How to make futures. 13 observations.


Louise Nguyen and Tatjana Schneider

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"Architects and an investor, politicians, a recently founded initiative, architectural visualisations, notions of order and disorder, the past, the present and the future–they are all actors in this narrative. Along the way, we’ll encounter money and complicity, campaigns and counter–campaigns. The site in the eye of the storm is Hermannplatz. Or, to be more precise, it is the Kartstadt building on Hermannplatz in the Neukölln district of Berlin. The issue at stake is the planned demolition, reconstruction and reconfiguration of the existing department store. The developer, who’s entered the public arena through its possible entanglement with the political scandal that has become known as Ibiza-gate, talks of ambitions to develop a mixed-use and lively quarter for all Berliners and visitors alike. The thing is: the area around Hermannplatz already is lively–as many of the locals say. It already is mixed-use, too. And, it is already not cheap to rent a shop (or flat) in the area. Fears are that prices will multiply with the planned development, that it will lead to people having to move shops, having to move lives, loosing livelihoods and support structures. Gentrification is the word you might use to describe this process–but it sounds too slick to capture the violence that precedes, accompanies and follows it. We can get a glimpse of the proposed cleansing when looking at the visualisation of the to-be-built-thing produced by the architects, a well-known practice not just in Berlin. Shivers run down my spine. It’s a building dressed in early 1930s clothes of the conservative kind: massive, pompous, stiff, and representational. And, we see the rooftop turned dance floor, which is populated with all-white people in dresses that match the dress of the building. Lively, it is not. It’s homogenous, flat, a class of its own, separated from all other life, a spaceship’s platform ready to take off again. The current life, all but gone. Whose idea the development was? Well, it’s complicated. The politicians are said to be in favour of a public private partnership to ‘upgrade’ the area. But these kind of collaborations have been heavily discredited in other contexts not only for their exploitation of the public purse. In terms of the dress: it seems that it was the architects, David Chipperfield, who came up with the idea of the reconstruction’s costume. Why? We don’t know. What is known, however, is that the locals feel completely silenced, having never been asked about their visions. We hear that they don’t believe in building a past that never existed. For now, they say: Stop! Pause! Keep things as they are! And then, ask us, because we have a lot of ideas for change from within."

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Louise Ngyuen and Tatjana Schneider, How to Make Futures. 13 observations (Berlin: Making Futures, 2019). 26 pages, 2 colour Risography book, assembled by hand, first edition of 150 copies

Published by

Making Futures, Berlin, 2018