In 2012 Berlin’s biggest Satellite town, conceptualized by Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius, celebrated its 50th anniversary. Built to quickly respond to the lack of housing in Post-war Berlin, Gropiusstadt has been an architecture icon of modernity until today. An urban experiment not without controversies but also potentials. On the one side the inhabitants of Gropiusstadt suffer from the anonymity and isolation of the provoking uniformity of the giant housing blocks and urban junctions are still missing, but many of the people living there have become convinced inhabitants that can relate to their living environment particularly because of its green. This urban experiment receives ongoing impulses from the outside, e.g. the continuous influx of people from all over the world and is not yet completed!
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Berlin´s biggest Satellite town Gropiusstadt, inhabitants and local actors, housing associations, city planners, architects, artists, historians and researchers set out to reflect and celebrate the past, the present and most importantly the future of Gropiusstadt.
Commissioned by The Cultural Network Neukölln, Katharina Rohde curated a series of Urban Interventions inviting inhabitants and visitors to join in for playful moments, Street-Art Poetry, Sound Installations, the search for the Ideal and a glass of champagne with Gropius.
The interventions were developed in collaboration with the artists Katrin Glanz, Kerstin Gust, Thomas Bratzke, Erik Goengrich, Stephanie Hanna & Julia Kapelle, Nadja Milenkovic & Sebastian Seitz.
THE IDEAL CONCEPT
Inspired by the Ideal Skyscraper by Walter Gropius, the concept of the Ideal is questioned. What is the Ideal-concept for house, apartment, husband, wife and children? Who are the Ideal inhabitants? Installing a self-constructed market stall, interviews with inhabitants are conducted compiling into a collection of inspiring answers. Interviewees are provided with a T-Shirt promoting the Ideal woman, man, girl, boy, child and so on.
“Ideal is life in the city. Ideal is life in Gropiusstadt. The Ideal apartment is sunny, bright, peaceful, green, centrally located and flexibel in its ground plan, has a good connection to public transport and adapts to the individual living conditions…”
By the end of the day 500 Ideal citizens were strolling through Gropiusstadt.
“The Ideal family should be great, smart and nice. When everybody is smiling and healthy. That the children are happy even when the father is not at home. The family is Ideal when one sleeps all day long. My family is cheerful and its nice to be part of this family.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the first Berlin Skyscraper Sackrace. Join in the jumping race in well-chosen skyscpapers of Gropiusstadt. Come closer and participate! Let the skyscrapers levitate! The lady back there with the green jumper or the young man with the cap: it would be our pleasure to welcome you as a participant!
Be part of it! Skyscraper Jump!
GROWING UP WITH GROPIUS
The installation Growing up with Gropius talks about everyday life in Gropiusstadt, about leaving and coming back and about the spatial and individual character of its inhabitants that are in their 30ties today. The personal habitat of this “Generation Gropius” is compared with the media perception on the neighborhood, aiming to describe a contemporary and differentiated image of life in Gropiusstadt.
Gropiusstadt is my home and I feel comfortable here. My mother, Gabi and my son Jeremy live here and I have many friends in the neighborhood that are important for me. I don´t want to move away.
For the sound installation Growing up with Gropius a three-leveled car park was transformed into an oversized speaker. The more than 50m long facade along the pedestrian zone was covered by a sound carpet that brought the building into speaking; presenting the many voices and complex stories. On a lawn opposite the car park, visitors were invited to listen, linger and think about 50 years of Gropiusstadt.
A kiosk located in the pedestrian zone was the second station of the installation. With a temporary garden Growing up with Gropius was hosted by Moni, who operates the kiosk since 23 years and has many stories about Gropiusstadt to offer herself.
Growing up with Gropius portraits Gropiusstadt as a neighborhood that is versatile and that offers different legibilities. It is further a place that is home to its inhabitants. And this has been denied for a long time in all the discussions about mass housing estates.
MESSAGE TO GROPIUS
Over a period of two month inhabitants of Gropiusstadt were invited to leave message for Walter (Gropius) on a postcard describing their reality in the neigborhood; their dreams and visions as well as their critique and ideas for improvement of the area. In collaboration with some elderly inhabitants this collection of messages was choreographed into a poetic collage and written onto the streets of Gropiusstadt in big letters: visible from the ground and high up from the skyscrapers.
“Dear Walter, living here is great, a green archipelago. Breakfast with a cup of view, use the roofs! Let it rain money, up-to-date modernisation. Allow us more influence. I will remain for a while. To 50 years more to come.”
“Dear Walter, sorry, our life has changed. Was it all supposed to be this way? Post office gone! The Supermarket also, rents increased rapidly. Police quietly looking after things. A little famine. I am here every day. One could say: in 100 years from now, no one will care about it anymore. All the best!
The collage remained for approximately three weeks and slowly got washed away from people walking over it and due to the rain.
Katharina Rohde was commissioned by The Cultural Network Berlin-Neukölln.
Tags: 50th anniversary, Akademie für eine Neue Gropiusstadt, anonymity and isolation, archipelago, architecture icon of modernity, Bauhaus, Berlin, Erik Göngrich, famine, Generation Gropius, giant housing blocks, Gropiusstadt, Growing up with Gropius, Ideal Skyscraper, Ideal-concept, influx of people from all over the world, Institut für Raumforschung, Julia Kapelle, Katharina Rohde, Katrin Glanz, Kerstin Gust, Kulturnetzwerk Neukölln, living environment, mass housing estate, Message to Gropius, neigborhood, participation, Quartiersmanagement Gropiusstadt, rents increasing rapidly, Satellite town, Skyscraper Sackrace, Sound Installations, Stephanie Hanna, Stiftung Lotto, Street-Art Poetry, Thomas Bratzke, uniformity, urban experiment, Walter Gropius