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Prenzlauer Berg Tour - Future Cities Seminar


(Berlin Wall Memorial – Prenzlauer Berg)

This week we toured The Berlin Wall Memorial in Prenzlauer Berg with our Future Cities Seminar class. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 by East Germany in order to block off West Berlin. It was composed of two walls, one facing East Berlin and the other facing West Berlin with a “death strip” running down the center. This land in between was patrolled by East Germany to ensure no one crossed the border. Areas next to the wall became desolate in some locations and the death strip that ran between the two walls presented a large amount of open space when the wall was torn down in 1989.


(Preserved section of the death strip – Watch tower used by East Germany)

Pictured below is a direct result of the Wall’s impact. The Chapel of Reconciliation was constructed in 1999 as a reminder of the church that used to stand there, the Church of Reconcilitaion, from 1894 – 1986. When the Berlin Wall was constructed the church was surrounded by both walls and remained standing in the death strip. In 1986, East Germany decided this structure was a threat to the wall’s protection of East Berlin and it was demolished. The “Kapelle der Versöhnung,” Chapel of Reconciliation, stands in an oval shape with the outline of the previous church embedded in the ground. The outer layer acts as a shell of wooden louvers and the protective inner layer is constructed using a rammed earth method. The clay is bound using rubble of the previous church as a memorial by the hands of people of the community. This chapel represents a collective effort to revive this area.


(Exterior view of the Chapel of Reconciliation.)


(Detail of clay construction.)

Just past the Chapel of Reconciliation lies Bernauer Straße 5-8, a community of twelve town homes that runs behind the Berlin Wall Memorial. Various architects individually designed each home with the involvement of the tenant. It is a car free development with a public path that runs through the center of the two complexes. Looking from a nearby rooftop, you can note the difference between this project and a townhome project adjacent. Bernauer Straße comes to life when looking from above with its many green roofs and patios, highlighting the achievements of passive energy use and sustainable living.


(Bernauer Straße 5-8)


(Bernauer Straße 5-8 – Green Roofs – Photo taken from Strelitzer Straße)

Our next stop was Strelitzer Straße 53, an apartment building designed by Fatkoehl Architects. This building focuses on sustainable strategies, using external blinds help to shade the windows from excess heat gain. This same strategy is seen on the southern facing facade of Schönholzer Straße 13/14. External wooden blinds are manually operated to control the amount of heat and light to enter the apartments. This building designed by Deimel Oelschläger does not use a heating system, rather a heat exchange system. Tenants become active participants in their own thermal comfort. 


(Southern facade of Schönholzer Straße 13/14 – Photo courtesy of Edrei Rodriguez) 

We ended our tour with Dida Zende, founder of F-I-T. Freie Internationale Tankstelle is a project that transforms old gas stations into hubs for creativity. The idea is to take a place that was once used for fossil fuels and turn it into a community gathering space. This location in Berlin, at the corner of Templiner StraBe and Schwedter StraBe, houses a local vegetarian food truck, a fire truck turned into a sauna, a yurt for gathering, and one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood dating back to the 1890’s, as seen below.


(Freie Internationale Tankstelle – photo courtesy of Edrei Rodriguez)


The idea behind all of these projects is a focus on creative sustainability and community design. We saw examples of DIY/DIT, sustainable solutions, impacts of the Berlin Wall, and the result of work when a community is involved. 

Thanks Michael LaFond and Berlin for the tour!


Lindsay G


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