping wagons were used along a 15 km track as well as diggers and five crawler tractors. Many workers though had to supply their own tools. Initially there were 100 people working on the project, but by its completion 1,650 people had been involved to excavate roughly 780,000 square metres of earth to create the lake basin.
With the Maschsee project fully completed by early 1936, the official opening took place on 21 May 1936. Hundreds of thousands of Hanoverians and guests looked on from the edge of the lake as the event began with the then-typical trooping of the Nazi Party. In addition some 6,000 sporting persons took part in a rally along with the armed forces and public officials.
During World War II the lake was covered up with canvasses and fake landscapes created on floating islands created, in an attempt to confuse Allied bomber pilots of their whereabouts during air raids on Hanover.
The water level loses a maximum of 1.3 centimetres per day through evaporation and water seepage, which equates to 10,000 cubic metres of water. In order to maintain a constant level, a pump station at a series of ponds in Ricklingen provides the Maschsee with a water supply. Its three pumps send water along an 800 metre long pipe to the "source" of the Maschsee. Depending on weather conditions, between 1-2 million m3 of water are required. From November until February no pumping is carried out, so the water level sinks on average 45 cm during this time.
Until 1960 the Maschsee’s water level was supplied by the "Maschsee Source" pump station. Its pumping and filtering houses were one of the first building projects at the site of the lake to be put into operation in November 1935. The plant is equipped with two pumps which are capable of raising 500 litres of water every second from the River Leine.
As the Leine is strongly contaminated with suspended sediment, the usage of this water supply meant that the Maschsee quickly began to silt up. The Hanover city administration therefore decided in 1960 to build the new pump station at the Ricklingen Ponds, in order to supply the lake with groundwater.
The old pumping house is only active today if the oxygen content of the water is too low, as this water is supplied to the lake through an open-air three-stage cascading system that raises oxygen levels. It is also put into use during the Maschseefest.
Today the old pumping house is used as a club house by the Hanover Sport Club.
Every summer the Maschseefest is held over several weeks beside the lake, which draws around two million visitors annually. The event was first staged in 1986 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Maschee’s opening. It features musical performances, cabaret, cuisine and firework displays.
Boats and ships
During the summer months the Hanoverian transport company üstra operates boat trips on the lake using electrically powered vessels. Surrounding the Maschsee are numerous clubs for water sports (most popularly, rowing and sailing). During the year many diverse competitions are held on the lake, including the annual European Dragon Boat Race.
Between 1952 and 1989 motor boat competitions were regularly staged on the lake, which saw four world championships contested and ten European champions crowned.
The Maschsee Beach lies at the southern point of the lake. The former city open air pool was handed over by the city to a private investor in 2005. They began construction on an expensive commercial “wellness park“, whereupon the project stalled. In 2007 the investor group Aspria took over and continued the work.
In spring 2009 Aspria Hannover opened a private spa and sport club in the buildings of the old public facilities and some newly built premises. Aspria also took over the running of the public bathing area though since 2009 over half of the bathing area is only accessible to members of the private Aspria club.
With its proximity to the centre of Hanover, the Maschsee is a popular recreation area for the city’s walkers and joggers. In 2005 a 6 km long route around the lake was mapped out by the German Athletics Association. This track runs along the footpath, closer to the water than the asphalt-coated cycle path. Since 2003 the cycle path has also been open for roller skating usage.
If the lake freezes in Winter with the thickness of the ice exceeding 13 cm, then the city authorities hoist a flag at the northern shore of the lake to indicate that it is permitted to go onto the ice. In periods of constant cold weather the lake can draw more than 10,000 visitors a day for activities such as ice skating and ice hockey. If the ice thickness reaches 20 cm then stalls can even be erected upon the ice too; this last occurred in 2003.
Notable works of art on the northern side of the lake are the 6 metre high red steel "Hellebardier" sculpture by Alexander Calder (1972) as well as the bronze Olympic torchbearer that stands atop an 18.5 metre-high stone column and "Putto on the Fish" that were both created by Hermann Scheuernstuhl (1936).
Other sculptures on the eastern side are the "Menschenpaar" by Georg Kolbe (1936–37) and two lion sculptures created by Arno Breker (1938). In 1948 Erich Haberland unveiled his piece "The Swimmer", which stands in the public bathing area.
Spanish artist Santiago Sierra caused a sensation in 2005 when he remembered the fact that the Maschsee was built through a Nazi work programme by installing a walk-in room filled with mud at the Kestner Society Art Gallery.
A light art project was held around the lake at the start of 2009 under the title "New Moon on the Lake". The display consisted of 22 illuminated pieces that had been created by international artists, which formed the opening of the 2009 Garden Project in Hanover.
"The Lion Bastion" by Arno Breker
"Hellebardier" by Alexander Calder
"Das Menschenpaar" by Georg Kolbe
"The Swimmer" by Erich Haberland
The Maschsee lies close to such other notable places as the New City Hall, the Lower Saxony State Museum, the Sprengel Museum, the AWD-Arena (home of the football club Hannover 96), the main city indoor swimming pool as well as the Lower Saxony broadcasting houses of television channels NDR and ZDF.
The lake is directly accessible by using the bus stops at the AWD Arena and the Sprengel Museum. Additional bus and tram stops such as the Aegidientorplatz, Schlägerstraße, Geibelstraße, Altenbekener Damm and Döhren Tower also lie in relatively close proximity to the lake.
Numerous foot and cycle paths lead to the Maschsee and follow along its shoreline. The western side of the lake, where the club houses of numerous water sport clubs are situated, is only accessible by foot or cycle as vehicles are not permitted without official permission.
- Press Office, City of Hanover (1936). Maschsee Hannover - Zu seiner Eröffnung am 21. Mai 1936 (in German). Hanover.
- Roehrbein, Waldemar R. (1986). Der Maschsee in Hannover: Seine Entstehung und Geschichte (in German). Hanover: Schlüter. ISBN 3-87706-046-3.
- Fisch, Fabian (1998). Rund um den Maschsee (in German). Hanover: Fackelträger. ISBN 3-7716-2121-6.
- Schwarz, Henrike (2000). Der Maschsee (in German). Hanover: Grünflächenamt. ISBN 3-7716-2121-6.
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