Lexia – Urban Landscape

Workshop, Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, Fall 2008

Since the explosive growth of the western cities in the 19th century, the urban and natural landscapes have often been understood as antipodes, where one seems to prosper only at the expense of the other. For those unfamiliar with Berlin, the encounter with a “green” city often comes as a surprise. The city’s green public spaces are found everywhere, both as large planned parks and informal public spaces scattered across the urban fabric. Not all of Berlin’s green spaces, however, are the product of innovative city planning, but rather the result of war, destruction and division. In this workshop we will focus on one specific area along the former Berlin Wall to analyze and discuss the possibilities of informal green public spaces in contemporary Berlin.
As one of the fastest growing cities at the beginning of the 20th century, Berlin faced not only the ecological problems of industrialization but also the difficulties in the extreme density of its architecture. Much of its population was chronically ill and experienced one of the highest levels of child mortality in the western world. The complexities of the city’s uncontrolled growth made it necessary to install professional planning institutions to develop new urban concepts and strategies: it was the birth of modern city planning. Groundbreaking architects like Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner identified the lack of green spaces as one of the major causes of Berlin’s hygienic problems. It was also Martin Wagner who initiated, according to the model of the English Garden Cities, the ring-like system of the Volkspark in all districts of Berlin, still today one of its most striking qualities. With his understanding of city and natural landscape as two reinforcing – and not opposing – systems, Martin Wagner referred back to a city planning concept already employed in the age of classicism by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Peter Joseph Lenné in Berlin. Today's Berlin features a high quality and availability of open public space in its many forms.  
With the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 vast areas of what had been part of a dense urban fabric prior to WWII were transformed into devastated border zones. The fall of the Wall in 1989 was the beginning of a new and exciting era of economic, cultural, and social change; physically it revealed the scars left by a gruesome object brutally planted in the midst of the cityscape. Though most of these open lots have since been filled with office and apartment buildings, the future of many remains uncertain. On one of these sites in Berlin-Mitte, students will be asked to develop a temporary intervention or an architectural object with the intention of creating a distinct spatial situation. Students are encouraged to work in small groups and to build their projects at a 1:1 scale. The projects should address issues of public and private, temporary and transitory, built and unbuilt, as they treat the condition of public space at the interface of city and natural landscape.