“But what effect does the disappearance of such artefacts have upon the collective memory of a city? Or in the case of the artefact at the heart of this evening’s discussion, the Berlin Wall, we must ask a more complex question: what happens when such artefacts neither fully endure, nor totally disappear?”
In September 2019, I began working at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, as Online Editor of the Anthropocene Curriculum website: anthropocene-curriculum.org.
Sonic Urbanism is a publication exploring sound and the city. It features essays on sonic communities, urban composition, acoustic architectures, phonographic methods and public performance projects.
“Entitled ‘No other German ever had as many monuments as Ernst Litfaß’, the presentation took the form of a letter about the history of the advertising columns, addressed to their creator, and explored the implications of new forms of screen-based mediation of the city.”
A tour that viewed the German capital through its myriad architectural surfaces – including DDR-era murals, reconstructed Prussian palaces, building-scale printed fabric advertisements and: supermarket fridges.
“Why convene a school for spatial practices to act now? And how to bring it into being? If the Bauhaus as a school was able to develop a striking thesis on the position of architecture and the architect in the society of the early 20th century, Making Futures School asks: how does architecture – and the architect – act in the society of the early 21st century in an accountable way?”
“I’ve spent recent weeks fuelling a strange obsession with not so much the object of the iceberg itself, but rather its representation across media, past, present and future. Beyond this, I have also developed a perverse fascination with the manner in which those past and present versions seem to be informing the confusing and terrifying nature of not just future representations of the iceberg, but also their actual reality. It is a collage of these different projections that I have brought to you who have gathered within this most stately of icebergs this evening.”
“I will not easily forget when and where I first read these words, from the English translation of Joseph Roth’s What I Saw: Reports from Berlin, 1920-1933. It was in the sunny environs of a garden in Brandenburg, Germany in May 2016, midway through the campaign period leading up to the UK’s referendum on continued membership of the European Union. Three years later, as I read them again in May 2019, all that has followed within the context of British contexts along with the ongoing resurgence of the far right across the continent and beyond, the words seem to have acquired even sharper edges.”
“The practice of interpreting and decoding visual signals in real-time is one that inhabitants of urban environments undertake everyday – from the kaleidoscopic tapestry of advertising that is draped across the contemporary city to the municipal vernacular of street signage, along with more overt measures designed to control and demarcate urban space. Punctuating all of these are more ephemeral offerings, such as the layers and layers of marks left by graffiti artists and flyposterers or the accidental glimpses of what lies ‘behind the curtain’ afforded by partially pulled back building hoardings.”
“But, in true Ando style, ornamentation comes in the form of the constantly changing light: narrow slit skylights at the edges of the room’s ceiling cast shafts of sunlight and shadow that move across the blank concrete throughout the day. A series of picture windows, placed deliberately low, frame views of the surrounding nature, fulfilling the client’s request that the space engender an awareness of changing seasons – and mirroring Ando’s own philosophy that the boundary between architecture and nature should remain porous.”
“Despite your dislike of messiness and your attempt to curtail this aspect of Berlin’s character that so offended you, it is it through disorder and random intervention that the columns have manifested a sort of resistance in the face of impending doom – even if, for some of them, the battle is ultimately unwinnable. Since I took that first image in January, I have gathered many more. The sight of completely unblemished coloured columns has become rarer with each passing week.”
“But he does concede that in 2019 there are some limits that cannot be ignored – not by architects or anyone else: ‘The issues that we’re going to have to deal with more and more, like climate change, mean that we are going to have to accept more regulation.’ This attitude runs counter to the image-driven PR machine that drives high-level contemporary architecture and is ever hungry for the kinds of gravity-defying works that can be organised into listicles and awarded end of year rosettes.”