[re]Forum in Berlin

542 1st Ave S, Ste 4
Seattle, Washington 98014
Nicholas Place
Business Phone: (419) 721-8829

Project Location: Berlin, Germany
Completion Date: 06/01/2017
Owner: Savannah College of Art and Design

Project Description

The aim of this thesis is to address the disconnect between the current generation and the modern identity of Berlin, Germany. Concentrating on the contemporary focus of technology and automation, computational design is the driving force behind the redesign of an existing public forum in the central Mitte district of Berlin. The material culture of Berlin and the importance of musical associations throughout the city and its importance to the existing urban culture provides the data necessary for algorithmic form generation. Using the idea of layering, multiple tiers of music influence the formation of the structure; Time Period, Pop Culture, and the Berlin Aesthetic. These extracted data values each affect separate functions of the algorithm, therefore generating an exclusive framework. Growing above the existing statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, one of the competing monuments of the city, there is no attempt to conceal history, but rather to allow for different perspectives on the past, while remaining grounded in the present. Through computational design, under the influence of culturally significant music, Marx-Engels Forum is transformed into an embodiment of history as a physical manifestation of the city culture through the Berlin Aesthetic.

The process behind the algorithmically driven design for this project is based upon the relationship and interactions between world coordinate locations and audio spectrum data. The surrounding music venues and nightclubs determine the location parameters of the algorithm, representative of current Berlin culture. More than one song and dataset were used in the layering of music, each separately representing an exclusive tier of the data: Time Period (When I See You Smile – Bad English), Pop Culture (Heroes – David Bowie) and the Berlin Aesthetic (Boarding Time – Sizarr). The spectrums from these audio files were plotted to extract the decibel and frequency values, which were then used to control the trajectories of flocking swarm agents, which are emitted from the locations of music venues and nightclubs. Each song controls attributes of the swarm’s flight patterns independently of each other (particle speed, particle acceleration and particle mass). Once the paths of the agents hit the extents of the site, isosurface geometry is then formed around the trails of the particle swarm, generating a unique form influenced from the music data.

The program of the site and the generated structure is highly varied and loosely defined to allow the inhabitants to choose how to inhabit the space, while still remaining representative of a typical public forum found in most European cities. The existing centered circular plaza of Marx-Engels Forum is transformed and sunken into the ground and replaced with structurally reinforced glass, moving the existing monuments back to the center, with the addition of a nightclub underneath allowing a new perspective of the past, with the future towering overhead. A highly varied, aged copper paneling system was also incorporated into a layered framing and paneling system, algorithmically driven to manifest the grungy berlin aesthetic that is representative of the material culture Berlin has adopted.

Design Challenge

This project was meant to be a statement, representative of the current generation of Berlin, Germany. Berlin is a tech startup city, with some statistics pointing to a new startup being created every 20 minutes. The city is changing faster than they can keep up, but are still weighed down with the events of the past. Between the calls for remembrance and the calls to forget, progress is greatly impeded. This dichotomy creates a ghostly veil of remembrance over the city, prohibiting it from displaying the transformative character Berlin has come to embody. Berlin is, and will forever be a city of Music. Deeply engrained in the roots of the city, Berlin has long been a cultural hub for the music world, setting the tone for the rise to prominence of Techno music and birthplace for innovation. This focus on Technology in Berlin, in addition to this generational interest in automation, and the cultural importance of music alludes to computational design as a form-finding method. The biggest challenge however, is choosing data that truly has meaning. From this, the three tiers of culture were chosen: Time Period: In the month of November, 1989 topping the Billboard was When I See You Smile by the band Bad English. This song is chronologically important due to coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany and the city of Berlin. Pop Culture: During the 70’s, David Bowie moved to Berlin to recover from a cocaine addiction and recover from a near physical and mental breakdown. During his time there, he became a pop culture icon for the city, remaining prominent in Berliner culture for decades to come. During his time living in Berlin, Bowie recorded three albums, but the first song he wrote in the summer of 1977 was the song Heroes, becoming a motif for the city and eventually a “rock anthem” for Berlin. The Berlin Aesthetic A crucial aspect to the urban culture of the city of Berlin is the “Berlin Aesthetic” and understanding the importance of the visible and mental aspects that make Berlin unique and separate from all other cities. The Song Boarding Time by the German band Sizarr captures the Berlin Aesthetic both lyrically and visually in their music video, with imagery projected through sounds and sights, representative of the Berliner lifestyle. With the proper data chosen, the structure was then generated with true meaning behind the data, creating a representation of Berlin as well as a defined theoretical framework.

Physical Context

Marx-Engels Forum is a public park located in the city of Ber­lin, nestled within the Mitte district along the banks of the River Spree. Created while under communist rule in the East, the park is dedicated to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the authors of the Communist Manifesto, where the two are dis­played as statues, positioned in the center of the park for public use and perusal. The current state of the forum howev­er is in disarray as the city of Berlin is currently installing a new metro line underneath the plaza. The future of the park is uncertain at this point, with no concrete plans for the future. The design is meant to make a statement against the existing urban fabric of the city. Choosing to play off of the existing centralized plaza as an idea, the site is altered to differentiate itself from its surroundings, as a monument to the progression of the current generational culture of the city.