Author: Keely Dobranski

Narrative Landscapes of Berlin: Conversations between the Past and Future in Design

Studio: MArch Thesis

Advisor: Suzanne Harris-Brandts

Year: 2020-2021

Project Description

Across the globe, there are abandoned sites deemed no longer advantageous to societal needs. In Berlin, these locations surfaced due to Germany’s political, social, and economic issues in the twentieth century. Amidst several state-led efforts to revitalize such abandoned sites, this thesis explores the distinct opportunities that exist for Field Station Berlin, a United States National Security Agency surveillance zone constructed in West Berlin during the Cold War. Built atop Teufelsberg, the most prominent of Berlin’s Trümmerbergs, or artificial hills–a site with rich layers of complex, buried history—today the former field station serves as a venue for everything from community activities to artist installations and alternative sightseeing tours.

Given this site’s turbulent history, this thesis asks: how can design offer a unique means of site intervention capable of capturing the complexity of existing place meanings—done so while still supporting reactivation by contemporary society? This thesis first investigates several reclaimed sites across Berlin and creates a catalog of Counterpreservation that chronicles existing design approaches to their re-activation. It then focuses in specifically on the design potentials of Field Station Berlin/ Teufelsberg, putting forward a series of possible design interventions. Moving beyond an examination of this specific site, this thesis seeks to discover methods for reclaiming the memories of other Trümmerbergs and wastelands, or Brachen, of Berlin.