In 2018, Floating
University Berlin was initiated by raumlabor as a temporary inner-city laboratory for collective, experiential learning and transdisciplinary exchange. The site was designed in the early 1930s as a rainwater retention basin to serve the Tempelhof airfield and adjacent avenues, and it remains today as a fully functioning infrastructure. Having being closed off to the public for over 60 years, a diverse range of animals, plants and algae have taken root and given birth to a unique landscape: a man-made environment reclaimed by nature where polluted water coexists with the relatively new presence of this pedagogical experiment, forming a natureculture or a third landscape.
After the Tempelhof airport closed down in 2008, the city’s redevelopment plan proposed to relocate the basin as a pond positioned within 300 hectares of parkland, surrounded by new development. However, in the Tempelhof referendum of 2014, Berliners voted against the city plans and prevented any kind of construction on the airfield. The result of this referendum not only protected the unique inner-city green space, but also provided protection for the basin.
The founding year of the Floating
University saw a diverse breadth of visitors involved to varying degrees with the activity on site, creating a unique ecosystem. The program consolidated a network of practitioners, who towards the end of 2018 decided to continue the experiment by transitioning from a ‘temporary’ project into an association: Floating e.V.
It is in solidarity with the history of the place and with the lineage of alternative narratives for urban development that the Floating e.V. situates its mission: to open, maintain, and take care of this unique site while bringing non-disciplinary, radical, and collaborative programs to the public. In other words, it is a place to learn to engage, to embrace the complexity and navigate the entanglements of the world, to imagine and create different forms of living.
Essays about the project from our recent publication:
Some Questions Around the Floating University by Joanne Pouzenc
Voilà, it’s not floating and it’s not a university! – A conversation between members of a non-institution, edited by Gilly Karjevsky