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Floating University Berlin

Svenja Binz

The architecture collective “Raumlabor” created a laboratory for new urban praxis on the former airfield Tempelhof in Berlin.

Since the beginning of January, the rainwater reservoir of the former airfield Tempelhof in Berlin has become a laboratory for new urban praxis. Designed by architectural collective “raumlaborberlin”, it is home to the “Floating University Berlin” for five months and creates a space for the collective production of knowledge.

In its generic structure made from wood and scaffolding, the Floating University Berlin offers a diverse program for all ages. An interdisciplinary team of students and scientists from more than 20 international universities as well as artists, architects, dancers, musicians, neighbors, and local experts field test new forms of community and mutual learning.

Improvised Oasis

Through an enchanted entrance, the visitor enters the grounds if the “Floating University Berlin”. A leafy stair tower build from scaffolding connects the parts of the common campus. The tower is to transform into a proliferous tomato forest of more than forty tomato varieties over the summer. From here, the visitor’s gaze wanders to the “Japanese Gazebo” that seemingly floats over the basin.



All pictures by Victoria Tomaschko.

Built in the 19thcentury, the rainwater collecting basin still works today. It collects heavy rains that fall on the roofs of the former airport buildings, the airfield and the neighboring Columbiadamm avenue. The water creates a urban oasis with a rich ecosystem while slowly and unfiltered draining into the Landwehrkanal – ready for the next rainfall.

A narrow boardwalk leads the daring visitor to another ensemble of experimental building structures. In a busy laboratory tower, a “performative filter system” collects rainwater which is than piped to the laboratory kitchen. A few meters on, a group of students can be seen cooling their feet in the water.  They moved their lecture to the Whirlpool Auditorium and are – fittingly – listening to a talk about the sustainable city.

A Lab For Alternative Urban Policy Models

What would those innovative ideas and learning approaches be without a place for discussion? The “Floating University Berlin” offers a refreshing change for dusty concepts of knowledge production. The “intra-urban offshore-lab” allows for collective thinking about the production of the city and for the design of alternative urban models: how can applied research be used to question our urban routines? How can we think about and change urban transformation processes?

Until September 15, 2018, the “Floating City Berlin” offers workshops, talks, seminaries, get-togethers, concerts, and performances to everyone interested.