MA Urban Design Studio | Group 11 – Project 2 : Across
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Group 11 – Project 2 : Across

Done as part of our Masters program at the University of Sheffield, this project aims to understand and re-appropriate modernist housing within Berlin. Specifically, we looked at the quartier of Mehringplatz that is situated within Kreuzberg.

A week long site-visit and in-depth analysis of the area led us to some interesting observations. Socially, Mehringplatz finds itself isolated from it’s surroundings and the community lacks a sense of cohesiveness. We identified two important axes in the vicinity. One that connects Friedrichstrasse with the American Library through Mehringplatz and the other that connects the cultural centre with the museum park via a footbridge. At the point where the overhead railway line meets the waterfront, we found large amounts of left-over space. This area beneath these railway line shows potential for intervention. The fact that the path along the canal is interrupted at every crossroad adds significantly to its disuse.

70% of the residents of Mehringplatz are first or second generation immigrants. Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to significantly impact the region’s commercial activity. We went on to identify and analyse different types of backyards that had public, private or semi-private zones; and also looked into the several street typologies in the region. We then observed the movement of people, pedestrians and bicyclers, in Mehringplatz and along the footbridge between the cultural center and the museum park.

One of the significant disadvantages of Mehringplatz that we want to address is its huge scale. We hope to reduce this scale by changing its form from one that is (historically) car-centric to a more human scale. For achieving this, two methods have been adopted. Firstly, we are proposing a tree garden along one edge of the platz which will introduce a natural vertical element that will aid in this scale reduction.
Secondly, along the outer edge, small pocket spaces for communal activities is being proposed.  These spaces will serve as community gathering points for use by the residents and the several actors in the area that need a platform for their events and activities. Given Mehringplatz’s complex social dynamic, we believe that the actors in the neighbourhood have the best chance of creating long-term, sustainable change within the neighbourhood.

In addition to this, along the outer ring and underneath the buildings of Mehringplatz we hope to create a Turkish market that aims to bring the residents closer to their origins and culture while aiding with interaction within and community.  The market will also pull in users from surrounding neighbourhoods which will help in our second aim of enhancing the bond between the existing community and residents of these surrounding neighbourhoods.
The third step of our plan is to use the aforementioned (Next) underused spaces along the canal to create a continuous path that will connect the park with Mehringplatz and bring pedestrians and bicyclists that frequent the area into the region. This will help activate the waterfront and will infuse a plethora of new users into Mehringplatz. Influenced by the strong visual elements of ‘lines and lights’ throughout the region, the design proposes a strip of light along the canal that intends to provide a sense of security to the underexposed space beneath the train lines while also generating interest and creating a visual connection to Mehringplatz. Passages will be created under the bridges to aid in the seamless movement of people along the strip and decks overlooking the canal will create points of interest and pause points for users of the strip. Additionally, the existing path will be upgraded and activities will be introduced along the stretch. This will establish a connection to the new active and vibrant Mehringplatz. A mixture of quiet, semi-private spaces for the local residents along with public spaces abuzz with activity.

With regard to the execution of the project, we see it being phased in a series of steps spanning 10 years. Firstly, each of the individual interventions will be tested out using temporary structures and elements that put minimal financial pressure on the funding agencies. The phases will proceed step by step only upon the successful testing of each phase and will gradually move towards a more permanent intervention. Phases or elements of the design that do not respond well to the testing process will be looked into and re-considered. In conclusion through our design, we hope to reactivate Mehringplatz and facilitate lasting social change within the region.

This has been a project by Ilektra, Yihui, Shashank, Shuyan and Chenyang from the MAUD program at SSoA.

Shashank Achanthodi