Spaces of Uncertainty

Kenny Cupers, Markus Miessen
Müller & Busmann, 2002

Public space in its traditional interpretations - its social and political ideals – is unable to follow the heartbeat of today’s rapidly changing city. Instead of adding strength to an ongoing rhetorical discourse of loss, this book proposes to resist a misleading nostalgia of homecoming by accepting the fragmentary nature of the public. It draws attention to the possibility of a more open concept of public space, acknowledging the existence of places beyond traditional definition.

Berlin as an urban landscape opens an unexpectedly contemporary view upon this agitated debate on public space. Burdened with the weight of history and in constant search for its identity, there is no other city than Berlin manifesting the instabilities of ideology in such a dramatic way. Berlin’s everyday environment, torn by Twentieth Century’s ideological superimpositions and waves of destruction, is left with enormous amounts of infill and fallow land. Beside the potentials of redevelopment strategies trying to bridge the architectural gaps, the city’s vacant plots offer the possibility of an immediate kinetic energy that celebrates the missing. Berlin is a vacant city in which residual space and public space lose their definitions.

As places alongside the architecture of institutionalised public space, the residual spaces in Berlin show their importance as a paradigm for the contemporary city. In order to broaden the understanding of the character of these places the term margin is introduced. In an analytical comparison one can understand how margins - while situated on the verges of public space - carry different meanings. As playgrounds for micro-political activities, permanent hiding-places or areas for temporary occupation, these spaces prove their own necessity. In opposition to the explicit nature of traditional public space, they introduce a more open spatial concept to the public. Shy and unassuming, the margin - as the space of uncertainty - shows its value in public life to the contemporary city.

© Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen

Berlin, urban theory, public space, leftover spaces