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Project: Catalysts for the Production of Public Space
Summer Studio, California College of the Arts, Architecture Division
Date: Summer 2016
Instructors: Antje Steinmuller & Chris Falliers

This interdisciplinary summer travel studio examined the specific role of architects as participants in the production of urban commons. Via an intervention in an urban garden-cum-refugee school in Berlin, the studio examined an integrated set of actions and forces that enable short-term design projects in urban commons to act as catalysts that set in motion longer-term processes for improvement around the commons’ needs.

Berlin Mechanisms unpacked and directly engaged the influences, actors, and sites of public space production through research, on-site observation and active participation.  Operating in a city that spawned and holds exemplary historical and contemporary innovations in the formation of public space, the studio focused on the formative mechanisms behind their production.  These artifacts were explored in terms of the their spatial characteristics (‘hardware’) in dialogue with three areas of influence; the uses and users that initiate or act on a place form a reciprocal loop in a site’s evolution (‘software’); the underlying organizational structures and decision-makers influencing a project giving insight to where design and art advocacy play important roles (‘orgware’); and finally, the influences of branding and media on forming, perpetuating, and/or projecting public sites, revealing the power and generative use of cultural imagery (‘brandware’).

Students engaged directly in the activation mechanisms of an ongoing educational urban commons project known as “Die Gaertnerei”. Unfolding on unused green space in Berlin’s trendy Neukoelln district, Die Gaertnerei is collaboration between the architecture collective and the educational non-profit organization Schlesische 27. The result is an ‘urban gardening school’ that brings together refugees, volunteers, and local residents over planting, cooking, and classes on landscaping, language and the navigation of German bureaucracy - all of it taking place in a jointly-produced environment that understands itself as both art installation and urban respite. CCA students became part of a team that planned and built additions to the site for their many summer events. Proposing a mobile kiosk as a way of connecting these emerging urban commons to the larger neighborhood, combined with a  proposal for the economic health of the space in the form of a business plan, and a branding strategy, the studio’s output provided a catalyst for the short- and long-term evolution of the project.

Credits: Di An, Maria Chercoles, Sarah Herlugson, Loretta Li, Lindsay McComb, Mrnalini Mills-Raghavan, Shirin Monshipouri, Shunta Moriuchi, Betty Nip, David Roselle, Shar Shahfari, Timothy Suprapto, Jigao Wu, Xinyi Chen, Jing Yuan Meng, Quinn Hammond, Gloria Kiiza, Eva Lai