Sixteen students from The City College of New York’s School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture are in an exchange program in Germany this summer at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences. Students from both institutions are developing proposals for proposals for downtown site development, with emphasis on urban design and sustainability. These are their stories.
August 8, 2006
|Students standing before Berlin city planning model. (Photo by Lisa Wan)
My name is Lisa Wan. This fall, I will be in thesis at the undergraduate Architecture program of The City College of New York. I grew up in Oakland, California and have spent some time in the Netherlands. Eventually, I would like to be more involved with Urban Planning and Architecture with a focus on sustainability. Four years ago, I visited Berlin for the first time and the city had already fascinated to me. And so, when the opportunity arose in New York to spend a month working with German students on issues of urban planning and sustainable architecture, it didn't take much convincing to decide to go.
The collaboration between the students of New York and Germany was a challenge composed of design strategies and communication. City students tended to seek ways to bend the rules, if not to stretch them. TFH students tended to understand the real world constraints, and worked towards a project that was realistic. In addition, as we all only spoke in the common language of architecture, German-English dictionaries came quite handy in the studio.
Lectures were always interesting, especially afterwards when the hands came up for the question/answer session. I noticed that a common question through the summer was, 'What is sustainability?' I came into the program assuming that I knew what sustainability was. But, before the trip, I tried to tell my family more about the program, more about sustainability. I was using nouns such as: green roofs, grey water reuse systems, low-e windows. Is sustainability a matter of replacing ordinary construction type with its green construction equivalent? The answers I gave seemed almost trivial. "Why are you going to school to replace windows?" my Dad asked. I didn't know.
Cornelia Poczka, is a member of the Senate Department of Urban Development in Germany, spoke about the sustainability in the urban plan. Using Berlin as the example, she stressed the importance of retaining both a polycentric plan (multiple cultural/commercial centers in a city) and mixing the social demographic. So is sustainability also a concern that needs to be addressed in the plan of a city?
In an unforgettable lecture, Andreas Kraemer questioned the role of an architect in the face of climate change. With the changes visible throughout the world, he believes architects cannot just build for today. He challenged us to build sustainably with severe climate changes in mind. Now, sustainable design must not only respond to today's climate, but the projected climate as well.
In a highly debated lecture, Hans Kolhoff emphasized that new buildings and developments had to be flexible in program, instead of program specific. The idea, more or less, was that a bakery today should be designed to allow it to become a church someday, with minimal changes. Plasticity in use is essential to sustainable design, in which it must address an entirely different set of users as well as those of the original program.
Sustainable design, what is it? It is a component to the policies behind the urban plan to create a desired social mix. It is a response to the climate changes of tomorrow. It is a building first and foremost, before it is a library or a museum. It is an attitude towards design, in which the concerns are more than just the design. But one thing's for sure, it's not just about windows.
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August 3, 2006
After 20 Years
My name is Iman Ansari, and I’m in the undergraduate program at City College of New York, double majoring in Architecture and Philosophy. I am currently participating in the summer academy of Architecture in Berlin.
I actually lived the first few years of my life here in Berlin. My family moved here when I was just 4 months old, in 1984. At that time Berlin was still separated by the wall. We were living in West Berlin, and I clearly remember the social and political intensity of the time in Berlin. I passed through that wall to the east many times, and I remember how different and unusual it looked to me. After three years, we had to leave Berlin.
We lived another two years in Munich, and we often visited Berlin for holidays.
A year after we left Germany, I remember watching the fall of the Berlin Wall on television.
I lived in five other countries afterwards, and yet never had a chance to go back to Germany. And I always wondered what the unified Berlin or the unified Germany would look like. The summer academy was therefore a great opportunity. I finally had the chance to look back at the city I left nearly 20 years ago. I also had the opportunity to study the history of events, which first lead to the destruction of the city during the Second World War, then developed it independently throughout 40 years of separation, and now tries to unify the two together. But what becomes even more interesting, or perhaps a bit controversial, is how the city is trying to forget its past and rejuvenate itself in the absence of time. Berlin seems to seek an identity it never had, and ignore the history it always struggled with. Indeed, the wounds of the wars cannot be concealed by what I call a “Cosmetic Architecture” - the issue that is mainly raised by reconstruction of the façade of the Bauakademie, and the Palace of the Republic in Berlin. On the other hand, the emergence of the new German nationalism during the world cup is quite rare and exceptional; what many believe is happening for the first time after World War I. Perhaps, with the promising young fans who are now young enough not to remember the cold past, and old enough to paint their faces, and hold a German flag in their hands, football is now a better promise for the resurgence of the German identity among Germans than Architecture.
It must also be realized that the program was successful in recognizing such matters, and raising the question and controversy against it. It also succeeded in introducing issues of sustainability, global warming, and energy conservation, which we often fail to acknowledge in the United States. Architecture in Germany is certainly less dramatic and more technical compared to what many believe as overly-intellectualized American Architecture.
Overall, I think we all learned a lot from this program, and at the end everyone was quite satisfied with the results. I hope our German colleagues felt the same.
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August 2, 2006
Homage To a Teacher
My name is Jin Huang. I was born in Taipei. I major in architecture at the City College of New York.
So I missed the Love parade by forced to leave the city first thing in the morning right after our program...not that i am a techno fan of any sort, just another missing a part of the 'amusing things' that had happened in Berlin, and iIwas not there.....four weeks program as such is not enough to see the entire Berlin, especially with the overly scheduled lecture bombarding drained no less than 80% of our enthusiasm at the first week days. /p>
First of all, my many thanks to our lovely professor, Dr. Karl Spies.
However, in my opinion, many things need to be scheduled quite opposite to what we had on this trip.
I also regret the design project was assigned latter in a contradictory manner to whatever the site needs to be treated in a wise urban planning; I doubt Schinkel would like to see the site being treated this way. Talking about the sustainability of the traditional architecture from our first lecturer, Dr. Wolfan G Schäche. I had a wonderful chat with Dr. Schäche about this Schinkel idea over a few drinks after our final presentation, he's actually one of the most interesting persons I met on this trip.
Anyway, Berlin is absolutely AM SCHöN!!! In fact, as interesting as the teaching of our German professor, Dr. Bernd Wittek.
All the rest of the professors participating in this program are nice if not too subjective. Without Dr. Wittek's poetic shows in his class, I don't think my trip could have been as fulfilling and adding as many layers to look and think and feel about the city. I appreciate his teaching a lot. It's hard to be a pure tourist after listening to Dr. Wittek's dramatic or often time witty funny stories, not to mention his extreme kindness to have tolerated many of our students' childish arrogant manner in this class. I don't think I missed any of his lectures or field trip, they are all so wonderful if one may also enjoy the serenity embedded within his speech.
I am hoping this program can be held every summer for the CCNY students but I am very sure many things we had experienced this time have to be improved. Such as without as much bureaucratic management to constrain our sense of fairness and creativity over all the main tasks; in order to generate good projects done, what's more important than those two principles for a good program?
Simply please take off all the overly subjective views and manipulative manner in the program, then it'd be great.
As a city, Berlin has so much to offer!!!
So is a trip to Dessau!
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August 1, 2006
|Greenfield (R) with fellow student.
Coping with Stress
Hi! My name is Kelly Greenfield and I am entering my third semester in the M.Arch I program at City College of New York. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor’s Degree from Fordham University in Urban Studies, with a concentration in Pre-Architecture and minor in Visual Arts. I am very excited to take part in the summer program at TFH in Berlin because the focus is on re-urbanization and sustainability, which I find to combine many of the aspects of architecture that I am especially interested in.
As the program approaches its fourth and final week, the stress has finally hit the students. After spending three weeks full of international collaboration, lectures by faculty and guests from Berlin, and a series of intense conversations and in depth analysis of architecture, re-urbanization, and sustainability, I am sure that we have all gained a thorough understanding of not only what these terms mean to Berlin, but also to ourselves. Many of the lectures were interesting, and have broadened the horizon and possibilities within the general term "architecture." I have surely benefitted from the knowledge present at the ARS Berlin-summer academy and strongly feel that the only way to be sure of your own design values and methods is through broadening your understanding of the many facets and to define exactly what architecture means to you..
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July 31, 2006
German Style: Succinct
My name is Till Bostelmann and I was born on 15th of December 1975 in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. I study Architecture at the TFH Berlin since October 2001 and hope to be finished in another year. Finding a job will be quite hard in Germany because the building sector is in decrease, so I think of going somewhere else in Europe, America or maybe even China. This is why I’m interested in experiencing other languages and different ways of thinking, e.g. by this summer academy.
Today we had our first presentation. It has been a hard road to get there, very different approaches and architectural attitudes clashed. To me the main challenge of this program seems more and more to be the reconciliation of these approaches but I’m sure we’ll cope.
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July 28, 2006
An Indian Student's Perspective
I am the only participant from India in the summer academy at Berlin. I am doing my graduation in architecture from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal. I would be graduating next year and I find this academy as a nice opportunity to widen my views towards designs.
As I write this blog I see people around me giving review/jury to a team and proposing ideas about their design to the Shinkle’s plaza. I found this is the best time to write the blog to give the real atmosphere here from the studio.
I wanted to write this blog soo eagerly as I have a lot to tell. The participants in this academy are mainly from TFH Berlin and City College New York, and I being the only participant from India I find myself LUCKY to see the approaches that my colleagues have for the design, and fortunately I can see it from two perspectives. I am not possessed by design concepts of any one side (German or American). So I had the opportunity to see the differences of design concepts that their guys have. Had I been from TFH or from CCNY, I would not have been able to get this amazing experience.
Students from New York find it very easy to look forward to modernistic designs and they find it easy not to relate the building with any kind of history, where as the students from TFH try to put in some element for the history to their buildings.
The reason probably is the outcome of how these students have been brought up in different cities. Students from New York have seen high rise structure and modern buildings as their history and the students form Europe have always seen their history in palaces and forts. So it’s very obvious how the students differ in their approach toward a site which is historically very important.
Students in this academy are really good to work with, it’s nice to share the ideas and listen to people. Nice way to develop myself with the new culture. Apart from working there is a lot of interaction on cultural backgrounds and about making friends in different parts of the world. I see myself representing my country and find it amazing that all of my friends find it interesting to know a lot about me, my city, my country and my culture.
When I see myself working in an atmosphere and designs which are new to me, (as I have a very different type of architecture in my country) it’s nice to see the methods that have been developed with time to deal with the sustainability issues of the buildings.
If I just write down about how we work I guess my blog would become monotonous. Let me tell you some interesting things (Gossips!!! Ohh!! Not really). Well students here have a lot to talk about others, its nice to hear how what they do in their college, how they bunk classes and how they trouble professors ( that’s cool!!! I thought that we are the only guys who bunk classes). So I see a international similarity here!!! It's nice to see people talking about how they “deal/tolerate/enjoy” a professor!! It’s a beautiful experience. Apart form all this stuff its much more amazing to see that we all work hard to reach our goals and do work to its beast quality.
Talking about the country and about the city its a country where you can dream of anything (at least in terms of architecture) to happen and u will get it done in 2 years. I see people and the architects aware to work for the betterment of the city and I see people co-operating with the authorities. Everywhere you see its just people building the city.
Students here are very welcoming and they have treated us like their best of friends. I would never forget this experience. I find Germans are really nice hosts and very welcoming. Berlin’s a new city with a new vision and with a prosperous future.I wish luck for the city and the people and would like to come back again to experience this amazing city and its amazing people. While finishing this blog I see the jury is also finished and the students had shown their talent. Best of luck to my friends and this city!!!
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July 25, 2006
Learning Outside the Classroom
My name is Sandy Chin. I was born and raised in New York City. I majored in architecture at Brooklyn Technical High School and decided to continue to pursue a degree in architecture at The City College of New York. I have been working in an architecture firm in midtown Manhattan for five years now and will continue to do so after I graduate from college. I plan to be more active in the interior design aspect of the projects at the firm.
I am taking part in the Summer Academy for Architecture in Berlin as a way of furthering my education in terms of seeing what is out there since this is my first time travelling abroad to Europe. It is great to see that the German people are so welcoming and friendly. They have been so helpful in planning for our stay. Our German language professor has mixed language lessons with history lessons to give us a better understanding of the German culture. He has planned walking tours for us once a week so that we may explore the city. Our design studio professor has also planned walking tours for us to show us the architecture and urban planning of various architects around Berlin. While the professors are showing us the city in terms of architecture and history, the German students we are working with are showing us the city in terms of culture and fun. We have made new friends that we have learned from. Since this is the first time City College has joined this program, it would be a good idea to continue it for the following years as an opportunity for students to go abroad and see what it´s like. There´s so much you can read in a book but to experience it yourself, to be there...it´s a whole different understanding. I am very glad I am participating in the program. The exchange of design approaches and ideas is exciting. This project will turn out to be a good one. =)
I am happy to be here! Especially during the World Cup Finals...even though I am not a soccer fan.
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July 24, 2006
Transnational Networking Tips
My name is Deniz and I am one of the German students (with Turkish background).
I am 29 years old and in the 7th semester, I will graduate next February with Diplom Ingenieur as we say. Before studying architecture I worked as a carpenter for 3 Years and afterwards I worked at a few startup dot-com companies for 2 years.
The main reason why I did this summer academy is I wanted to know how people from a different country and a different background work on a project and of course I wanted to learn more about the students from City College of New York.
So far everything works very well – the people are much nicer then I was expecting. I feel sorry that I hadn’t the possibility to join this kind of program before – I recommend this summer academy to everybody because normally one never gets a chance to work with a German professor and a foreign professor plus all the information from the students.
The other advantage is that you get to know a lot about the each other's country and if you want to work abroad you’ll get information at first hand and maybe also a contact to this country. So if you are able to afford it and if you have the time and if you want to get know some new people – I would say it the way a big sport company used to say it – JUST DO IT.
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July 20, 2006
Berlin in a Time of Great Change
I was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. I recently graduated with a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati, and plan on returning for a Masters Degree in either Architecture or Urban Planning. I find both areas are deeply interconnected, and have not decided which to follow specifically. I plan to stay in the Cincinnati region for the start of my professional career.
Berlin has proven to be a very exciting place to study. Already in the first week, we have been taught a great deal about the history of the city; from its beginnings as several independent villages, through its growth and emergence as a capital city, and through the various forms of destruction that have fallen upon it. The bombs of World War Two, the bulldozers that cut the path for the Wall, and the drafting pens of urban planners in the 60’s and 70’s have all left visible scars on the city’s landscape.
The issues that have arisen through our projects so far, such as urban density, public transport, sustainability and city planning, are hot topics in the ongoing debates about Berlin’s future. The city is still in such a rapid time of change, and I feel very much in the middle of it all. Even the World Cup matches reflect the great transition that the city is in since reunification; for the first time in a long while, the Germans are proud to display a flag and cheer for a united team and country.
For me, the most influential lessons so far have dealt with the master planning of the city. The typical US model focuses on a centralization of functions: the downtown is the most built up area, with density diminishing as you move farther out. Planners in Berlin actively try to create multiple city centres, with an even density throughout. This keeps the urban fabric even, and makes the city very pedestrian friendly. Both New York’s financial district and Cincinnati’s downtown are quiet and ‘dead’ after about 5:30 when all the office buildings empty. In Berlin, the entire city feels alive throughout all hours of the day and evening; people window shopping on the streets, watching football matches in bars and cafes. Its a great experience.
I hope to take many lessons like this one back home from Berlin. Knowing what is possible in a city that has been through so much, maybe I can look at my own city in a more critical, and hopeful way.
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July 18, 2006
World Cup Fever
Prost! Greetings from Berlin! I am thrilled to be the one to wrap up the
first official week of our month-long journey and life experience in
Berlin, Deutschland. A little blurb about myself before I go into the
details about our trip. I was born and raised in Virginia, studied
biology as an undergraduate and worked in a molecular biology research
lab for several years before I decided to change career paths and
pursue architecture. That, of course, brought me to New York City and
City College, and it has been such an amazing time ever since. I do
have some German heritage and language experience, which makes this
Berlin trip a little easier for me than most of my fellow students. However, I am by no means fluent in German (perhaps barely competent is
a better explanation), so this trip has been a great chance for me to
improve my language skills too!
|Berlin wall is now an artifact, not a dividing line.
We recently had our first official studio review. It was more
of a small pin-up rather than a review, but the entire class took it
very seriously as we are all quite eager to develop our projects and
really design something unique and special for this particular site. I
feel that the first week of our trip has really emphasized to the
visiting students that Berlin and Germany in general are drastically
changing. The past fifty years or so has largely focused on the
recovery of the German psyche from both the second world war as well as
the cold war and the literal division of a country, which has since
been put back together.
|Football fever gripped Germany this summer.
We have learned that in so many ways, the
younger generations of Germany are doing a great deal to alter the way
Germans think of their country, as this younger generation has never
had to experience a divided or war torn homeland. Instead, and
especially now with the national football team's success in the 2006
FIFA World Cup, Germans are realizing a sense of national pride that
has not been felt for as long as the country has been together. Although there are still numerous hurdles to overcome in the political,
economic, social, and environmental fronts, Germany is knowingly on its
way to a brighter future.
|Frank O. Gehry's DeutschesBank building epitomizes Berlin's new spirit.
As for our trip, it has been absolutely fantastic thus far. We have
been on tours of the city with several of our professors... not just
for architecture, but cultural tours of former East Germany as well as
smaller excursions to some of the city suburbs, where a few of us live
in either dorms or with host German students. The initial focus on
culture and social issues has been most beneficial as we have
progressed into the actual design studio. The lectures that we've
had... four so far... have not only been extremely interesting and
informative, they have all been most engaging and stimulating for group
discussion, which is the whole point of attending lectures, in my
opinion. And although I was not initially impressed with the
appearance of the TFH University in which we are working due to the
rundown nature of the campus buildings, I have had nothing but good
things to say about it. Even the food is fantastic!
I must admit, however, that today (Saturday) was more about relaxing
than it was about work. As a class, most of us split into smaller
groups and did our own thing. One group explored the castle and
gardens at the village of Potsdam, one group stayed home to do laundry
and recover from a night of dancing, and another invaded a nearby
public lake for swimming and sunbathing. I was part of this last
group. Still, with everyone on their own schedules, the one
commonality seemed to be the Germany versus Sweden football match that,
upon a Deutches victory, propelled the entire city into a frantic state
of celebration to the likes of nothing witnessed in America. One could
say it was like celebrating New Years, the Super Bowl, the World
Series, and the Olympic Games all at once! Yes, it was that intense of
a celebration. In fact, as I sit at my computer here in Pankow, a
former hot spot where spies often lived, I still hear the occasional
boom from a fire cracker or honking cars. I feel very fortunate to be
a part of this program at such an exciting time... not only in the
present with the World Cup, but with the overall optimistic outlook of
this entire country. It really is a great time to be in Berlin!
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July 7, 2006
Respecting the Past, Reflecting the Present
My name is Stefano Galimberti. I was born in the north of Italy in 1974 and I am currently in a master’s
degree program at City College, NY, though I have studied different things
including Accounting in Italy, and Computer Programming and Art/Art History
in New York City. The opportunity to live/study/work 22 years in Europe and
10 years in America has given me the chance to rethink some of my ideas
about both countries. The same is happening for me in Germany now. Like
everyone, I grew up and lived reading or hearing certain things about this
country and having a chance to stay here for a month is allowing me to
verify them in person. My goal is to keep learning and apply my knowledge
and skills in any interesting creative endeavor that might present itself in
In terms of this program so far, what can I say? I have seen a lot already
and heard lots of things. The excitement of travelling for me is in knowing
things that I don’t know or experience directly things that I have only
heard or read of.
Here in Germany, I am definitely appreciating the efficiency of the public
transportation and the consideration given to, and the infrastructure built
for bicycle riders. I wish both Italy and the U.S. (but also other countries)
could learn from city like this one, the value and importance of promoting
and stimulating the use of bicycles as an alternative to motorized
transportation for reasons that we all know. Every neighborhood I have
visited, even late at night, felt safe (unlike New York and Italy). But the
most remarkable aspect is the high degree of concern for
sustainability that Germany (at least from what I´ve seen and heard) shows.
It is again an example for other countries to follow.
On the other hand, not being an expert in German history and architecture,
I have also seen and heard things in these three days that have left me more
than perplexed. Probably the most disturbing one is the reconstruction of
the Bauakademie. Unfortunately, only the most recent example of a series of
reconstructions of buildings destroyed during World World II. It’s still not
clear to me what the program(s) of this building is and that is the main
problem I have with it. The final use seems to be of little importance to
the supporters of its rebuilding. What matters to them is its accurate
My understanding is that the building will be rebuilt with a
façade that’s an exact copy of the original building but with a more modern
interior. Now, whether the building gets totally rebuilt like it was before
being demolished or more simply with a copy of the original façade (but with
a contemporary interior space), it remains a sterile and uninspiring
exercise, a hopeless attempt to bring back the dead. The building, I was
told, is relevant because it was a major step towards modernity. To me, that
does not justify its rebuilding. If only the façade will be like the
original building, then what’s the point of rebuilding it? If this was an
outstanding building that they want us to appreciate and experience in
person, how can we do that without the original interior? And if the entire
building gets rebuilt like it was I think we are missing another opportunity
to express through architecture our identity and the moment we’re living in
and deal with programs and needs that are contemporary. There is no point in
rebuilding today a building that was built two hundred years go out of a
certain social, political, architectural and technological context. The
context has changed and should be reflected in the building. The programs
today are different than the programs of that time.
The bottom line is that the building represents more than just an expensive
resuscitation of an architecturally relevant building. It represents,
together with other buildings that were rebuilt and that are (surprise!) in
the same area, the attempt to find an identity for a country with a painful
past and for a city in particular, that was left deeply wounded
(architecturally) by WW2. The rebuilding of the Bauakademie seems to be
also and unfortunately in line with the demolition of socialist buildings.
Sadly the Palace of the Republic is being taken down right next to where the
Bauakademie is rising. These “cleansing” is as alarming as the rebuilding
of old buildings.
Now these issues are very complicated and touch people on many different
levels. I understand very well that to rebuild this part of the city is not
an easy task but I also believe that looking back in the past as the sole
inspiration is not the answer. In my opinion, successful buildings have
always been in touch with the time that they were created and were,
therefore, an expression and a testimonial of it. We have in the world
talented people that, if given the opportunity, could design contemporary
buildings that can move all sorts of people on different levels. Frank O. Gehry's
building near the Brandeburg gate is a good example of that. A modern
vocabulary can be used to design buildings even in areas such as the
historic district of Berlin because their coexistence can be vital and
successful. It’s a tragedy that we retreat to reactionary and stale
solutions such as the Bauakademie and the Disneylike travesty of the
By the way, I am not obsessed with the Bauakademie. It is just a
particularly stimulating topic that concerns other countries as well, hence
my long speech about it. This exchange program is very exciting and Berlin
(like New York) has a lot offer. The Urban Design project we are working on
is very challenging and I am sure the collaboration with our German
colleagues will be extremely interesting and formative for both sides.
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July 6, 2006
My name is Philipp Krell. I'm a student of the University of Applied
Sciences in Berlin and I´m studying architecture in the fifth year
now. My main architectual interests are structure and urban spaces. I was born next to the city of Koblenz at the River Rhine in 1978 and after going to a gymnasium I learned to be a drafter. That´s how I got into architecture.
The summer academy should have started yesterday with a studio, but there was this important football game, so we decided to take the afternoon off, after showing our school to the American guests in the morning. Then the game. I´ve never seen so many Germany scarfs and flags around me, like our American guests have been rising. I guess they´re
real football fans, that´s great, but Germany won 3-0, that´s even greater…
In the evening there was a lecture of Professor Stephan Braunfels, who built
one of the most impressing new government buildings at the "Band des Bundes" here in Berlin. After talking a lot about historical public
spaces in comparison with its use today and having an insight into his
work, he showed us his idea for the most controversial plan in
Berlin: the demolition of the Palace of the Republic and the
reconstruction of the Berlin City Castle. That, in fact, is very
difficult, because there are as many people against the
reconstruction, as there are those who want to see the castle
again... But they even started the demolition two months ago, and I,
for myself, think that´s not a good idea because they´re still not
shure what to do there in the next years, and that means more
inner city wasteland.
The lecture should show some concepts for "Visions for Berlin 2050",
but there wasn´t much talking about future strategies. But all in all
it was a quite good lecture with a lively discussion at the end. I´m looking forward in working together with our American guests and I believe everything will go well.
ps. Sorry, for the picture. I just got up.
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