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Memory and Mending in the Palimpsest City

Part 2 Project 2014
Rob Peltzer Neal
University of Nottingham, UK

From a conceptual foundation in a Japanese material philosophy of mending, the thesis research evolves a critique of what constitutes a mend to the tangible and intangible elements of a city, namely Berlin. The archive, writing facility and performance program utilises an existing theatre which has stood devoid of function since 1935 when its Jewish owners and occupiers were surgically removed from the city. The proposal affords a legacy to the theatre to allow it to contribute towards a mend to the intangible memory of the city. The lack of palpable evidence of the thousands of Jewish restitution properties within the district of Mitte is addressed and forms the basis for the urban configuration. Extrapolation of typical urban figures of vast Banderwände (windowless fire walls), courtyards and city voids helps to define the massing and public realm between the three objects; the archive, the bookshop and the writing/recital theatre.

Using an architectural framework grounded in the concepts of overlapping transparencies, the relationship between new and old fabric is spatially interrogated and the existing theatre is reimagined as a recital hall for the recounting of Germany’s autobiographies. The writing and printing facilities for the encoding of this information into manuscripts are housed in the plinth structure which unifies the seemingly distinct above ground formal urban elements.

Individual details within the master plan play a role in contributing to a coherent and considered ‘mend’ to this identified break in the intangible memory of Berlin. The entrance sequence and primary staircase are modelled from concept to detail to ensure that they create a controlled and calculated narrative experience. The pivotal relationship between a building user and how they interact with the building fabric is curated through the considered tectonic. As identified, a building as an object can contribute to the overcoming of an urban fracture, as in the Chapel of Reconciliation, but a detail within such a building can entrench this mend and ensure it resonates on a human scale.

In this thesis the programmatic, urban and architectural strategies are engaged to fight amnesia in the collective unconscious of the city.

Rob Peltzer Neal


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