KARL MARX ALLEE MONUMENT | Berlin | Unit 21 | 2012
Awarded Distinction in Design Click to see Thesis
“Perhaps spectators walking along the existing monument in Karl Marx Allee (KMA) is similar to the way Robert Smithson toured the monuments in New Jersey. However, not many of us can be as sensitive and imaginative as he did to read those monuments allegorically. Perhaps, we don’t even want another Smithson to read the future KMA and say this is “a kind of self-destroying postcard world of failed immortality and oppressive grandeur.” Accommodating more than 2,000 apartments, the present KMA deserves positive regeneration. Interacting with the existing Stalinist architecture built from 50s to 60s, the proposal will be an anti-nostalgic scheme. Rather than being haunted by the unproductive nostalgia, it will mark the end of the GDR power, and transform it into a new park of possibilities by translating the existing motifs along the boulevard. To stop the unproductive and even dangerous nostalgia of the citizen, like the mother in the film Goodbye Lenin, the project made use of architecture as a tool to help people understand the condition of memory and their history. Meanwhile, it will regenerate the area as new urban recreational hub, putting emphasis on the present livelihood.”
Summary of Experiment – A fragmented landscape to recall memory
‘Reflective Projection’ is to provide a series of images which suggest that understanding memory is a matter of progressive discovery on one’s own. Actually, the reason of choosing the face to start is based on the assumption that face contains unique human identity, like fingerprint, everyone is different. The above exercise is trying to discover a way of using fragmentation to express the wholeness, incorporating those qualities we have talked about in case study. Similar to making the Fuller map, the exercise manipulated the existing facial details into another projection, without creating new information of the face. Although distorted through digitalization, this can read as the compromise in this exercise that representation is always about how we arrange the fragments. The digitalization is just a process but not the aim. When separated into pieces, each of them contain detailed information about the face, as a partial portrait of the woman. It can be read as the new portrait of the woman. It is a collage of the many different faces recorded in my mind. When all the fragments are combined as a flat surface, although some parts are overlapping one another, it contained all the information of the fragments. Conceptually, this is still the face of the woman, but in a new identity.
Like marking the traces of the authentic site and relocating the material in ‘Making Positive’ in the case study ( refer to Thesis), we get new meanings from manipulating the existing. Besides, when it became a three dimensional mask, it showed spatial quality of solid and void. Looking at the void (back), we can actually imagine how the solid (front) looks like. Here, the void representing the solid, is identical to the idea of ‘Making Negative’. Peeling off the mask as an unfinished objects, is actually reflecting the ephemeral and temporal nature of representation, it is self consciously making itself, one of the process and possibilities out of many. A discontinuous mask is based on the idea of ‘Making Landscape’, that scattering the fragments of the face in order to draw the spectators to actively participate the discovery of the identity and completeness of the woman. Indeed, looking at the synthesis mask, the unfolding mask in process is containing all the above effects that we have discussed, such as altering the original geometry, inverting solid and void, ephemeral temporary effect, fragmented and wholeness, and the viewer participation. Based on our definition of ‘reflective projection’, we may probably say that, this fragmented and synthesis masks is kind of ‘reflective projection’, that allowing me to rediscover the relation of me to the woman, continuously.
Likewise, these techniques of manipulation of the surface will be applied to the faces/facades of historical protected buildings in Karl Marx Allee (KMA), for making architectural interventions to regenerate the area and allow the spectators to rediscover their relation to the KMA from time to time. This experiment is also based on the assumption that KMA’s identity could be reflected in its’ characteristic style of Stalinist architecture and its’ deliberately uses of symbols and fragments from classical architecture.
1. Unfolding the facade as fragments : Similar to how the face is being digitalized and fragmented into 15 pieces
2. Procedure of Remaking A New Representation: studying the solid and void from different sides, front and back
3. A ‘mask’ of the facade was made physically
4. Possible Compositions of fragments using the surface, mask of the facade.
5. A fragmented facade: made to replicate the notion of the fragmented mask in the face experiment, to draw the spectators to actively engaged with the new spaces
New Karl Marx Allee Proposal
Perhaps spectators walking along the existing monument in Karl Marx Allee (KMA) is similar to the way Robert Smithson toured the monuments in New Jersey. However, not many of us can be as sensitive and imaginative as he did to read those monuments allegorically. Perhaps, we don’t even want another Smithson to read the future KMA and say this is “a kind of self-destroying postcard world of failed immortality and oppressive grandeur.” Accommodating more than 2,000 apartments, the present KMA deserves positive regeneration.
Proposal and Background
The design proposal is a public park which will be built along the historic boulevard. Interacting with the existing Stalinist architecture built from 50s to 60s, the proposal will be an anti-nostalgic scheme. The 2.5 km long boulevard, also known as Worker Palace was the former cultural centre of the East Berlin. Before declaring as a collective historical building group, the KMA was the showpieces and the symbol of the ideal life style of GDR regime. It embedded countless memory of the population over the last five decades. Although the street was now a protected historical site, it is clear that the monumentality of the street is capable to withstand new intervention without losing its perception of mass and monumentality to its viewers. It can be modified and we can imagine future modification. To make the street as propelling element in the urban fabric is to prove its vitality. Thus, the proposed intervention is not about destroying the established historical settings of the past. It will use new design to evoke the intimacy, rather than grandeur. Rather than being haunted by the unproductive nostalgia, it will mark the end of the DDR power, and transform it into a new park of possibilities. To stop the unproductive and even dangerous nostalgia of the citizen, like the mother in the film Goodbye Lenin, the project tried to make use of architecture as a tool to help people understand the condition of memory and their history. Meanwhile, it will regenerate the area as new urban recreational hub, putting emphasis on the present livelihood. It aims to capture the missing moment which is less opulent, and more in a cooperative form of lifestyle. The design will try to reintroduce the domestic and families-base life style, which was served with the common and mundane objects in the past.
Similar to the face experiment, the design is based on the assumption that facade could express the architectural identity of the KMA. Its’ geometry and other visual motifs could recall memory effectively. By using the face experiment as the point of departure, the design will first document the existing geometry and digitalising it for further manipulation.The geometry could be unfolded as flat surface and used as pavement. Then, the pavement could be read as a ‘new portrait’ of the KMA on the ground. After further folding and other operations, it will be used as new geometry to produce building envelopes and other architectural components, such as floor, wall and roof, so as to create similar effect to the ‘ mask’ in the face experiment. The ‘mask’ as architectural parts will form various sizes of spaces for different programs and functions, such as cafe, bar, bookshops, gallery and cinema, but not for purely memorial purposes. At the same time, the arrangement of the new design will be adjusted in relation to its original geometry from the buildings, to create a dialogues between the new and old. Similar to the ‘fragmented mask’, although the various new architectures are physically separated, they are visually connected through the relation to existing building. This helps create a landscape for spectators to participate. It provides spatial intervals, like in the landscape architecture, wholeness is completed each time only when we project part of our body and mind into the architecture. The regenerated KMA landscape with full of familiarity and enigmas could be read as a kind of ‘reflective projection’ that providing series of images to allow people to rediscover the present conditions of KMA and its’ dynamic relation to them continuously.