Berlin is the site of new regional and cultural interactions in a reconfigured post-industrial and post-socialist Europe. The subject of intense scrutiny in the 1990s and early 2000s, Berlin is due for renewed scholarly attention. Today, Berlin is one of the prime sites of urban cultural and spatial innovation in Europe, where hybrid forms of urban development are generating new types and processes of urban formation. The Berlin Portal is concerned with the transitional processes and conditions of urbanization in Berlin and the broader cultural and environmental significance of those changes.
Directed by Eve Blau, co-principal investigator of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, the Berlin Portal is composed of a core team of Harvard professors and advanced graduate students from the Graduate School of Design and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. We are working together with Berlin-based scholars and practitioners, on collaborative projects that focus on five strategic research themes:
Combining the research methods from the humanities, social sciences, and the design disciplines, these various projects incorporate new visual and digital methods for the study of urban environments, while also productively combining teaching tools from a variety of academic disciplines.
PROF. KEES CHRISTIAANSE- CHAIR OF ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN DESIGN
At ETH Zürich and FCL Singapur, the Architecture and Urban Design course led by Prof. Kees Christiaanse examines global contemporary processes of urbanization. Our team participates in national and international research programs, works on SNF-sponsored doctorates, and on non-university project collaborations. We place special focus on linking research, teaching, and practice.
We use a variety of methods to address questions regarding the urban phenomenon. The design strategies of the urban research studios particularly allows for a holistic and solution-oriented observation of current spatial processes.
HOCHSCHULE FÜR TECHNIK, WIRTSCHAFT UND KULTUR LEIPZIG
With about 5,900 students, HTWK Leipzig is Saxony’s largest University of Applied Sciences and one of the largest in Germany. For more than two hundred years, the University and its predecessors have been providing high-quality, career-relevant education in a diverse range of fields through innovative courses, excellent teaching and state-of the art facilities.
Based in the trade fair city of Leipzig, we are committed to forging partnerships with industry and government to deliver practical results through focused research. With a campus located right in the heart of Leipzig’s most popular student neighbourhood, students at HTWK Leipzig may enjoy an ideal combination of outstanding academics and vibrant student life
STIFTUNG BAUHAUS DESSAU
The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was founded in 1994 with the mission to maintain the Bauhaus heritage to explore and convey, at the same time but also to assume the problems of today’s living environment. The Foundation will collect items, “documenting the Ideengut the historic Bauhaus and open”, allowing the planning work of the workshop and develop the academy as a pillar of the Teaching. Conferences and seminars and exchanges with foreign experts and students from different disciplines complement the Foundation Profile.
In fact, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has developed over the years of its existence as an important science and research center for the Bauhaus history and design problems of the present. The Bauhaus Dessau is an impulse-giving source for Architecture, Design and Performing Arts.
INSTITUT FÜR EUROPÄISCHE ETHNOLOGIE, HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITÄT ZU BERLIN
European Ethnology is a subject area at the intersection of ethnology and history, the aim of which is the development of an approach analysing and comparing cultures. The focus is the everyday culture of modern European societies; ‘culture’ here means the constant process of practical negotiation of the rules by which people, groups and societies interact, communicate and delimit themselves.
PD Dr Gertrud Hüwelmeier – Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow
At Humboldt- University Berlin, Institute of European Ethnology, anthropologist Dr. Hüwelmeier is teaching courses on urban anthropology and on transnational migration and marketplaces in Berlin and other places. Currently she is directing an ongoing research project “The global Bazaar”, focussing on Asian marketplaces in post socialist cities and in Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
The Federal Foundation of Baukultur (“Federal Foundation for the Culture of Building”) is a platform for German and international protagonists who operate in the area of Baukultur. As a lobbyist for good planning and building, the foundation aims at heightening awareness and sensibility towards all aspects of the build evironment among an interested public.
The foundation was established by decree in 2006 as a foundation under public law. Its boards were constituted a year later at the founding convention in Potsdam. In 2008 the foundation began its work in Potsdam.
The purpose and objectives of the Federal Foundation of Baukultur are:
to make the quality, sustainability and achievements of planning and construction in Germany better known both nationally and internationally
to strengthen the awareness of good planning, building, Baukultur and the value of the built environment among those who make buildings and the general public
to stimulate discussion throughout the country about quality standards in urban planning, the construction and housing industries
The foundation is supported by annual grant from the federal budget and by the work of the Association of Friends of the Baukultur Foundation, which links the aims of the foundation to its member organizations and individuals.
DAZ is a think-tank, a place for exchange, transmission and debate. In workshops, exhibitions, talks, film nights and book presentations, architects, city planners, artists, citizens, users and critics come together to discuss current issues in architecture, spatial production and urban life.
Who makes the city? asks Creative Director Matthias Böttger in 2015. How can social objectives and formal synthesis, robust responsibility and fragile creativity be combined? How can speculative practice change architecture? Architecture´s task is not only to provide solutions, but to name and describe new challenges. Architecture provides no definitive answers, but remains open for questions – you are cordially invited to share and discuss!
DEUTSCHE FILM- UND FERNSEHAKADEMIE BERLIN
The DFFB is a well-established film academy (founded in 1966). As one of Germany’s oldest film schools it has a long tradition of training creative film industry professionals. Working on a relatively small budget, the DFFB succeeds in striking the right balance between training in the artistic dimension of filmmaking and fostering a commercial understanding in students which can also be seen in the exceptional and extremely professional films by our students.
Its strong links with the European film industry make it well-placed to bring together film students from across the continent, the DFFB has kept pace with the times and its courses are tailor-made to prepare students to work in today’s film and television industry. The DFFB adopts a pioneering approach to practice-based film training. The DFFB’s professional level courses are structured to focus on the key tools of the trade in filmmaking: directing, scriptwriting, production and cinematography. The DFFB also sets particular store by the vital creative aspects of filmmaking.
The DFFB has operated a number of exchanges and partnerships with international institutions, organisations and schools, including La fémis (Paris), FAMU (Prague), the London Film School, the Tel Aviv University and the California Institute of the Arts and the Columbia University in the United States.
MINDA DE GUNZBURG CENTER FOR EUROPEAN STUDIES
The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) was founded in 1969 at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to promote the study of Europe and to facilitate the training of new generations of scholars and experts in European studies in the United States.
CES was created as an interdisciplinary institution in the social sciences to make possible innovative research and teaching on European history, politics, economy and society. For over four decades, the Center has been the site of influential research and has inspired interest in European affairs among Harvard faculty, students and beyond. CES alumni are among the most eminent scholars of Europe in the world today.
TU BERLIN – CENTER FOR METROPOLITAN STUDIES
The city is our research field. Since 2004 the Center for Metropolitan Studies (CMS) at the Technische Universität Berlin has brought together both young and experienced researchers to study the historical developments and current problems of the metropolis in its international graduate research program, the masters program in historical urban studies, and adjunct research projects. The research center and its programs are interdisciplinary and international.
The Center currently focuses on the topics of metropolis and mobility, suburbanization and urban renewal, cultural economies and cultural innovation processes. We view current problems such as security in cities, segregation and polarization from a historical perspective to uncover possible solutions for the present. Historical analysis sharpens our view of the twenty-first-century metropolis.
The Center for Metropolitan Studies looks to bring together academic scholarship and practical research and consulting, to promote younger scholars and to encourage cooperation and communication between various actors in scientific research, economics, politics and civil society. CMS draws upon the experience of the thirty-year-old, internationally acknowledged Research Unit for Urban History of the Technische Universität in Berlin.
The seminar explores urban imagination and modernity through different art forms: literature, architecture, cinema, photography, and painting. Topics include: modernity and nostalgia, monuments and ruins, cultural archaeology and urban mapping, public and domestic spaces, memory, freedom and new technologies. Works by Baudelaire, Benjamin, Simmel, Kafka, Arendt, Nabokov, Brodsky, Pamuk, Debord. Focus for 2014: Paris, Berlin, St Petersburg, Moscow, Istanbul and Passaic, NJ.
Berlin is the site of new regional and cultural interactions in a reconfigured post-industrial and post-socialist Europe. The research seminar is concerned with the transitional processes and conditions of urbanization in reunified Berlin and the social, political, and cultural significance of those changes for cities in the United Europe more broadly. The subject of intense scrutiny in the 1990s and early 2000s, Berlin is due for renewed scholarly attention. Today the city of Berlin, where east and west, and old and new Europe intersect and overlap, is one of the prime sites of urban cultural and spatial innovation in Europe where hybrid forms of urban development are generating new processes and types of urban formation.
The seminar will focus on six strategic research themes:
The research seminar also has a broader pedagogical objective: to explore modes of urban spatial analysis and develop multidisciplinary methodologies and models of description and visualization for understanding processes of transformation – economic, technological, social, political – as they are manifest in the built fabric of the city. Our concern is to understand the particularities of place and history, but also the broader logic and modalities of global economic and cultural trends – in terms of forms of knowledge and sets of spatial practices that are particular to the design and planning disciplines.
Berlin as Laboratory has been structured in collaboration with scholars, city officials, architects, landscape architects, filmmakers, urban designers, and historians in Berlin. We will be working with local partners in Berlin and with documents — maps, plans, photos, films, etc — from a range of archives in and around Berlin.
The seminar is part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative: “Reconceptualizing the Urban: Interdisciplinary Study of Urban Environments, Societies, and Cultures”.
This seminar revisits the Frankfurt School and its deliberations on film, radio, and television as well as mass culture in general. We will devote the majority of the term to the work of three seminal figures: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. In addition, we will reflect on contributions of filmmakers, scholars, and writers which draw on and engage with the perspectives of the Frankfurt School, including, for instance, texts by Ernst Bloch, Hanns Eisler, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Alexander Kluge, Harun Farocki, and Miriam Hansen. We will focus on the debates catalyzed by the emergence of film and modern mass media (especially about the socio-psychological effects of a nascent industrialized visual culture) and also give some thought to the pertinence of these debates for our own contemporary culture of convergence. The class sessions will be conducted in English; all readings are in English.
As thinking beings we consider the limits of human potential and wonder what is the worst. The Nazis obsess us because they were masters of extremity who brought to the world unprecedented violence, destruction, and murder. They were also masters of propaganda who engineered sophisticated techniques of mass manipulation; in this endeavor cinema and modern media assumed a seminal role. This course considers why films proved to be so essential to the Hitler regime and so captivating to German audiences of the Third Reich. It also reflects on the continuing allure of Nazi sights and sounds for contemporary mass culture.
This summer, four graduate research assistants – Igor Ekštajn, Eli Keller, Michael Keller, and Namik Mackic undertook a two-week field trip to Berlin together with portal director Eve Blau and affiliated faculty Max Hirsh. The objective of the visit was to gather base information on a number of key research sites in Berlin and the surrounding region, building off work done during the previous summer in Berlin and fall semester at the GSD. The time was split between visits to archives, including the Berlin Landesarchiv, Senftenberg City Archive, and the DEFA film archive in Potsdam, and extensive on-site documentation in Berlin (primarily focused on neighborhoods Mitte, Neukölln and Kreuzberg) as well as in Senftenberg and its surrounding post-mining landscapes.
Three themes — the Berlin block, mobility/temporality, and nature/technology — were used to guide the research, often combining historic documentation and contemporary observation on a particular site. For example, the Straube Plan of 1910 was used as a guide to analyze a number of key sites of public and private infrastructure in Mitte, Kreuzberg and Neukölln, while on-site observations led the researchers to pursue particular historic imagery at the Berlin Landesarchiv.
The theme of mobility and temporality focused on the changing spatial relationships of live-and-work space for a number of different social groups active in Berlin. Past and present imprints of immigration were studied, ranging from the Dong Xuan commercial center in Lichtenberg to a cultural festival in Mariannenplatz foduing on, and featuring, recent refugee groups.
In pursuing the theme of nature and technology, the group studied the historical material relationships between Berlin and the surrounding region of Brandenburg as well as the interrelated ideas of nature and technology that have historical characterized the developments in this region. A visit to the Senftenberg City Archive allowed for research via a range of media, from personal photography books to DDR-era city planning documents. In addition to archival material a number of sites were visited, from active lignite mines near Welzow, to mines recultivated as lake landscapes in and around Senftenberg. Still today a primary source of electricity for Berlin, lignite mining and its planned recultivation continues to characterize the Lusatia region.
Together with historian Andreas Butter, HMUI Berlin portal visited and studied the centerpiece in the former East Berlin’s urban layout and the built environment of the former DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) more broadly. The tour focused on the major urban project of the post-WWII era in East Berlin – the grand Karl-Marx-Allee (formerly Stalinallee) – with attention given to other projects executed at about the same time, notably the buildings by the principal architect of the Stalinallee, Herman Henselmann. The tour ended in Nikolaiviertel – one of the oldest, medieval parts of the city that has undergone extensive transformation, from reconstruction in late 1980s to its current role as a tourist area next to Berlin’s most iconic landmarks and most controversial construction projects.
As part of the summer research trip to Berlin in June 2015, a group of faculty and students from across Harvard joined the landscape architect and historian Sonja Dümpelmann for a tour of three main parks in Berlin. It started with the Natur-Park Südgelände occupying the site of former industrial railway near the Berlin Priesterweg station in Schöneberg. The group continued in the direction of a site which after the reunification of Berlin has regained some of its pre-war central status: Gleisdreieck Park, designed by the German landscape firm Atelier LOIDL. The tour concluded with an exploration of Tempelhofer Feld – a public park occupying most of the former Tempelhof airport’s vast area.
with Mayor Andreas Friedrich
with Eve Blau, Max Hirsh, Erik Ghenoiu, Pedro Aparicio, Mikela De-Chaves, Igor Ekštajn, Emma Goode, Aleksandra Kudryashova, Eliyahu Keller, Michael Keller, Namik Mackic
This June 2015 tour of the town of Senftenberg in the state of Brandenburg included the study of the Lusatian Lake District which has replaced the decommissioned open pit lignite mines, Senftenberg’s current waterfront redevelopment scheme, and typologies of factory- and later state-initiated housing projects from the pre-war, socialist, and post-socialist periods.
As part of the 2015 research visit to Berlin, HMUI Berlin portal organized a workshop in collaboration with the Center For Metropolitan Studies at the Technical University Berlin. The workshop included lectures and presentations divided into two main panels:
Panel I – Urban Plans
Laura Calbet i Elias (150 Years of Hobrecht’s Plan for Berlin)
Reiner Nagel (Berlin’s Urban Development Plans Since 2000)
Andreas Wolf (Urban and Regional Restructuring in Eastern Germany)
Matthias Böttger (chair and commentator)
Panel II – Urban Practices
Gertrud Hüwelmeier (Vietnamese Merchants and Markets)
Philip Misselwitz (Refugee Accommodation Strategies)
Brigitta Wagner (Filmmaking as a Method of Urban Research)
Kees Christiaanse (chair and commentator)
Eve Blau, Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University
Matthias Böttger, Deutsches Architekturzentrum
Dorothee Brantz, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin
Jessica Bridger, Journalist and Consultant, Berlin
Laura Calbet i Elias, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin
Kees Christiaanse, KCAP Architects and ETH Zürich, Rotterdam/Zürich
Kenny Cupers, Program in Urban and Landscape Studies, University of Basel
Sonja Dümpelmann, Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University
Laura Frahm, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University
Erik Ghenoiu, Harvard-Mellon Initiative, Harvard University
Max Hirsh, Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong
Gertrude Hüwelmeier, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University Berlin
Philip Misselwitz, Institute for Architecture, TU Berlin
Reiner Nagel, Federal Foundation of Baukultur, Potsdam
Eric Rentschler, Department of German, Harvard University
Christina Schwenkel, Department of Anthropology, University of California-Riverside
Jörg Stollmann, Institute for Architecture, Berlin
Barış Ülker, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin
Brigitta Wagner, Filmmaker and Humboldt-Stiftung Fellow, Berlin
Andreas Wolf, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Applied Sciences, Leipzig
and students researchers in the HMUI Berlin portal:
Pedro Aparicio, Mikela De Tchaves, Igor Ekštajn, Emma Goode, Eliyahu Keller, Michael Keller, Aleksandra Kudryashova, and Namik Mackic
As part of their personal research, Namik Mackic and Eliyahu Keller, two students from the HMUI Berlin Portal traveled and documented two sites in former East Berlin: the Vietnamese Dong-Xuan Market in Lichtenberg – a port of call for Vietnamese and other immigrants who here make their livelihoods, and the late housing complex around Helene-Weigel-Platz in Marzahn – a quarter characterised by late socialist experiments in modernist urban layout at a grand scale.
The student researchers and faculty of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative Berlin Portal returned to the district of Kreuzberg, this time with Dr. Barış Ülker of the Center for Metropolitan Studies at the Technical University Berlin. This perspective on the neighborhood focused on the profound contribution from the Turkish migrant population to the preservation and the transformation of the district. Starting at Kottbusser Tor and ending at the open-air Turkish market, the tour offered a contextualized introduction to the key issues of housing, business structures, and social infrastructure.
Guided by Professor Phillip Misselwitz of the Technical University Berlin, the student researchers and faculty of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative Berlin portal toured the district of Kreuzberg, tracing specifically the imprint of migration, the presence of the refugee population, and housing typologies and spatial development patterns that have emerged in recent decades across the district. Professor Misselwitz, who for a longer time has led research seminars and studios on these themes at the Technical University Berlin, was drawing on the long history of the district to account for its current state and its place within the future plans for the development of Berlin. Among sites visited were Oranienplatz, which has been the center point of many civil protests, in particular those voicing the problems of the refugees; Kottbusser Tor – the focal point for an important citizen initiative against rising rent prices; and Prinzessinnengarten – a privately leased parcel of public land that has been turned into an urban gardening facility.
Accompanied by the director of the German Architecture Center (DAZ) Matthias Böttger, the Harvard Mellon Berlin portal research group paid a visit to the DAZ, in which they saw a current exhibition about new housing projects in Berlin. Among other issues, the conversation with Matthias focused on the recent Berlin phenomenon of ‘Baugruppen’ – initiatives from mostly upper middle-class citizens who assemble resources to form private housing development cooperatives. Students visited two sites where such construction was underway. Also, the group inspected the site of the Holzmarkt – a singular project along the northern bank of the Spree river in which nightlife entrepreneurs are turning into real estate developers, and directly opposite on the southern bank Tipiland – a countercultural settlement.
As part of their personal research, a group of students toured and documented western parts of Berlin, specifically the Charlottenburg district – the former center of West Berlin. The students visited the site of Messe Berlin, Berlin’s monumental expo site, as well as the central parts of Charlottenburg that are currently undergoing a process of rebranding with new ‘American’ style developments.
As part of the field trip to Berlin, the group of students and faculty of the Harvard Mellon Berlin portal paid a visit to the historic Bauhaus complex and foundation in the city of Dessau, designed by Walter Gropius, one of the founders of the Bauhaus and the chair of the architecture department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The group received a tour of the main building from Regina Bittner, the Managing Director of the Bauhaus Foundation, as well as a tour of the exhibition at the Master Houses of the Bauhaus Masters.
The German filmmaker and Harvard alumna Brigitta Wagner shared with the Berlin research group her personal research in which she has been following in the footsteps and history of her own family in Berlin. Wagner traced the life trajectory of her grandmother through the neighborhoods in which she had lived, crafting a transhistorical urban narrative which Wagner in her work also would be reconstructing through film. The trajectory took the group from the south-east neighborhood of Neukölln to Wedding in the north-west. The students finished the tour with a visit to the AEG factory complex designed by architect Peter Behrens.
Directed by Eve Blau, co-principal investigator of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, the Berlin Portal is composed of a core team of Harvard professors and advanced graduate students from the Graduate School of Design and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Working together with Berlin-based scholars and practitioners, we aim to develop collaborative projects that focus on six strategic research themes:
Our first step in developing unique research themes and questions was facilitated by an on-ground research seminar in Berlin, in which the group of students had met and collaborated with various scholars from the city, and engaged in their own personal research projects, rediscovering both the formal, known, and historic aspects of Berlin, as well as new trends and tendencies, informal aspects, and contemporary issues.
As part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative-sponsored research seminar ‘Berlin as Laboratory’, students have conducted historical research of urban plans, maps, and projects and constructed a historical narrative through the mapping of spatial developments of the city’s history, divided into four periods the last of which implies a projection into the near future: 1650 – 1900, 1900 – 1945, 1945 – 1989, and 1989 – 2030.
Public Space Comparison – A comparison of paradigmatic public spaces throughout Berlin’s pre- and early modern history, each in turn reflecting priorities of their time: commerce, state power, social equality, and the importance of industry, particularly the railroad.
Schinkel / Mitte – A map of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s projects in Mitte, c.1841. The names of buildings that have not survived to the present have been crossed out.
Ünter den Linden – Berlin’s primary axis running west from the historical core, Ünter den Linden (highlighted in red) is a reverse-chronological timeline of the city’s development manifest in built form. The graphic above notes that plans were typically implemented by public authority, yet tinged by ideals of egalitarianism, until the advent of industrialization, which saw a shift toward private, class-oriented development.
Urban form – The railroad spurred private villa developments (right) in the verdant suburbs, sharply contrasting with the dense tenements of the preceding era (left).
Observing a period of ideological struggle between the Western allies and the Eastern Bloc, this research aims to look at various architectures and urban plans as emblems of this political struggle. Focusing on objects rather than grand plans, we assume the method proposed by Mattias Ungers’ ‘Green Archipelago’ from 1977: the singular urban artefact, whether it is a building, a memorial, an infrastructure, or a compound, is scrutinized as a representation of the political ideology hiding behind its form. Through this group of arbitrary ideological islands, the story of Berlin between the end of WWII and the fall of the Berlin wall comes to light in a new way.
Following the traces of the post-wall city, and into the 2030 projections made by the official Berlin municipality, this research project aims to look critically at developing infrastructural networks both in the period between the Soviet Bloc collapse and today, as well as future projections into the near future.
Building up on the historic research previously conducted on this period, this project aims to show the infrastructral development in Berlin during the Cold War period as both obeying and creating the division of the city and as another expression of political ideology. Following the famous 1948 Berlin Blockade, the urban infrastructure, influenced by the city’s division, has created a segregated urban infrastructure in land, air, water and energy, thus setting up the problematic conditions for Berlin future development after unification.
The theme of nature in the city is organized into two periods, one characterized by the notions of settlement and linkage, as demonstrated in the Jansen plan of 1910, and the second characterized by the notion of the city as machine becoming prevalent in the Weimar period, in which free movement and leisure take on renewed significance. A tracing of the Tempelhofer fields represents the drastic spasms that characterize this period, as the site transitions from a peripheral field for early aviation, to a highly differentiated landscape of many uses in the Weimar period, to a major focal point of the Speer plan in the National Socialist period and a service area for Germany as war machine.
In the early 20th century Berlin becomes arguably the most advanced metropolis in Europe, largely due to the rapid advances in electrification, transportation, and communications enabled by the industrial giants AEG and Siemens. The investigation acknowledges the complex, interrelated, and continually reconfiguring relationships of state and non-state actors in early 20th century Berlin, as means by which infrastructure is realized and represented in this mapping. The developments in infrastructure are further organized into the five thematic lenses of production, leisure, dwelling, movement and energy. Particular emphasis is paid to the continuities and discontinuities in the configurations of actors through a period in which Berlin experiences extreme political reconfigurations, and becomes known as the electrical capital of the world.
This project takes a closer look at the current influx of refugee population into Berlin. It aims to investigate the networks created by the refugees as well as by the local residents of Berlin and their relationship to a specific and official policy expressed through a specific infrastructural network within the city – that of transportation. This network was chosen for the obvious connection between issues of mobility, public transport, and the situation in which the population of refugees finds itself in when arriving to a new and complex urban environment. By drawing on both official resources and unofficial ones (blogs, online maps, interviews, and fieldwork), this project proposes a visualization of the data mined from online resources and their correspondence – or lack thereof – in relation to the official transportation policy (and our reading of it) as suggested by the city.
The project is compiled of three main parts, all drawing on online databases as well as official documents found. All three parts present a comprehensive, though by no means complete image of different variables, conditions, and resources that relate to the refugee population in Berlin. The following text is a general explanation of the logic behind the creation of the different visualizations and of the resources used for their creation.
1 – Mapping Mobility
The first part of the project takes a closer look at greater Berlin, while focusing on one hand on public transportation networks – subway, railway, light rail, buses and main roads – and on the correlation of various formal and informal resources offered to the refugee population, as well as to the local population who is interested in fostering relationships or engaging in activities with refugees. The main and only constant official document used for this series of maps is an official subway map created by the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) – the public transport authority in Berlin – and specifies several stations and official resources for refugees.
One of the main conclusions coming out of this series of mappings is the lack of correspondence between the official resources mentioned in the BVG map and the vast majority of informal resources. While the BVG map offers an obvious correspondence between each resource and its adjacent public transit station, the map indicates that the majority of the official resources are located in the center, south-west and west of Berlin, that is, in the Mitte, Charlottenburg, Spandau, Moabit and Steglitz boroughs. Other maps show that the majority of informal activities are offered in the east and southeast of the city – Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain – all areas dominated by a younger population and with a larger percentage of migrants. Another interesting observation is in regard to protests and demonstrations. Although the most frequent protests happen on Oranienplatz, as mentioned, a large number of different protests takes place in more central areas of the city – ones that are identified with the municipality and government and are more ‘popular’ areas for tourists because of the array of cultural functions available in them – the sites are Potsdamer Platz, Hauptbahnhof, Pariser Platz, the Reichstag, and the Bundestag, and are all located in the central borough of Mitte.
2 – Mapping Chronography
The diagrams in this part of the research are meant to add an additional layer to the mobility patterns by refugees and the citizens engaging in related activities. Utilizing again the main resources of the Oplatz.net blog and the event calendar on the website, these diagrams represent what could be considered a typical week of possible activities for a refugee or a concerned citizen in Berlin.
An analysis of the chronographic diagrams reveals interesting patterns. We can notice that parties and festivals mostly dominate the weekends, while meetings occur mostly the afternoon and evening of weekdays; the kufas are active throughout the week, with a concentration on Sundays, and operating most of the week during evening hours, offering lunch only during Saturday and Sunday. As a general rule we can observe that most activities happen from late afternoon and into the evening, leaving the first half of the day vacant. Another interesting observation, which at this time we can offer no explanation for, is the lack of events and activities on Friday. One could suggest, perhaps cynically, that by the end of the working week, even the most devoted Berliners need some time for themselves.
3 – Refugee Strongholds
Following a fieldwork visit to Berlin during the summer of 2015 as part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative – Berlin Research Portal, and the materials collected, two main sites have emerged as the most important in the daily life of the refugee population. These sites, not surprisingly adjacent, are at the heart of Kreuzberg borough of Berlin – an area in the midst of ongoing gentrification processes, popular amongst tourists as well as the young (but now somewhat financially stable) population, as well as the core area of Turkish migrants. These locations are essentially public spaces, which incorporate unique recent histories as well as various urban and public functions and main transportation links.
The stronghold axon drawings offer us a look into a specific urban geography of activities and their dispersal within a typical urban fabric. It is worthy to notice the wide array of activities around both Oranienplatz and Mariannenplatz and the places in which they all take places – various buildings in which apartments and privately owned business transform and turn temporarily into a space of discussion, exchange, and hospitality.
The research asserts that informality can be pictured as a morally and legally questionable non-regulated matter but also as an urban or collective cultural asset. These interventions through the city are important in order to create a diverse and active atmosphere in contrast with the idealization of a modern city, but also as a process to create bridges between civil society and the government institutions with the objective to understand social dynamics from a bottom–up perspective.
The research focuses on analyzing the levels of informality in specific case studies in terms of the relationship between governance and citizen participation, taking into consideration the implications of rights and obligations to become a value proposition to the city. Furthermore, the objective is to understand the materialization of governmentality into physical locations and social structures that works in parallel with the mainstream of government regulation, but that certainly complements it.
Of the three cases presented, neither has a strong relationship with the municipality. The Municipality leases land or allows its use for agriculture, culture, and housing, among others. Other than that, the municipality does not subsidize any of the activities taking place there, even though they constitute an important input to the city. However, in each of the three cases presented the relationship is slightly different.
In the case of Prinzessinengarten the lease is temporal; this means that the Municipality is not interested in securing this activity because they may have more profitable plans.
In the case of Holzmarkt they are in negotiations to actually sell the land, but in this case many other institutions and sponsors exert pressure with a specific plan for the area. Holzmarkt remains regulated by the municipality’s policies.
In the case of Lohmüle the municipality tolerates the illegality of land appropriation (the users do not officially own the rights to the land) because of the good contribution the users make to the community, including their cultural agenda. Moreover the users maintain good relationships with the neighbors and the media.
The decision of the government to keep a certain distance from the alternative settlements gives space for ideas of community and active citizenship to act as strategies enabling the state to govern more effectively, allowing for diverse and improved life for the citizenry. Even tough certain informal settlements establish their own rules and subscribe to ideologies different from the municipality ideals, this strategy to manage the informal settlements from the outside from the municipality owning the land is a political strategy to actually manipulate certain events and decisions without being spotted. For sure, there are different levels at which this is manifest, Holzmarkt is the one that is more politically regulated, in that it is used to build the image of a “creative city” in a superficial way, not necessarily embracing creativity and culture as a tool to make an argument about the contemporary issues that the city is facing. In this case the cultural agenda is used to simulate the “creative city” image that attracts tourists.
In the case of Lohmühle , the insertion of a cultural agenda is a key point for allowing the project’s permanence over time. It is not only a way to promote themselves and have a better relationship with the neighborhood and media, it is also a way to justify the use of the land and keep living there – it is a job.
There are some dangers when policies about informal settlements are not imagined as a means of getting closer to the community and of enabling diversity in the neighborhood. There is the danger of gentrification when the “creative city” motto becomes a pervasive trend and the “edgy” aura of the community in question actually attracts new types of neighbors. The municipality should do their best to prevent the processes of gentrification in these areas, because it can put an end to the diversity and the dynamism of informality.
Cooperatives, trailer camps, and temporary projects within the inner city have an important role to play, especially in Berlin – a city characterized by its polycentric arrangement and empty spaces. The complexity, on one hand, of the equilibrium between what the city has provided to the community and what the community has given back to the city, and on the other hand, the distribution of power between the communities and the government institutions is something that has to be addressed and reflected on – by the representatives of the communities as well as the municipality.
As citizens we should embrace these interventions in the “formal” city because they give visibility to diversity, challenge decision-making processes and contribute to a productive conversation and thinking about the city. They play an important part in Berlin’s processes of transitional urban development.
This project investigates the role of the River Spree in the continual formation of Berlin’s urban identity over time. Water is necessary for urban life. It is also a key element of identity for those whose lives and cities are shaped by it. As Peter Coates writes in his Story of Six Rivers, “rivers nurture us and other creatures, provide us with opportunities, confront us with dangers, and inform our cultural life.” Centuries ago, the dual towns of Berlin and Cölln were founded along the banks of the River Spree precisely because of the river’s power to sustain life through sustenance, trade, and protection. Today, the River Spree fulfills multiple roles in Berlin: it is a regional economic force, an infrastructural presence, a pathway, a divider, a real estate amenity, and a place of recreation. It has fulfilled all of those roles at different points in time, and often more than one at once.
These themes and competing roles are examined in-depth as they have played out on a particular site in central Berlin: the riverbanks between the Schillingbrücke and the Oberbaumbrücke, in the Friedrichshain–Kreuzberg district. This site has been host to numerous activities and built forms since the city’s founding— a trade checkpoint and a riverine bathing destination during the industrial revolution, a murderous border during the Cold War, a hotbed of informality, and a highly contested real estate opportunity since the fall of the Wall. The creation of an intense urban void after reunification lent particular ferocity to the current contestations around the future of the river.
The height of the use and value of the Spree occurred in the 19th century, but fell to almost nothing for most of the 20th. During that time its role as a border eclipsed all other possibilities, thus Berlin’s attachment to its river lay dormant for decades. Today, multiple factions have recognized the immense potential of the voids leftover from industry and the Cold War, including city officials, real estate speculators, average citizens, and forthright activists. All are vying for the river to be used in a growing number of ways, perhaps reaching the largest number of roles it has ever been asked to play simultaneously. This is the source of the contestation surrounding the river’s future. The manifold physical and psychological evolutions that have taken place in the built space of the riverbanks and Berliners’ relationship to those spaces have culminated in a fierce battle for the right to the river that is unique to Berlin and that seems to be poised to continue for years into the future.
Senftenberg is just one town involved in a larger regional effort to transition the Lusatian economy from one of lignite mining to a lake region for respite and recreation. This project focused on the period of transition: the entities and policies that influenced the creation of Lake Senftenberg, the details of the physical restoration process, and how the result is informing policy and planning decisions in the region today.
The diagrammatic timeline highlights the period in which critical events and policies influenced the transition of Senftenberg’s economy and landscape. The 20th century was a tumultuous time for Germany, with many political regime shifts and drastic restructuring of territories. These shifts greatly influenced the mining economy, as the industry flip-flopped between state-run nationalization and capitalistic privatization. However, through these breaks in the timeline remain continuities, specifically the German reverence for mining land restoration and forward-thinking urban planning. Unexpected anomalies exist, such as the creation of Lake Senftenberg under the usually non-environmentally conscious socialist GDR. This timeline seeks to show these overlaps and relationships through the various events that shaped this region.
As mining and economies of extraction occur across many different physical and sociopolitical contexts, there have been a wide variety of reuse practices for transitioning mining landscapes. These exist on a spectrum of more passive practices such as relinquishing the land back to nature, to more intensive uses such as alternate energy production. Understanding the wide range of potential restoration practices, the project seeks to understand how and why Senftenberg decided on the creation of a lake region, which exists somewhere between a passive re-use and manual restoration.
The physical conditions of the Lusatian region and the physical process of mining lignite was a major factor in Senftenberg’s ability to design for the specific flooding re-use of the landscape. Unlike coal, lignite lies close to the surface of the earth, as it is often mined in the open-cast method, with large machinery digging trenches at the surface multiple kilometers long. These trenches were able to then be flooded through ground water and their location to nearby rivers. The plan for Lake Senftenberg originated before major environmental concern for the pollution of lignite mines. Lusatia is commended for its proactive planning for the future, assuming a time in which the rest of the mines would be exhausted. The series of maps to follow will document the physical transition of the land over the 20th century to today so we can see the drastic changes in land use as mines are created, closed, and reclaimed.
Since 1961, the Turkish community has had a significant presence in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, where the first Gastarbeiter, or “guest workers,” and their families settled during the labor import program between Turkey and West Germany. Densely built up with little open space, bounded on two sides by the Berlin Wall, and plagued by vacancies from the threat (and implementation) of urban renewal, the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair, yet its resultant cheap rents made it ideal for the Gastarbeiter and subsequent Turkish migrants. Since that time, there has been a close relationship between the built environment of Kreuzberg and the political status of the Turkish community. From victims of destructive urban renewal programs, to sought-after constituents in the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) 1984/87, to present-day citizens, this project traces how increasing political recognition and acceptance of the community has engendered greater agency within the Turkish community to express itself within the built fabric of the city. Whether in the limited form of shop signs or satellite dishes, or more significant interventions such as the construction of mosques or, in 2014, the opening of a branch campus for an İstanbul-based university, the increasing permanence of the Turkish community is evident, suggesting that Berlin will need to assimilate to them as much as they will need to further integrate with the city.
01 – This timeline lists important political events within the history of the Turkish community in Berlin and Germany at large. Though correlation should not be confused with causation, the 1984/87 International Building Exhibition (IBA) marks a shift in Germany’s political attitude toward its Turkish community from marginalization to increasing integration. The successor entity to IBA-Altbau, STERN completed the “careful urban renewal” of Kreuzberg in the early 1990s.
02 – Hobrecht_realized open space 1940 – Of the public spaces proposed by the Hobrecht Plan, only a handful were ever realized (those in red; those in gray were unrealized). Victoria Park, the large space highlighted in the southeast (bottom left), was not part of the Hobrecht Plan, but serves to more accurately illustrate the amount of open space in Kreuzberg in 1940, the year this map depicts.
03 Berlin Wall & Stadtautobahn Expansion – Of the buildings destroyed (dark red) or damaged (middle red) by the Allied bombings of Kreuzberg (light red), most heavy damage is isolated to the historical Friedrichstadt area in the northwest (top right). Only minimally affected areas would come to be inhabited by the Turkish immigrant community. The Berlin Wall (in black) bounded Kreuzberg on the north (top) and east (right). The proposed Stadtautobahn extension would have struck an east-west motorway through historical Friedrichstadt and much of eastern Kreuzberg and a north-south route along the path of the old Luisenstadt canal. Each would have required extensive demolition, had they been realized.
04 – Extensive demolition of Kreuzberg’s dense urban fabric was required to make way for the Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum and other modern housing blocks at Kottbusser Tor.
05 – This plan shows the proliferation of Turkish-language signs around Kottbusser Tor cca. 2009, with those directly attached to the Neue Kreuzberger Zentrum (and the complex itself) highlighted in red.
06 – This map shows the distribution of Muslim prayer spaces in and around Kreuzberg. Those with prayers led in Turkish are marked in red and those led in other languages in maroon.
07 – These diagrammatic plans of mosques in Kreuzberg show how they echo the traditional spatial progression of mosques, here represented by the neo-Ottoman Şehitlik Mosque (upper left).
Since its opening in 2003, Dong Xuan Center in a previous industrial zone in Lichtenberg has become a fairly well-developed spot for the provision of wholesale goods, gathering of Vietnamese community, and cultural exchange. This project studies the formation and operation of the market in a post-socialist environment in Berlin, and tries to analyze the different visions for its future by local Germans and the Vietnamese community.
Vietnamese immigration is not a phenomenon exclusive to Germany, but has been running in parallel with other eastern European countries, and past immigration is intimately related to the current condition. The project takes a look at different waves of Vietnamese immigration. They correspond with the timeline of modern Vietnam itself: the first wave –the student exchange program initiated among communist states in 1950s and 1960s; the second wave — the “boat people” — comprises refugees from South Vietnam emigrating to the Western Bloc after the country was taken over by the communist leadership; the third wave — the “contract workers” from Vietnam to COMECON countries as labor force for industrial production; and the later fourth wave — the “business immigration”, with Vietnamese people looking to fill economic niches in eastern Europe through their transnational relations after the collapse of the USSR.
In the case of Berlin, Vietnamese immigrants living in West Berlin are mainly “boat people” from the South Vietnam. They received language education and help to integrate themselves into the society, including assistance with seeking a job as well as housing. The Vietnamese living in East Berlin, along with people from North Korea, Mozambique, Angola, Cuba, and other Eastern Bloc countries, are mainly “contract workers” who arrived here in the 1980s when there was a shortage of cheap labor force, as well as immigrants who have been arriving since 1990s, using their family connections to do small business here. Struggling with integration, survival, and reputation, the earlier contract workers and the later economic immigrants have to rely on themselves for employment in today’s Berlin, thus they compose the main driving force behind the Dong Xuan market.
The operation of Dong Xuan Center relies on informal capital start-ups, kinship management, and updated trading routes. The mapping of transnational ties established by the Vietnamese during the socialist era reveals an otherwise invisible network among the Vietnamese who live in eastern Europe. Similar Vietnamese markets are established there, which make the circulation of goods, capital and information possible. The mapping of historical and contemporary trading routes for imported and exported goods shows the updated ways of obtaining cheap goods from China and Vietnam which secure a competitive price in the destination market, enabling the merchants to make a profit.
As to the future of the site, local German investors/developers have crafted a competing narrative of a potential art-related venue here in the future, which would contribute to the gentrification of the area, while the Vietnamese are trying to secure their “enclave”, expand their properties, and work towards a better and more comprehensive development of the site.
This project uses post-tourism demands and infrastructure to understand how Berlin’s city policies and marketing efforts are physically altering the urban environment. Despite Berlin’s financially weak status (close to €63.5 billion in debt), the city’s tourism sector has been strong. The number of annual overnight stays increased from 7 million in 1993 to 25 million as of 2012. As of 2011, over 275,000 Berliners were employed in the tourism business and the tourism industry boasted a gross turnover of €10 billion, thus contributing substantially to the city’s taxable revenues. Given how well the tourism sector has been faring, it has gained the attention and support of city officials.
But it is important to note that Berlin is attracting a certain kind of tourism—what some researchers call post-tourism. In short, post-tourism blurs the line between work and travel. Post-tourists want personal experiences that ingrain themselves in the ‘every day’ and ‘authentic’ life of a neighborhood resident, such as visiting flea markets, appreciating local art, and exploring the underground music scene. This mapping project focuses on Luisenstadt in comparison to other Berlin neighborhoods. Luisenstadt is a former quarter of central Berlin and is now divided between present day Mitte and Kreuzberg, though it mostly encompasses Kreuzberg’s famous SO 36 area. This project focuses on Luisenstadt because the area seems to embody the demands of post-tourism. Between 1993 and 2011, overnight stays have increased from 148,000 to 2.8 million in south east Kreuzberg. Yet there are no major tourism-sanctioned attractions such as museums, monuments, or designated historical sites in Luisenstadt. Despite not boasting tourist-sanctioned sites, Luisenstadt sees a lot of post-tourists interested in the area’s burgeoning nightlife, street art scene, and alternative culture.
Starting in 2000, policy makers and marketing campaigners promoted alternative leisure sites and creative work spaces more in order to attract post-tourists. This project views alternative leisure sites as temporary use spaces that were formalized then advertised in tourism marketing campaigns. By the 2000s, policy-makers realized that unofficial activity happening in vacant urban spaces—once perceived of as a sign of failure—could be promoted as an attraction. Thus, certain squats became legalized housing projects, beach bars got long-term leases, and nightclubs got licenses. Creative work spaces mainly alludes to the burgeoning start-up scene which is backed by the city government. For example, Berlin has new initiatives that provide affordable workspaces, public subsidies for small organizations, and start-up centers in order to encourage entrepreneurs to found ‘creative spaces’ in hopes of getting the post-tourist to stay and set up shop.
While mapping out alternative leisure sites and creative work spaces may reflect where Berlin officials and marketers are focusing their efforts, understanding where post-tourists actually go may show how effective the city government’s efforts are. Because post-tourists characteristically stay for a few months, the locations of short-term rental spaces may reflect which areas attract more post-tourists than others. As opposed to hotels and hostels, short-term rentals allow for post-tourists to seamlessly embed themselves into the everyday life of a neighborhood. In Berlin, AirBnB is a popular platform used to access such short-term rental spaces
The presence of a short-term rental platforms like AirBnB can also have unintended consequences on urban fabric. Because post-tourists demand ‘authentic’ and ‘local’ experiences, they are interested in the same housing, retail, and entertainment infrastructure that city residents also prefer. But most post-tourists usually are willing to pay more than locals can afford. Therefore, rises in rents are frequently blamed on transient post-tourists who are neither residents nor conventional tourists and tourism has been blamed for causing or accelerating gentrification processes. As the physical presence of AirBnBs are easy to see, anti-gentrification sentiment can turn into anti-tourism sentiment as the popular ‘Berlin does not love you’ stickers that proliferated Berlin’s streets in 2011 exemplifies. However, while an important part of the conversation, it is important to note that tourism should not be solely targeted and vilified for causing gentrification. Even though it may be easier to point a finger at tourism’s tangible infrastructure, changing tourism infrastructures should rather be seen as symptomatic of how city politics and marketing agendas at large are intentionally or unintentionally allowing for the displacement of certain residents.
The main goal of this project is to trace a line between two important architects, the Viennese Otto Wagner and the German Ludwig Hilberseimer. This task requires to locate them within their cultural context in order to understand their artistic, architectural and urban intentions. Vienna, as political reference for the Habsburg Monarchy over several centuries; and Berlin, as the capital of Germany and the fourth largest city in Europe, represent two realities that, despite their differences, allowed both architects to coincide ideologically through their socialist and humanistic approach toward the artistic expression of the architecture of the city. The main goal of the following lines is to identify the influence of Otto Wagner in Ludwig Hilberseimer through the analysis of four main concepts: artistic expression, uniformity, urban architecture and urban expansion.
What was Otto Wagner’s influence in Berlin when Ludwig Hilberseimer lived there? A letter to Wagner from the German Art Historian Albert E. Brinckmann and a postcard sent by Peter Behrens on 17 December 1914, also signed by the German Art Historian Karl Scheffler, to let Wagner know that he had been the talk of a party held at Behren’s house in Berlin-Neubabelsberg are proof that Otto Wagner’s echoes reached Berlin during the heyday of industrialization and its transition to become a metropolis in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
The Luisenstadt area is bounded by the river Spree in the north and east, Skalitzer Straße the south, and Lindenstraße in the west. The area was a working-class district with intensively mixed residential and light industry land use. It still carries traces of war damage and years of urban development in the former border area. The urban fabric of Luisenstadt is dominated by new buildings, renovated old buildings, and upgraded open spaces.
During the Second World War, tons of bombs had been dropped onto Berlin. 35 percent of all homes were totally destroyed. Located in the inner city of Berlin, the Luisenstadt suffered the most severe damage. In 1945, the neighborhood was in rubble, and many voids were left over after destroyed buildings. The comparison between figure-ground diagrams in 1940 and 1950s indicates the severe damage during the war.
After the division of the city, both West and East Berlin were converted into a display window. It made Luisenstadt district a zone of conflict and division. The housing had become of great importance: both in order to improve the living conditions of the residents, and to display the power of East and West Berlin.
This research studies the development of the urban fabric and block footprint along the Berlin Wall, showcasing the urban renewal in the Luisenstadt area which encompasses both West Berlin and East Berlin. It covers the most representative projects built along the Berlin Wall during the cold war: Neanderviertel and Heinrich-Heine-Viertel in East Berlin and Otto-Suhr-Siedlung and Spring Project in West Berlin. During the 1970s, “ Careful Urban Renewal” strategy was developed as a strategy of response to the socio-spatil complexity of the area. To celebrate the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) initiated in 1979, was completed in 1987. This research selects Block 79 and Block 104 as cases to elaborate the “careful urban renewal” concept as it came to be executed in Luisenstadt.
Lusatia is one of the largest mining areas in Germany and used to be the energy center of the former GDR, which was dismissed after the German reunification in 1990. Mining areas are supposed to be recultivated and generate new source of income. From the planning of Otto Rindt – “father of the Senftenberg lake region” to the program of Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) Fürst-Pückler-Land, the purpose of post-industrial landscape reclamation has changed from simply aiming at returning sites back to “natural” landscape, to creating “a diverse, multifunctional post-mining landscape as a condition for new economic activities and future perspectives for people and enterprises in the region “(IBA). How did mining change the land use in Lusatia? How did the recultivation planning and future vision of different mining sites change in the past decades? Does it become more and more diverse? How did the different institutions and organizations, like IBA, LMBA. and Federal Government and Federal State, cooperate together to generate and realize new ideas for recultivation? The purpose of the research is to map the change of land use influenced by mining industry and to trace the evolution of recultivation planning ideas and projects.
The history of Lusatia area could be divided into four periods according to the key moments when important social and political events influential to the industrial development and redevelopment process happened. For each period, map at a moment during this period would be examined. Besides that, each of the periods will be discussed from two aspects: mining landscape and post-mining landscape. The first part is to illustrate how the rise and decline of mining industry have an effect on regional land use and landscape under the given social and political conditions. The second part is to document the visions, ideas and measures of post-mining re-cultivation during different periods to see its continuity and difference.
“The cities and the installations are forced to wander, and we must first of all analyze carefully this wandering before building in grand style and with great expectations new inhabitable spaces.” – Martin Wagner, Das Wachsende Haus
This project investigates the interrelationships across landscape and industry, recreation, and resource extraction, which continue to characterize the Berlin and Brandenburg region as city-landscape. Particular attention is paid to the industrialization and urbanization of the region from the late 19th century and the planning efforts of Weimar-era building director Martin Wagner, notably his General Open Space Plan of 1929.
While the planning works of Wagner constitute an awareness and to a degree an incorporation of ideas from a wider planning discourse, they also reveal a growing awareness of the territorial scale of industrial urbanization particular to Berlin and the need to develop new theoretical frameworks to address a growing disassociation between settlement and workspace. The General Open Space Plan of 1929 and its coordination of ‘unbuilt’ spaces comprising recreational and resource conservation value is a salient example of but one technique by which the modernist planner seeks to address this problematique.
The research postulates that the development of the railways and the purchases of agricultural and forested lands by the city within and beyond its administrative boundaries were instrumental to realizing and organizing the metabolic functions of an expanding Berlin in the Weimar period, and that these spaces, to a great degree, constitute the “figure” of Wagner’s open space plan. As such, the spatial characteristics of these grounds and the networks of their continuously evolving functions continue to serve as important frames through which we can understand a city in transition, a city characterized today by imminent population growth amid increased inner-city property speculation, and by a periphery that’s actively being designed from agricultural and sewage uses to accommodate new landscapes of local energy production, resource conservation, recreation and development.
The investigation is organized into three sections concerning, respectively, the industrial context of planning, the plan itself, and four sites representative of the key relationships being explored. The first section begins with a brief account of Berlin’s industrial and political context, accompanied by a pair of map sequences that explore the parallel developments of the railways and the Stadtgüter, or city goods, as key constituents underlying the 1929 plan. The second section focuses on the 1929 plan itself as well as the text accompanying its publication, in an effort to understand the means through which Wagner develops the notion of the city-landscape in his attempt to address the aforementioned problematique. This is paired with a series of map overlays that relate the open space plan to the railways, the city goods, recreational destinations and a contemporary landscape of conservation and energy production. The third section interrogates four particular sites as representative of the wider interrelationships across landscape and industry, recreation, and resource extraction, which continue to characterize the Berlin and Brandenburg region as city-landscape.
The research makes use of primary textual resources available at Harvard University’s Loeb Library, notably through the Wagner Collection, as well as historic maps, postcards, and photographs. Attention to the particular sites reveals a deep historical resonance in the relationships across recreation and resource extraction and conservation, relationships evident today in the Regionalparks Brandenburg und Berlin, a coordinated but flexible planning strategy of eight loosely-defined landscape regions across the Berlin and Brandenburg administrative areas. The intention of the research is not only to shed light on the trajectory of planning in Weimar Berlin, a time when the social aspects of modernism in architecture, landscape and planning were highly evident, but to provide a historical and theoretical contextualization through which contemporary transitional processes and conditions of urbanization across Berlin and Brandenburg may be newly conceptualized.
In European cities, the nineteenth century represented the period of vast urbanization, great overcrowding, and the worst housing conditions. Industrialization and migration from the countryside into the cities gave rise to a new, thick working class that had to be accommodated in the city. These unprecedented demographic shifts had a huge impact on the physical transformation of Berlin, triggering the birth and propagation of two very urban phenomena: the tenement house (Mietskaserne) and the allotment garden (Kleingarten). Both were originally unplanned and later formalized to create two particular Berlin typologies that became the DNA of built and open (rental) space in Berlin. Developing at the same time, in a dialectic relationship, the Mietskaserne and the Kleingarten fulfilled the needs of a growing proletariat and shaped the character of Berlin. By tracing their history and the conditions of how they came to be, this research intends to reveal the hidden world behind their gates and its potential of creating a new urban condition today by reinventing themselves to accommodate the needs of the ever changing socio-economic environment of Berlin.
The nineteenth century tenement block and garden colony have transcended time and provided the city with the opportunity to return to a lost sense of urbanity while offering open spaces for production and social interaction. Openness and co-existence remain an essential part of Berlin’s urban condition that can be pursued even further through the reinvention of these two urban typologies. Their flexibility and adaptation to the needs of the city throughout centuries have proven their importance as urban tools that can serve to develop new forms of citymaking, especially in cities like Berlin that undergo constant transformations.
Amidst a refugee crisis that is starting to shift and reconfigure populations all over the world, and especially in Germany, can the gardens provide the food security and shelter for the displaced population in the way they were once conceived? Can the productive cores of the blocks start to engage more actively locals and floating populations in economic, social or cultural activities that can manifest the integrational role that these courtyards once had? Can these two spaces, seemingly sealed from the public and especially from outsiders, open their gates and provide an alternative urban paradigm for the current shifting conditions of the city? Could they even be combined and brought closer to each other, in a form of a socially encompassing urban courtyard that can also serve as a garden where new and old residents have the chance to interact?