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Laboratory for Integrative Architecture 

URBAN SYSTEMS 2 – Concepts of Layering

BA-A: Städtebaulicher Entwurf, Winter 20/21


Das Entwurfsstudio richtet sich an hochmotivierte Studenten, die sich mit Zeichnen, Modellbauen und weiteren Medien auskennen. Sie sollten neugierig und offen für einen Entwurfsprozess sein, der nach innovativen Lösungen sucht. Austausch-Studierende sind ausdrücklich willkommen.


Berlin´s urban space has been under pressure for several years. Continued population growth gives rise to new needs that have a massive impact on the city's urban systems and the limited space of the city. The studio aims to develop hybrid urban concepts that can mediate between land scarcity and growth pressure. Located in a heterogeneous area in Berlin-Wedding, the studio project will investigate to what extent existing urban systems can be superimposed with new uses.

Urban Systems
The city is a rich network of different urban systems. Urban systems can be both physical (e.g. building structures, green spaces, and traffic infrastructure) and non-physical (e.g. social, political, legal, economic, and digital). They have different sizes -- from buildings to building blocks to metropolitan areas – and dynamically adapt to the constantly evolving needs of society. Understanding urban systems, their interdependencies, impact measures and dynamics is fundamental to urban design as a discipline that integrates heterogeneous needs into a comprehensive spatial structure.

Louis Kahn, Traffic Study, 1952

Berlin under pressure
Triggered by rapid population growth, Berlin has been under pressure for several years now. With a current population of ca. 3.750.000 million inhabitants, the city’s population has reached its highest level since the end of the Second World War.1 In the last five years, Berlin has registered 47.700 new inhabitants per year.2 The sustained growth has led to a general increase in real estate prices and triggered gentrification processes in previously socially mixed and central districts such as Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain. Increase in prices have also led to population shifts from Berlin´s inner city to the more favourable outskirts and beyond.3  

New needs
Growth has generated a number of new needs and uses that are perceptible throughout the city and have a direct impact on the city’s urban systems.
To provide enough housing for its growing population, the city needs 20.000 new flats per year.  As a consequence, the formerly abundant urban voids are being rapidly filled with new housing developments – not without resistance from the local residents.5 The question is how to mediate between inevitable change and the preservation of established structures.

In central areas, there is not only a lack of low-income housing but also housing for young families, shared flats, students or the elderly. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult for public housing companies or newly emerging cooperatives to build new low-cost dwellings, partly due to the scarcity of affordable public land for building.6 Nevertheless, affordable and various forms of housing are urgently needed to guarantee an established social mix and a balanced urban development, while taking into account the general diversification of lifestyles in society.

Growth not only challenges the housing system, but also puts pressure on micro-economic systems, such as small manufacturing enterprises in centrally located industrial estates: In contrast to many established residential areas, these do not enjoy the status of "Social Preservation Areas" ("Millieuschutzgebiete") and are increasingly in danger of being replaced by housing constructions. At the same time, driven by new, decentralized digital production methods of the so-called "Industry 4.0", there seems to be a trend towards small-scale, urban production, "open workshops" and "urban manufacturing". The question arises as to which concepts can reinvent the programmatic mix between housing and urban production.7

Current growth is also affecting public infrastructure, services and public space. During peak hours, the utilisation of public transport infrastructure like U- and S-Bahn is now reminiscent of Paris or Tokyo. Spaces and staff for schools, kindergardens and hospitals have reached their capacity and need to be expanded. Parks, lakes and squares are becoming more and more crowded. A significant increase in traffic can be observed on the streets, caused by commuters and delivery services as a result of growing online marketing. The increasing popularity of bicycles, cargo bikes and mobility-on-demand systems (such as cars-on-demand, e-scooters and pedelecs) is further increasing the utilisation of public space. The pressure on the roads and the diversification of mobility forms call into question the established surface distributions between transport modes and reflect the need to think about new, integrative urban structures.

Furthermore, the current COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on urban development. For example, the pandemic has further accelerated the previously observed increase in working from home. This results in a decreasing demand for office space in city centres and a growing need for typologies and residential models that can combine living and working. The question also arises as to the conversion of office space, should this trend become more pronounced.8

Growth versus Land scarcity
Since Berlin has a limited territory as a city-state and the Berlin Senate has opted for inner development for reasons of sustainability9, growth and the resulting needs have to be absorbed by the existing city and its systems. This fundamentally calls into question the availability of brownfields (often informally used) and generous open spaces in centrally located areas, which was characteristic of Berlin in the past, and spaces for the settlement of new uses are now becoming a limited resource.

Berlin has so far lacked urban development concepts that can mediate between growth pressure, its resulting needs and the limited amount of urban space, suggested by current discussions about the "Productive City" 10 ,  Berlin Senate's "Hochhausplan" (high-rise model) 11 , the "Bodenfrage"12 , residential skyscrapers 13  and the controversial debate about the so-called "Düsseldorfer Erklärung" 14.  There is a lack of urban development concepts that can mediate more intelligently between land scarcity, growth, density, program, social mix, quality of open space and mobility.

Programmatic overlay 24h, Yokohama Masterplan, OMA, 1992

Growth pressure and land scarcity call for the existing city to use its areas and spaces more efficiently, to find new potential areas and to think about overlapping different uses in the same space. It is necessary to overcome the modernist idea of functional separation, which is still reflected in the compartmentalized thinking in administrations, and to perceive urban systems as spatially integrated. At the same time, the question arises as to how the interests of the established social and spatial structures can be taken into account.

Concepts of layering
In his book "Delirious New York" from 1978, Rem Koolhaas describes how a "Culture of Congestion" has contributed to the emergence of Manhattan's high-rise typology.15  Which urban concepts of layering can we imagine for Berlin's growth?
The aim of the design studio is to develop hybrid urban design concepts that can mediate between land scarcity and growth pressure. Using a heterogeneous area in Berlin-Wedding as an example, we will investigate how existing urban system can be superimposed with new uses.

Project area
The project area is located west of the S-Bahn station Südkreuz in Schöneberg, traversed by the Ring Bahn, the Intercity railway and highways. It has access to many transport links and public transit within and beyond the city but the complex transportation infrastructure also creates physical barriers between neighborhoods and functions, leaving behind inaccessible and undeveloped spaces that are disconnected form each other. Furthermore, noise emissions and air pollution pose a significant challenge for residential developments nearby, due to the high traffic streets, railways and highway junctions.

The urban fabric of the area is heterogenous, intersected by layers of transport systems and characterized by industrial estates, auto repair shops, sports fields, diverse housing types, green areas and allotment gardens, etc. In the near future, this area will be drastically transformed and densified. West of the Südkreuz Station, the development and construction of a multi-use urban district known as the ‘Schöneberger Linse’ is underway. With new urban developments nearby, the full potential of the projec area is yet to be explored. Proximity to a transportation hub, existing diverse functions and public infrastructure are important qualities to be taken into account in the urban growth of the area.

Students will begin with analyzing the entire project area frame of 1500m x 1500m (analysis frame), and later on decide on their own area of intervention (intervention frame), which should be 500m x 500m within the analysis frame.

Overlay of landscape, mobility, food and energy systems, Porta Nuova Gardens, Andrea Branzi, Milan, 2004

Over the course of the semester, different topics and questions arising from the development of concepts of layering will be addressed:

First of all, various urban systems of the project area, their structures, elements and qualities will be presented, and their interrelationships and how they affect one another will be discussed. The goal is to understand and evaluate the existing situation and its potential. What works, what doesn´t? What are the qualities of the area? What is missing?

In addition, we will investigate potential surfaces or urban system(s) for intervention within the project area. Are there unused surfaces? Is it easier to organize the use of existing land, and thus free up land for new uses? Have some buildings or uses become obsolete and should be demolished in order to create new spaces? Will the currently occupied areas require less space in the future due to technological innovations or changes in capacity utilisation? Is it possible to use surfaces by other programmes temporarily?

Another key question is the search for an adequate program for the project area. Which city-wide needs can the area meet and which uses result from it? What does the area need? Which user groups should be addressed? What are their needs? What services should the program include in order to gain acceptance from the local population?

Finally, the question arises as to what kind of urban structures can be derived from the layering of the identified areas and the developed program. Which development, open spaces and/or development structures and typologies can strategically complement the existing? Do existing structures have to be replaced by new ones? What kind of new hybrids can be created?


Bachelor: ES Städtebaulicher Entwurf (EP 10ECTS/7SWS)

Allgemeine Termine
Oktober 21 2020 Start Wahlzeitraum ISIS-PRIO-POLL (s. KVV)
Oktober 22 2020 Online-Einführungsveranstaltung (s. KVV)
Oktober 28 2020 Ende Wahlzeitraum ISIS-PRIO-POLL (s. KVV)
Oktober 29 2020 Auswertung und Verteilung der Studierenden (s. KVV)
Oktober 30 2020 Veröffentlichung der Ergebnisse auf ISIS (s. KVV)
November 5 2020 10.00-18.00 h Online Studio-Einführung
Dezember 3  2020 10.00-18.00 h Online Pin-Up 1: Task A – Atlas / Analysis
Dezember 17 2020 10.00-18.00 h Online Pin-Up 2: Task B – Conceptual Brainstorm
Januar 21 2021 10.00-18.00 h Online Zwischenpräsentation: Urban Concept
Februar 11 2021 10.00-18.00 h Online Pin-Up 3: Urban Plan
Februar 25 2021 10.00-18.00 h Online Endpräsentation: Urban Design

Bitte prüfen Sie den Zeitplan auf ISIS regelmäßig für etwaige Änderungen.

Studierende werden mit einer Schritt-für-Schritt-Methodik arbeiten und städtebauliche Konzepte für Teilbereiche des Projektgebiets entwickeln. Darüber hinaus werden sie semesterbegleitend Auszüge städtebautheoretischer Texte lesen und als argumentative Unterstützung für ihre Projekte verwenden. Das Studio ist in vier Phasen unterteilt. In der ersten Phase wird kollektives Wissen über das Projektgebiet gewonnen: Eine kartographische und visuelle Analyse seiner urbanen Systeme, ihrer Elemente und ihrer Wechselbeziehungen zueinander wird den Reichtum und die Komplexität des Territoriums offenbaren. In der zweiten Phase wird das erlangte Gebietswissen durch Entwurfswissen ergänzt: Ausgehend von Referenzprojekten werden verschiedene Entwurfsszenarien auf dem Projektgebiet getestet und evaluiert. Aus diesen Studien wird in der dritten Phase ein städtebauliches Konzept durch einen Gesamtplan, thematische Pläne, Schnitte und Modelle im Maßstab (1:1000 - 1:500) entwickelt und durch Diagramme, Kartierungen und Illustrationen unterstützt. In der Endphase wird das städtebauliche Konzept weiterentwickelt und durch Pläne, Schnitte und weiteren Darstellungen der vorgeschlagenen Gebäudetypen (1:500) ergänzt. Studiobegleitend werden verschiedene Inputs und Workshops, z. B. zu GIS oder Modellbau, teilweise in Zusammenarbeit mit den anderen Städtebau-Fachgebieten des IfA, durchgeführt.

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den Design Brief im Download Bereich.

Bachelor Vorlesungsreihe Städtebau
Die Vorlesungsreihe Städtebau ist eine Einführung in das städtebauliche Entwerfen und begleitet das Entwurfssemester Städtebau im 3. Semester Bachelor. Sie wird gemeinsam von den Fachgebieten Chora, CUD, Habitat Unit und LIA durchgeführt und via Zoom freitags von 8:30 bis 10:00 Uhr stattfinden.
Mehr Informationen hier.


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