FDP| The hangover of the wall | Rafael García Sacristán




Year: 2011

la resaca de un muro - rafael garcia - more than green - 00 logo


PROLOGUE: BERLIN IS ANYTHING BUT BERLIN!                                                                  

Berlin is a mixture, contradiction, culture, cultures, it is green, grey, cold and hot, and always good fun. Sometimes it is inhumane, sometimes kind, beautiful and ugly at once, but always surprising. Berlin is the unfinished city, it is what it could be and not what it is. It is infested of future projects, full of empty spaces – magical spaces that hide history and radiate future. Chunks of time under the asphalt, on the facades, at the traffic lights … The day Berlin is finished, it will not be Berlin any longer. Berlin is the city that it still is not, it is an excited teenager preening for a date – that previous moment full of expectations impossible to fulfil.

And when at last Berlin will be finished, when a future mayor, whatever their sexual orientation, finishes its reconstruction, then Berlin will no longer be sexy, but will remain poor, sadly losing its identity and it will be transformed into a greyer city.


* Preliminary note: Intermediate use (Zwischennutzung) consists in providing temporary use of empty or abandoned sites in a transformative process, in order to inject activity into the area, but on many occasions to increase the value of the surroundings and to build or rent at higher prices – a kind of gentrification tool. Currently, the Council of Berlin stimulates this phenomenon through the rental management at very low cost for up to 5 years long to start-ups.

The unique essence of the city of Berlin, justified by its peculiar history, is full of emptiness, residual space and buildings without use. Let’s say, that these three entities promote uncertainty, intermediate use and confrontation between classes and are the driving force of the Berlin identity.

The current development of this city has boosted inharmonious coexistence. It has primarily been based on filling the vacuum created by the destruction during the war and the subsequent fall of the wall. On the one hand, promoting large urban developments with star architects to attract traditional tourism (for example at Potsdamer Platz) and, on the other hand, promoting free temporary and innovative use of empty spaces as a way of revitalization. Until now, the result has been positive and a remarkable dual-cultural movement has come up in an around Berlin: an alternative and creative one and an institutionalized and politically correct one. But this system eventually becomes unsustainable, the spaces are filled and prices rise and become inaccessible, and in a few years, the dual identity of the city will be lost.

The project I propose consists of the development of an urban system that keeps the level of uncertainty. Thus, we assume that the city should grow, and it is unrealistic to think that private land in the centre will remain empty any longer, yet we ensure that the entrepreneurial use of the plots generates a guarantee of permanent cyclical temporary use.

The chosen site is the adjacent land to the Spree River, between Jannovitzbrücke and Oberbaumbrücke., at the former east-west border. In this area, very close to the city centre, but still full of empty plots, where you can find a huge underground culture can be found.At present, a heated debate is raging over “Mediaspree”, a new wealthy urban development for the area that pretends to fill the emptiness with skycrapers and displace all this entire alternative neighbourhood.


To understand the project I would first like to explain a number of ideas I have come up with along time to articulate a certain theory: the temporary or intermediate use is unpredictable, but has a common element that makes it manageable on a larger scale.To generate intermediate use uncertainty spaces it must exist, creating a new concept – the Uncertainty Space (US): totally void, residual space or an unused building that could be occupied by intermediate or free spontaneous use.

There are 4 features of US in terms of creating running uncertainty along the year.

  • A Free Open Space: it requires more inventive investment. Uncertainty occurs only on sunny days in summer.
  • A Protected Space: an area covered against the rain. However, uncertainty does not occur during the winter days.
  • A Sheltered Space: this is a partially enclosed space, the typical example is the abandoned house. In that place uncertainty can occur at any time of the year.
  • A Comfortable Space: here, there is low uncertainty. If there is comfort, almost certainly, the use of the space has taken root and is no longer temporary. This type of space is only a theoretical one. This space would finally become a formal business space.


It is necessary to establish rules of development in the construction of buildings to make the coexistence between uncertainty spaces and market spaces possible – points of view which seem incompatible. To make it possible, it is necessary that uncertainty turns into something more concrete. The essence of uncertainty understood as wealth of the spontaneous program is even enhanced by the proposal, but it will take place in more concrete and stable areas. On the other hand, the market space must ensure that this takes place. Hence, we propose the “parasite mechanism”: the new areas of uncertainty will be fed by the market space to develop, the healthier is the host, the more beneficial for the parasite.

New “Space Release” Tax: The whole proposal is based on this system. It symbolically means that every square meter of new construction for the use of the permanent market (which destroys an area of uncertainty) should cede or assign another square meter of non-qualified, accessible residual space. These spaces ceded by each building are concentrated at strategic points, creating specific pockets of undeveloped space. In practice, the process takes place as follows:

In line with the above-mentioned, the promoter also invests in building some “Activity-Boiling Elements“. These elements are urban infrastructure providing void spaces with all the necessary tools to develop many new programs, but the space is still a void space – some kind of urban acupuncture that attracts people and activities.

It is possible to set up temporary businesses in the area; the potential money raised by this new intermediate use will be distributed between shareholders until they recover the money invested. From then on, the management of these areas will become independent.

Through this process, a change of great interest takes place: the uncertainty space has become a cyclical uncertainty space, because thanks to the above-mentioned, it has turned into a permanent and secure space, even though the program continues being random and changes in a cyclic way.

The insertion process: the implementation of the“Activity-Boiling Elements” system is presented as a process that grows by increasing capital construction. We propose a duration of 14 years divided into four stages. These stages could change depending on each time period required by the binomial “Expropriation of new empty pieces of land” / “Implementation of Activity-Boiling Elements” and the progress of the type of devices installed in the different areas. Along the first stages, we focus almost exclusively on the expropriation, and as the process continues, investments start focusing on the construction and improvement of the “Activity-Boiling Elements”


They are devices that constitute the material part of the project. There are several types of these elements depending on their performances. To be precise, there are three types of elements, listed according to their complexity: mobile devices, generic activity boiling elements and specialized activity-boiling elements. These three types of devices are meant to provide the infrastructure necessary for the new programs of the void spaces. All of them have several factors in common:

1. they are located in strategic expropriated areas.

2. they generate more than the space program they use, i.e. they act as an acupuncture needle.

4. they are points of information, interconnected with one another, as a network, so that when accessing one, what is happening or planned in all the others will be known.

3. they have self-sufficient energy so that they do not depend on external factors which may influence them.

5. they work as a strategic set, facilitating each others tasks

6. they promote the generation of sporadic programs in their surroundings, but in no case create their own program. They are only a tool.


Mobile Devices: Its scale is the smallest one, these machines are able to move from one place to another according to the needs of the moment. They involve a small investment and they are a miniature reproduction of the senior device-system. Usually, there are some of them in all plots. Partially dependent on a senior boiling-element through which they are supplied. Everything that can be transported to promote an environment for new activities are also considered Mobile Devices. For example tarps, chairs, parasols, umbrellas, etc.

Types of mobile devices:

  • Mobile heat-generator: generates heat by composting the pruning and falling leaves from the trees in the surroundings. (estimated yield: 1m3 compost could heat a space of 1.5 m3 for 4 weeks). The obtained fertilizer can also be sold.
  • Mobile electric-generator: it generates electricity through a vertical 1Kw windmill (estimated monthly production: 144 kwh with average wind at 5m/s)
  • Space Conditioner: generates a 8m2 liveable space by inflating a transparent plastic membrane which can be rented.
  • Network broadcasting: it produces a free Internet wifi network off up to 300m distance. It has also a sound system of 500 W r.m.s. comparable to a “tuned car” as well as a powerful light source and has a computer to obtain information on what is happening in other areas of the Boiling-system.

Generic activity-boiler (generic a.b.): it is designed for the first steps of the implementation process or for small plots far away of the river. They represent a medium investment and are the simplest autonomous entity, not dependent for its operation other activity-boiling devices.

They provide fixed support to mobile devices and also catalyze new programs. They contain: an electric windmill with 7.7 kW (estimated monthly 833Kwh ), free use plug connectors, lighting/sound system, computer information point, stuff-library , wifi transmitter, toilets and a store for the mobile devices.

In some cases the area of the object-library becomes a dwelling for the caretaker who manages the whole system.

Energetic a.b.: They mean a high investment, generating hot air, hot water and electricity for space heating in winter and autumn (sporadically, spaces can also be cooled but this is very rare in Berlin). Through 10 underground shafts that collect the heat of groundwater (13oC all year), 6x15kw wind generators and a “photovoltaic balloon” that rises through the clouds, the energetic activity-boiler meet the electricity needs of the system. The other mobile-devices or activity-boilers can be connected to it to make use of the energy.

Space Conditioner a.b.: there are two different types; basically they work in the same way but just change their size. Artifacts moved by themselves but they must be always close to an energetic activity-boiler to get hot, so are not considered mobile devices. In them the appropriate conditions of temperature and light in winter are created by inflating large plastic bubbles. It takes hot air or water from the energetic activity-boiler and they can be added up to two each other forming an indoor space of over 1000m2.


The chosen area is the land adjacent to the Spree River, between Janovichbruu cke and Oberraumbruu cke, in the Mediaspree context. It was formerly an old industrial area that was destroyed during the Second World War. After the war, the Wall was built along this place generating a wide security area on the Soviet side and little sympathy on the other side to build there. Due to these circumstances the neighbourhood remained empty for decades and just after the fall of the Wall continued in the same way as there were more important issues to deal with such as Postdamer Platz or Prenzlauer Berg which are more centric places.

In 2002, the Mediaspree urban renewal plan was proposed in this area trying to attract multinational advertising and telecommunication companies through public subsidies in order to boost the image of a modern technological Berlin. These plans created a climate of confrontation with the Berlin citizens who along the years had been using these empty spaces to create a wide range of informal facilities and cultural activities.

The people of Berlin reject the privatization of land (especially the riverside), the filling of the empty space with skyscrapers, and the subsequent price increases of their rents. Associations were formed against this situation staging large public protests until, in 2007 a referendum resulted in an overwhelming majority against the new plans. Officially the project will go ahead, but in practice it is stuck between protests and demonstrations.