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Fall 2014 Future Cities Seminar - 17/9/2014

This first week in Berlin marked our initial departure from students studying abroad to investigators determined to engineer a better city. Within the first formal lecture of the Future Cities Seminar, we toured Spreefeld Berlin, the cooperative complex where our studio space is actually located, as well as the surrounding urban environment.

The housing project explores the notion of "community" and how spatial relationships affect the interaction between people. The cooperative itself hosts a hierarchy of public and private spaces ranging from completely private apartments, to communal kitchens and living rooms occupied by a group of apartments, to hallways lined with personal mementos that are as much an art gallery as they are an entrance to living spaces, to rooftop gardens and decks and "optional spaces" that include a woodshop and professional kitchen that are somewhat semi-public, to open courtyards and community gardens that invite residents and visitors alike to collaborate and exist in the same dynamic setting.

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(ice factory; photo credit Jasmeen Ezat-Agha)
 

Tucked away from the road, the project invites people to experience a completely unique way of living the centers around the notion of sustainability and DIY/DIT. The complex is, without a doubt, intricate; however, this complexity is derived from its ability to adapt to its users. Everything exists due to a physical demand and emotional need, an idea explored in our reading for the week, Self Made City by Kristien Ring. 

This notion is further echoed on the surrounding environment of the complex. We moved towards the river front which currently exhibits a series of inhabitable art projects/ structures on both banks of the river. Moreover, the TeePee Land plays campgrounds to a series of temporary and permanent residents who have rejected the formal adaptations of society to create their own culture that relies on self organization and mutual respect.

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(across the river; photo credit Jasmeen Ezat-Agha)

Finally, we stopped in the open field adjacent to the abandoned and former ice factory. This overgrown patch of land represents many things. It is the crux of our studio, serving as the site for our design project. Moreover, it is also a physical point of political contention. The land is currently being evaluated for it is rocketing price tag. More importantly though, it is one of the last pieces of the urban puzzle in this Spreefeld development. The future use of the land can not only determine the success of the existing projects, but it has the opportunity to either dispose of or embrace the culture and ideals of both the Spreefeld Berlin and the ever-eager investors. Is there a way to create a formal place and/or space for the co-op housing, the anarchist squatters, the luxury apartment renters, and the teepee people? As architecture students working with the site, it is - without a doubt - a heavy question and design challenge that we must face head on.

- Kim

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