The summer academy 2010 will explore the opportunities and challenges of the development of inner city waterfronts by comparing the Spree area of Berlin and the East River on the Brooklyn side of New York. The program begins on May 29th and concludes with an exhibition featuring the works on June 30th. More information regarding various field trips, lectures and site visits can be found by clicking the links 'the challenge', 'why the waterfront?', and 'the specifics'.
Modes of living and working as we know them today will change fundamentally within the lifespan of any newly designed and constructed building.
Changing social mores will render entire buildings obsolete -- industrial areas, business districts and neighborhoods will gradually vacate until they become silent monuments to an earlier time. Although the threat of obsolescence has always presented an enormous challenge for architects and planners, today it is an even greater challenge as we attempt to square development with an environmental imperative to be carbon neutral.
The French meteorologist Stephane Hallegatte, translated the latest climate assessment report of the IPCC into a comprehensible picture by showing that the climate of Berlin in 60 to 70 years will be similar to the climate of Rome today.
Thus, buildings built today really face two threats -- changing social paterns and changing climate conditions -- both of which could render today's buildings obsolete in a matter of decades.
Adaptation and mitigation are the two strategies discussed in addressing climate change, limited fossil resources, and changing social patterns. This summer we will be investigating various building typologies and assessing the potential to adjust and retrofit those buildings to accommodate a wide range of programs.
The criteria for selecting these buildings will be connected to existing conditions along the waterfront in Berlin -- warehouses, loft buildings, courtyards and atriums, to list a few. We will use the insertion, recombination and reuse of these elements to design new urban areas that accommodate incremental changes in life styles and working patterns now and into the future.
Why the waterfront?
Waterfront sites offer an intriguing intersection between highly adaptable building typologies and critical urban infrastructure that together allow for inspiring design and sustainable future scenarios. What is more, the waterfront stirs emotions and proximity to the river’s edge sets off expectations of a more luxurious life.
This has not always been the case. Sites in Berlin as well as New York show traces of a time when the water was seen less as a place to live and more as an industrial artery. The river was used primarily for the transport of goods and polite society essentially turned its back on the waterfront.
Today, over one-hundred years later, backs are no longer turned and these same waterfronts offer sprawling post-industrial landscapes and forgotten inner city cores -- scars amidst a perpetually changing built fabric that serve as proof that modernity is uncompromising in its measure of usefulness, but also unlimited in its ability to re-invent. Indeed, some of the most exciting architecture and planning of today are those projects that have successfully re-purposed old sites for uses completely unimagined even twenty years ago -- urban farms, industrial lofts and elevated greenways.
And although architecture and planning have always proven to be recombinant, the added ecological imperative of climate change implies that the penalty for failure in design is simply too high to risk design without thinking about the future.
Lifecycle costs offer a great example. In Germany the embodied energy of the construction of a building approximately equals the energy necessary to operate a building over 20 years. And that assumes operation with relatively inefficient mechanical systems that must be questioned and also re-designed if we are to take on this challenge seriously.
The imperative to design with the future in mind bears new questions:
• What does it mean to design buildings that can adapt to anticipated lifestyle and work patterns of the future?
• What will be the impact of global warming and limited fossil resources be on the construction of buildings?
• How will that impact be felt in the design and quality of buildings?
The waterfront is an ideal future laboratory for testing strategies of a sustainable future. Not only is there a robust stock of adaptable spaces, but there is also ample land to develop and a strong connection to critical infrastructure. These three factors allow architects and planners to design not just spaces, but spaces that can grow, adapt and develop incrementally together with sustainable systems for energy, water management, and water rights.
Is the challenge of a sustainable future simply more number crunching and re-tooling for engineers, or is it a design problem?
We believe good design can make a difference.
How you relate to and create 'place' or context when designing a new building or urban quarter is always a delicate set of operations. Too radical and you risk being cast as reckless; too traditional and you risk being cast as stagnant or boring. Some projects succeed in being both radical yet thoughtful, traditional yet provoking, and thus introduce new typologies and ways of thinking about space. The work of archigram or the metabolists stand out on the radical side and, thinking of water, the work of Scarpa stands out on the traditional side. Again, it is the ability to touch a nerve in the present by channeling traditions of the past or visions of the future that makes these projects powerful.
Thinking of the post-industral waterfront neighborhoods in Berlin, students will study the pattern of development, history, typology and urban fabric of the adjacent districts of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Mitte and Treptow, and explore the relationship of the waterfront and the city with emphasis on the relationship to the people that live and work in the area.
It was in the early 1980s when building at a waterfront became an issue in Berlin again -- the most prominent development being the IBA Project in Tegel and later, after reunification, the development of the Rummelsburger Bucht and Wasserstadt Spandau. The critical issue of those developments was public access of the waterfront and typically this manifested itself as a landscape treatment and not an urban edge at the water.
Contrast this to a city like Venice. Perhaps because of climate and relative land scarcity, mediterranean cities including Venice developed a much more integrated use of the water and organized promenades, shops, cafes and restaurants along water corridors -- a strategy that could be potentially be adapted to to Berlin, though obviously not replicated.
An element particular to Berlin that might make its own waterfront development unique is the history of emergent and informal redevelopment efforts underway since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After re-unification, areas along the banks of the Spree upstream near the center of Berlin suddenly became available and offered numerous niches for people to experiment with new modes of living and working. These areas quickly became associated with Berlin's burgeoning creative class and represented a completely new asset to the city. Only a short period later, professional enterprises like the universal studios moved to the neighborhood and initiated a development that quickly lost touch with the the original group 'settlers'. People who had moved to the area just following reunification were now firmly established and actually opposed any further 'formal' or 'profit-driven' development of the area.
Much of the land still remains 'under-developed' from a commercial point of view, but perfectly appropriate for informal and incremental approaches.
Finally, the breadth of this research will allow students to move to design. First, students will evaluate the current proposals for the area and see how they measure up to the social, economic and environmental needs, opportunities and potential of the district, using historic patterns of development and the post-wall evolution of the waterfront,
Then, students will design their own waterfront interventions. The ambition is to focus on developments along the Spree which will allow us to move from the macro-urban level planning to the micro-building level of urban design. Students will consider the architectural factors that have made developments successful in the past and will be required to make developments successful in the future.