The rainwater basin at Lilienthalstraße 32 in Berlin-Kreuzberg that will host the Floating University is an essential infrastructure of the city from the 19th century, which is still in use today. During heavy rainfalls the water from the airfield building as well as the contaminated water from Columbiadamm accumulates in the basin, before it is slowly induced into the Landwehrkanal. When it is holding a lot of water the basin turns into an inner city oasis, home to various animals and plants and a hideout from metropolitans.
During its existence of about a century the neighborhoods around Tempelhof airport have grown into a special urban mixture and fabric consisting of cemeteries, sports fields and allotment gardens. The transformation of the airfield into a public park, without noise or kerosine pollution, and the appropriation by the berlin citizens, changed the urban situation completely, with a strong effect on the adjacent neighborhoods. On one hand real estate prices are rising by the fastest rate in Berlin, on the other hand unexpected potentials open up for the civil society.
Development plans for building on the field were soon identified as the best way to draw profit from the potential of the vast open space. This led the civil society to fight and protest against the ‚sell- out‘ of the city.
After a successful referendum in 2014 the Tempelhofgesetz forced all construction plans to be frozen. Since then a lot of effort is made on developing new modalities for the use, the administration and maintenance of the site. This is a new modus of operation for open public spaces in Berlin.
What for some – for example the governing mayor of berlin – seems to be a stagnancy in city development, others see as the defendants of one of the biggest open public spaces in Berlin. With the floating university we are searching for ways to use spaces like Tempelhof airfield to establish open space laboratories for an urban practice that is questioning local and global crisis.
The Floating University campus spreads across the whole basin – on a variety of platforms. A multi-story construction, the “Urban Forest”, originally designed by the Japanese architecture studio atelier bow WOW for the exhibition “ Wohnungsfrage” at ‘Haus der Kulturen der Welt’, is one of the campus – satellites, made of wood and scaffolding structures. Runways over the water connect to other satellites – classrooms, workshops, toilets, the kitchen, the auditorium, the bar and the laboratory tower – spread like a space station in orbit.
In the center of the space station rises the laboratory tower with a water filtration system laid out on multiple levels. Throughout the whole semester of Floating University this will be the research and experimentation hub for possible water filtration strategies for rain and greywater.
A gigantic water wheel next to the tower keeps the water circulating, flowing through plant filters, biofilm filters, mushroom filters, sand filters, Mantra-singing filters, gemstone and swirl-filters, along with spiritual guidance and critical dialog. It flows right to the various points for extraction and usage – toilet flush, baptizing, sanctification, cleaning, as defendant fluid and irrigation for our tomato greenhouse.
Around a mobile floating stage the auditorium is set up and forms the center for discussions and works as the interface for research results. The adjacent bar also functions as the documentation headquarters and knowledge transfer intersection. The bar is setup and run by students of the Department for Visual Communication of the Kunsthochschule Weissensee.
The kitchen is conceived as a place for exchange and informal knowledge production, developed and facilitated by architecture students of the UdK Berlin and supported by the Zukunftslabor bauhaus+.