News                       Contact


Laboratory for Integrative Architecture 


Design studio, Summer 2016

GBP3 design studio related research seminary


While Paris is currently undertaking huge efforts to decentralize itself by strengthening its entire metropolitan area, Berlin is doing the opposite: Despite its polycentric structure, the key mission since 1999 has been to consolidate its formerly divided central areas.

The comparison of these opposing trends is the starting point for an investigation of Grand Berlin in all its dimensions. In the light of the city's continuous growth, it seems no longer sufficient, if not problematic, to direct investments exclusively into the city's most central areas. Which role can the larger metropolitan area – Grand Berlin – play in the city`s future development?

The research and design project on Grand Berlin is based on the hypothesis that most of Berlin's qualities are fundamentally based on its polycentric structure and its multidimensional heterogeneity. One part of the project is subsequently dedicated to investigate these qualities and conditions in their historical, present and future dimensions. The second part of this project is dedicated to spatial strategies that are able to address current challenges under the premise mentioned above. By comparing Grand Berlin to Grand Paris, the project expects to gain new insights into 'universal' and 'specific' challenges of large European Metropolises in the 21st century.

Grand Paris
In 2008 the French government, on direct initiative of President Nicolas Sarkozy, initiated a research and development project named Grand Paris / Métropole Post-Kyoto. The Laboratory for Integrative Architecture (LIA), the chair of Finn Geipel, along with his architecture firm LIN and a team of consultants have been nominated as part of a selection of 10 international research groups. The research and design studio Grand Paris Métropole Douce, carried out with students of LIA and MIT Boston in 2008/09, was a crucial part of the project.

Grand Paris / Métropole Post-Kyoto is meant to develop a vision for the metropolis of the 21st century in accordance with the demands of the Kyoto Protocol. It is meant be a lead example in the transformation of European cities, with Grand Paris as a prototype, for future urban development.

LIN's and LIA's proposal Grand Paris – Métropole Douce aims at transforming the two poles of the dense inner city of Paris and its mostly mono-functional and fragmented banlieues (suburbs) into a heterogeneous and multi-polar urban landscape, in which the usual confrontation between city and landscape is erased. Three concepts, one for urban design, one for mobility and one for landscapes are used. The first and most crucial concept is Ville Intense/Ville Légère: the Ville Intense (Dense City) describes an existing system of poles such as historic centers, parks and forests, infrastructural hubs and office parks, which form the central nodes of the area, whereas the Ville Légère (Light City) describes a system of flexible areas in between. Both systems will be strengthened and intensified with new programs and typologies according to their potentials. The second concept is Gradual Mobility, which deals with different types of mobility systems: fast and efficient in between high-density areas, short-distance transportation systems like on-demand bikes/cars or segways in low-density areas. The third concept is Multifunctional Landscapes. which entails the coexistence of nature, leisure, housing, services, water-retention, and food- and energy-production within one site.

Transferability is an important objective of the Grand Paris project, as it deals with central topics concerning the development of many 21st century metropolises: sustainable development according to the Kyoto Protocol, reorganization and renewal of infrastructure and the necessary integration and connection of the suburbs. The models developed in the first fundamental stage of the Grand Paris project were created with the possible ease of adaptation to other cities in mind, as this was a central tenet in the original research and development project initiated by the French government.

Following the reunification, the ruptures caused by the destructions during WWII, vacant historic and modernist buildings and vast residual spaces generated a spatially, programmatically and socially heterogeneous situation that became the breeding ground for a new subculture. Low prices, depopulation and an abundance of space led to a high degree of social coexistence in centrally located areas. The freedom that this situation had created inspired inhabitants to appropriate these spaces and to experiment with new programs, initiatives and business models. Despite of a weak economy this social and creative energy became to motor of the city and ultimately unleashed the current population growth.

The growth questions Berlin's established model of social coexistence. Construction boom, exploding rents, real estate prices and an influx of new inhabitants have triggered social homogenization in central neighborhoods as well as socio-economic displacement processes to the outskirts. The pressure has recently erupted in several public resistance initiatives, such as the successful referendum against the construction of the Tempelhof airfield.

Grand Berlin
Rising pressure on central areas, an almost completed 'Planwerk Innere Stadt', a lack of affordable housing and public resistance against large scale constructions all show the necessity to re-think Berlin at large scale. The project Grand Paris, Grand Berlin wants to expand the reflection on Berlin's future development beyond its central areas, towards the entire metropolitan region. What are the diverse and often conflicting needs of Berlin's civil society? Which spatial models are able to integrate these needs at the scale of the region?

Grand Berlin, Grand Paris is conceived as a long-term research project on Grand Berlin, which will ultimately result in a publication. It will be carried out together with students, researchers, experts and critics from various disciplines over the course of several semesters.

Departing from the hypothesis of a polycentric Berlin, a Berlin that is based on social coexistence and spatial heterogeneity, the project will follow two approaches: One is to develop an understanding of the city's characteristics and dynamics at the scale of the metropolitan area. The second is to investigate current planning issues at the scale of urban design and architecture. This twofold approach will be reflected in the overall studio structure. Our research seminar will be dedicated to investigate the metropolitan area, while the design studio is aimed to develop spatial strategies in relation to the current growth. The two formats are followed in parallel to mutually strengthen and inform one another. Each semester will begin with an emphasis on the research part (in order to inform potential design approaches). In the course of the semester this relation will gradually change in favour of the design part.

A third angle of Grand Berlin, Grand Paris will be created through a comparative perspective. By relating Grand Berlin to Grand Paris, we will look for "universal" and "specific" challenges of large European Metropolises. What can be learned from one another?

Task Design Studio
In July 2014 Berlins Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt published a map that indicates Große Wohnungsneubaustandorte, sites with a potential for large amounts of housing. While all of the sites are located within the perimeter of Berlin's administrative boundaries, the majority of them are located in central areas, within, or in close proximity to the S-Bahn-Ring. How can the undergoing effort of densification feed into a larger strategy? Under the hypothesis of a polycentric Berlin, our studio will investigate four sites located outside the S-Bahn-Ring, in proximity to the city`s administrative boundary with Brandenburg.

What does it mean to build large amounts of housing in ever-larger distance to central areas? How can monofunctionality and boredom be avoided? Are these places conceived in dependence to central areas, or can they be conceived as relatively independent? What is the Critical Mass of housing these places can absorb? Could they eventually be turned into "central areas" themselves?

Under this premise, the design studio will investigate potentials, deficits and capacities of sites in the north, in the northeast, in the southeast and in the southwest. Based on their indicated potential for growth, the challenge is to develop specific programmatic scenarios, urban design strategies and corresponding typological propositions. Which potentials and limitations will urban design and architecture create in this context? How can planning contribute to the social and spatial heterogeneity of the city?