An Atlas of Urban Islands for Berlin
Pedro Pitarch, Gonzalo Rojas, Maria Escudero
Landscape planning: Pedro Pitarch
Other specialist planning: Rafael Zarza (Graphics)
Sub-area 1: ‘Neu Südkreuz’
As a major infrastructural hub, the Südkreuz railway station serves the region but also understands itself as a gateway to the world; the area is both local and global. The station district is currently dominated by transport routes that do not represent a ‘transit-oriented community’. The remaining areas and brownfield sites exhibit no prevailing structure. The development plan provides the railway station with multifunctional spaces, breathing new life into it. The freed-up urban space is spatially defined by structural additions, such as adjoining residential districts and experimental building types with potential for densification. The area around the station becomes a designed square. A place with this variety of functions requires several levels that also consider automated, individual transport systems (flying taxis, monorail systems, cable cars).
Sub-area 2: TXL – ‘Urban Tech Republic’
An airport’s exterior space is akin to an ‘island’ – a place that has not been opened up to all residents. Here, the area’s development is not based on traditional, but rather informal planning approaches, such as ‘protocols’ that define temporary projects. The design uses futuristic objects and unites them into spatial conglomerates that represent a new Industry 4.0 site. Nevertheless, the logistical order of the airport is maintained by the spatial structure of the runway as the site of production facilities. The three-dimensional image of the TXL site has not been developed as a fixed structural entity for the next 50 years. Rather, the plan represents ‘informal forms of urbanism based on the fleeting nature of events’. An experimental field for urban planning is to be created here.
Sub-area 3: ‘Königs Wusterhausen’ (KW)
The town has become popular as a residential and commuter town in recent years. Local public transport is good and well connected to the suburban and regional railways. The connections via the A10 motorway to Berlin and the A13 to Dresden and Cottbus favour private vehicles. The landscape offers excellent leisure activities with the lakes around Müggelsee in the north and the Heidesee landscape in the south. The urban area is divided into the districts around the palace, the railway station district, and the residential area between Cottbuser Stasse and Luckenwalder Strasse. Its proximity to the Berlin Brandenburg Airport gives it another an advantage that cannot be found elsewhere in the city. The design focuses on the densification of the prefabricated housing estate with an emphasis on ‘living and working’, the spatial connection between the three areas, and the creation of public spaces along with municipal facilities. The interventions use architectural measures to place the urban character in a relationship with public and private spaces. As it grows, Königs Wusterhausen will gain a distinctive identity.
Archipelago Lab: An Atlas of Urban Islands for Berlin
The contemporary city is no longer defined by plans. Planning has ceased to be an effective discipline in the production of urbanism and of cities. It has ceased to provide instruments and urban models that are adapted to the needs of societies undergoing constant change. The archipelago offers a new design, a new city model for the European metropolis. The archipelago identifies fragments of a city, the urban islands, which result from the often-strained relationship between a context and the surrounding urban mass. The islands are prototypes of the city in the city. They are defined by a series of latent but emerging urban conditions in our cities that have not yet been properly incorporated into the planning process. Every part, every setting, every island behaves like a laboratory. We are establishing a laboratory situation in the city as an archipelago. This project proposes a reinterpretation of urban planning that is based on the quantitative management of the urban area and on defining connections and relational networks between urban characteristics.
Six Typologies for a Contemporary Metropolitanism
Six typologies are defined. Each of them corresponds to an existing metropolitan situation that forms a city and defines society; yet they are not designed within the professional practice of urbanism. Three specific examples are presented from the compendium of islands that make up the archipelago. Each one develops two urban typologies together, presenting a pair of opposing but coexisting situations. And so, there six situations, whose details not only allow us to explain the urban islands independently, but also to pursue a unified project that represents the narrative of the city of Berlin as an archipelago. The six situations are as follows. First, urban domestic life: the domestication of urbanism (housing). Second, an alternative-modern event: pop-up urbanisms (leisure). Third, convergence culture: the development of public life (culture and society). Fourth, Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution (industry). Fifth, commuter urbanism: daily life with takeaway meals (infrastructure). And sixth, fluid work: overcoming boundaries between production and consumption (work).
Four Territorial Strategies
Berlin’s urbanism is defined not only by its urban structure or its spatial form. It is defined by its composition as a ‘network’ and by the possibilities of connecting the urban actors scattered across the territory. The metropolitan soul of Berlin depends on its ability to create connections between different metropolitan elements and on how different contexts can be transformed into social catalysts and into networked city islands of a metropolitan archipelago.
1. Infrastructure and transport: from centres and peripheries to a network
In contrast to a centralised and hierarchical model for transport infrastructure, here we propose using an open network model, both decentralised and democratic. Instead of emphasising the current model, which circles around the four main railway stations in Berlin, we propose a number of connection hubs. This constellation of small transport hubs is democratically distributed across the entire area and helps to adjust the large infrastructural inequalities between the inner-city and peripheral areas. Based on this model, the terms ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ would become obsolete, because, as with a neural network, all points are equally accessible and perfectly interconnected. For this purpose, the existing hard infrastructures (trains and private cars) would be replaced with new models of smart mobilities, and soft infrastructures would be implemented.
2. Industry and Energy: From Concentration to Dispersion
The industries of Berlin-Brandenburg are currently distributed unevenly. They are concentrated in large complexes far from conurbations, thus aggravating the tensions and inequalities between the city and suburbia. The distribution of the energy production centres is also unbalanced and creates a negative ecological footprint. For this competition, we propose a gradual transition to Industry 4.0 and renewable energies. This model dismantles the major hubs and distributes smaller ones throughout the entire region, in small industrial areas with integrated energy facilities. This new model has less impact on the land and on society, which allows it to be organically integrated into urban and natural areas. It rejects the already-outdated conventional model, which, because of its large and aggressive footprint, has prevented the coexistence of industry and society, energy and nature.
3. Nature: From Seclusion to Integration
In our concept, nature is no longer a wilderness that is separate from urban settlements. Instead, it has multiplied into innumerable ‘natures’ that are no longer discovered but built, that are no longer found but are created. And, more importantly, they are not differentiated, sequential elements, but integrated into the urban elements and connected to them.
4. Living and Working (Settlement Areas): From Zone Formation to Hybridisation
The strict zoning of urban programmes, which has shaped the design of the modern city for decades, has led to an inequality between large residential suburbs on the peripheries and dense work zones in the centres. This has resulted in a one-sided dependency between them, resulting in a lack of facilities in large metropolitan areas due to a lack of mixed programmes. Public and private areas are now trapped in separate areas. In view of this inequality, a hybridisation of private life and work is proposed. This is intended as a new urban and social paradigm in which new models of combining life and work can foster a balanced coexistence of both. A mixed territorial structure that integrates new urban tools such as teleworking, co-working, and co-living would create innovative forms of a more heterogeneous metropolitanism.
Three Specific Sub-areas:
1. TXL – Urban Tech Republic
TXL is a metropolitan island that develops two of the six defined urban typologies: Industry 4.0 and alternative-modern industries that, unlike traditional industries, are based on research, information production, and customisation. The large scale of these urban interventions enables them to coexist with other, more informal forms of urbanism based on the fleeting nature of events. Thus, within the same master plan, formal planning tools coexist simultaneously with other, more informal ones.
3. Neu Südkreuz
Particularly in cities like Berlin, the strong sense of community among citizens crosses the boundaries between micro and macro, between global and local. In many European cities, urban development is centred around infrastructural nodes based on so-called transit-oriented developments; in contrast, Greater Berlin expands on the concept of urban development, overlaying it with its pronounced social heterogeneity and thus generating transit-oriented communities. Neu Südkreuz is a good example of this and, therefore, a number of urban residential areas have been considered. Free from the traditional restrictions of the familiar living environment, a variety of programmes and uses penetrate into urban areas. The overall concept is supplemented by a catalogue of action protocols for the urban gaps so typical of Berlin which characterise the surrounding areas. The catalogue offers a set of strategies for sharing four kinds of empty space: abandoned land, inner courtyards, residual spaces, and decommissioned infrastructures.
Urban Island Königs Wusterhausen
Instead of a conventional residential district, which, in most European cities, often becomes a commuter town, we are proposing a hybridisation of living and working, private and public, for this sub-area. The housing blocks do not become merely personal and private spaces, but are enlarged and expanded towards the city. Public capsules are incorporated, which offer social value by facilitating encounters, dialogues, production, and exchange. The master plan includes three superimposed levels of information: an island of urban fragments, scattered in a sea of nature and agriculture; housing blocks that contain public spaces; a matrix of work centres as well as cultural and urban facilities. The connection between the fragments is established by a series of pedestrian walkways and a system paths for electric vehicles (bicycles, gondolas, cable cars, and drones).