‘Berlin is an exceptional city,’ says Francesca Ferguson. ‘Hardly any other European city has so many open spaces and undeveloped areas; and so much creative potential but yet so little capital. People themselves have to become active, even without sufficient public funding. This is how prototypes for the construction of the future emerge in Berlin.’ At the same time, the city has experienced a sell-off in recent years with rocketing land values and displacement as a result.

‘This development can still be slowed down,’ says Ferguson, ‘We need to stir up and remix the city socially, spatially, ecologically and culturally.’ This holistic approach drives the MakeCity festival, and makes it stand out from the crowded biennial calendar. ‘It was important for us to bring together all different players in city-making who normally do not talk to each other: people from the cultural, economic, socio-political, infrastructural, and urban technical level, plus the civic agencies who are increasingly taking things into their own hands. We’re discussing a new societal contract for Berlin - a social contract.’ The MakeCity festival, with its talks, city walks, exhibitions, debates and encounters organised in various hubs spread across the city, aims to contribute to that. And for Ferguson, the following ‘prototypes for the construction of the future’ are examples of good practice which can inspire architects, designers, urban planners, entrepreneurs, teachers, journalists and any other citizen to contribute to a better version of their own city. ‘Stir it up yourselves!’

Ferguson highlights some of the inspiring projects taking place across the city:

Beekeeping in the city

A project by Berlin-based international agency for architecture, urbanism and design Sauerbruch Hutton, which elsewhere was leading the debate that ‘wood is the new good!’ on densification and modular wood constructions for urban architecture. Here it developed six modularly extendable beehives for the garden of Berlin’s Academy of Arts, in collaboration with beekeeper and film-maker Marian Engel. MakeCity took visitors on a tour to learn more about urban beekeeping, the diverse flora of the Academy Garden, the architectural features of the beehives – and to get a taste of the honey.

Flussbad Cup

Flussbad Berlin is a project by realities: united, a studio for art, architecture and technology based in Berlin, to regenerate the old canal in the city centre of Berlin into a clean, multi-recreational swimming pool. The Flussbad Cup allows athletes and amateurs alike to swim between Bode Museum and Palace Bridge, thus reclaiming the river for the citizens, and promoting water conservation and environmental protection. 

Welcome to Berlin

Waves of immigrants have transformed areas in cities across the world into so-called ‘arrival cities’: neighbourhoods where immigrants come to start a new life that develops in the margins of the main city. Along the U6 metro line, Syrians and other Arabs have transformed this zone into a mini-version of their hometowns and is now commonly known as Berlin’s Little Syria. MakeCity organised a guided tour with Rasha, a city planner from Damascus, who tells her story about arrival along the U6 – a line she calls her line of life. ‘This role reversal is very important. It offers refugees [the opportunity] to become Berlin city guides, and to share their personal experiences. This not only breaks down stereotypes and cultural distance, but gives recently-housed migrants the lead as local experts.’

Preparing the economy future

‘Drinking beer, doing something good, that really works!’ Quartiermeister, a sustainable craft beer brand and social business from Berlin-Kreuzberg, is an example of how citizens are able to regulate their own economic affairs and remain independent within civil societies. Quartiermeister sells its beer to found social projects in the neighbourhood, and doesn’t aim to maximise its profit. It wants ‘to prove an economically stable business is indeed compatible with high social and ecologic standards’. Going strong since 2010, MakeCity included the brewer into its programme of talks as one moment in a wider debate. Ferguson: ‘The current economic system is trying to sell us the idea that there is no alternative. But there are many.’ With such a focus - the Markthalle 9 in Berlin is leading the discussion this year on socially engaged and sustainable urban food production - which is an integral part of urban planning.

First the dialogue, then the design

Thriving forces behind the Day of Architecture is Berlin-based Deadline Architects, who declared that, ‘It’s a small step for investors to reduce their profit margins and invest in mixed-use developments that activate the ground floor, rather than invest in mono-functional buildings.’ MakeCity highlighted some excellent examples constructed in Berlin, where architects went beyond their standard brief, forging a social agenda for buildings and in neighbourhoods. One of these is FRIZZ23: Germany’s first co-developed building by Deadline Architects, whose motto ‘first the dialogue, then the design’ translates into long-term conversations on different levels that finally lead to shaping the real building. Matthew Griffin from Deadline: ‘Our development is a city within the city. We started with a naked infrastructure, and are now creating an extremely diverse space for all kinds of small to mid-scale businesses: from single ateliers to open offices to hotel rooms and a non-profit school for re-education.’

Reversing the design process

Rotterdam-based pioneer in the field of sustainable design, circular economy and all-inclusive architecture, Superuse Studios works backwards to redesign the construction chain process: it examines projects and their environments, and then locally sources available materials with minimum transport. ‘As with cooking, one can either come up with a recipe and then buy all the ingredients, or be inspired by the leftovers and ingredients at hand.’ Founded in 1997, at MakeCity Floris Schiferli, partner at Superuse Studio, talked of newly developing networks for harvesting building materials and the process from idea to building.

[caption id="attachment_32219" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The Wikado playground by Superuse Studios, which works backwards to redesign the construction chain process[/caption]

David vs. Googliath

‘The 'smart city' seems to be the next logical step in the digital age, in which problems of the metropolis are optimised by algorithms and data streams. Traffic, pollution, climate and human behaviour thereby become both predictable and controllable. Google & co are cultivating a strong interest in urban planning,’ says Nicolay Boyadjiev, an architect and design strategist at the Strelka Institute in Moscow. His research on Google Urbanism fuelled the debate (inter-connected urban structures) on big corporate players whose urban campuses and incubators are exclusive developments - with little contact and no returns for the local neighbourhoods.

MakeCity, various locations throughout Berlin, until 28 June