Short expose

"the city of tomorrow"

An Archaeological Approach to Hansaviertel Berlin

concept: Annette Maechtel and Kathrin Peters

While the Hansa district today stands as an architectural monument near the Berlin Tiergarten, at the time of Interbau 57, it was a model for that which “the city of tomorrow“ could be, or should have been. From the individual buildings designed by world-renown architects to the functional structure of the urban landscape to the presentation of fully-furnished model apartments; everything stood as a sign for a new shaping of residential and living styles, intending to lend West-German post-war society a fresh face. The emphasis on tomorrow is thus connected to the wiping out of the youngest, national socialistic yesterday.

What is no longer to be seen with a mere glance at the facades and park areas, is the vehemence of the aesthetic instructions from the 1950´s which were conveyed to a wide public. Modern urban planning and design were intended to have an effect on all things – on family and community ideals, as well as on ideas of order and purity.

The point of departure is the special exhibition “the city of tomorrow“ within the context of the Interbau 57. In this exhibition and in the resulting book publication from 1959 [*], the necessity of a re-building, or rather a new building of cities was evoked. The destruction brought about by the war seemed to offer a chance to rid oneself of the misorder of 19th century tenement blocks (“Mietskasernen“) in order to bring about an new beginning, aesthetically and concerning society.

The suggestiveness, the elaborate staging and the issues of the “the city of tomorrow“ – habitation, nature, health, transportation, family, land, among others, – are at the centre of interest. The idea to invite artists to participate in a concrete exchange with the location accommodates the complexity of proposed references. Many of the invited artists characterize their way of working as archaeological, archival, or interventionist. For them, it is about finding and collecting new interpretations and coherences of meaning stored within the inventories of knowledge. Such an artistic approach extends and displaces, on the one hand, an purely architectonic access. Yet, on the other hand, such artistic research challenges scientific approaches.

The Hansa district, therefore, stands not as a successful or unsuccessful, out-dated or unsurpassed housing project at one’s disposal. Rather, it stands as a monument in which knowledge, imagery, and, last but not least, dreams have been deposited, that first and foremost are waiting to be set free. Beyond musealisation the project will steer the attention to forgotten aspects of post-war modernity and its history of reception.

[*] die stadt von morgen. gegenwartsprobleme für alle, ed. by Karl Otto, Berlin 1959.