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Into the Blue – A networking event in the Mero Hall

Exchange, discussion and a Sunday morning walk.

Leonie Hartung
Into the Blue – A networking event in the Mero Hall

Exchange, discussion and a Sunday morning walk.: On this mild Sunday morning in July, the spatial installation Blaue Stunde ( the blue hour), by the artist and architecture collective modulorbeat composed of Jan Kampshoff and Marc Grünnewig, is transformed into an open-air gathering spot in Spreepark, where visitors can let their thoughts wander over their morning coffee and collectively reflect on the transformation and future of Spreepark.

The networking event is open to all and moderated by Katja Aßmann, artistic director of Spreepark Art Space, alongside Jan Kampshoff from modulorbeat. Both of them recount the installation Blaue Stunde and the transformed Spreepark with its interwoven narratives and superimpositions.

Two tours of the Spreepark are planned in the morning, allowing for spontaneous interludes before, during and after the walk, entirely in keeping with the spirit of the park. The invited guests express a great deal of curiosity - many here for the first time, some of them don't know each other. While enjoying their first coffee, they quickly strike up a conversation, as the sun casts delicate shadows onto the original floor tiles of the former restaurant that was once housed within this blue supporting structure.

Given that the building rights for the Spreepark site have not yet been issued, the only measures taken to restore the Mero framework were safety precautions, including painting the steel poles gentian blue to protect them against corrosion. As the wind blows, the newly installed curtains, which also glow blue in the sun, gently sway back and forth along their rails. The fabric in question is common in the agricultural sector and lends the site a somewhat makeshift air. Moths have taken shelter in the dense fabric and potter wasps have since laid their eggs - one of the many testaments to the park's tight entanglement of humane and non-humane actors.

The former floor of the restaurant was left just as the architecture collective found it, explains Jan Kampshoff. " This is where the toilets were, which you can still see outlined on the floor, there's the kitchen over there, the raised sections are where the equipment for the industrial kitchen used to be. After uncovering the roof and fragments of the façade, it was clear to us that we wanted to explore these traces and work with them.

Various plants and shrubs now flourish in those places where the floor was open. As a tree nursery, these plants provide insight into the Spreepark's future vegetation plan - climate-sensitive and compatible with the native species.

Through the grooves of the tiles, assorted "weeds" sprout from the ground, destined by the artist to continue growing undisturbed for the time being. Cultivated and wild side by side, a theme that echoes the program  throughout the Spreepark. this is also the program in the rest of Spreepark, where 12 of the 23 hectares in total are designated biotopes; in other words, left alone by the human species. The elongated plant beds, in conjunction with the curtains, act as flexible space dividers, explains Kampshoff, that can be utilized for various events within the installation, along with the benches, which are also blue in color.

„We always said that this is no longer architecture but a park that exists within an architectural framework and behaves accordingly - there's no center, it's open, you can sit on the bench with a group of people and feel comfortable; but it can also be quite tight. In the spirit of artistic research, this is actually a trial and error, a sounding out of what this space can be long-term. taking advantage of the fact that there are, momentarily, no functional constraints in terms of whats needs to be accommodated. Instead you can engage fully with what the space has to offer."

Jan Kampshoff

Before everyone sets off on the first walk, the talks revolve at first around the transformation of the existing structure. Jan Kampshoff shares thoughts on the unique "archaeology of the place," the experimental approach in dealing with the building scraps, and the art of being able to tolerate the ambiguity in the planning. The result is a venue which has a stimulating effect on people.

In this context, Saskia Hebert and Matthias Lohmann from the architecture and urban research studio subsolar* describe the trilogy THE PRESENT SAVES THE WORLD by the Neukölln Opera. The last part, Fountain of Joy, had taken place a few weeks earlier at the opening of the Blaue Stunde. The vocal ensemble rehearsed at the venue a week prior, actively engaging with the open nature of the space and its greenery. During the performance, the audience* was asked to lie down on the floor, still warm from the last rays of sunlight, and gaze at the sky through the blue rods, serenaded by the singing of the nightingales at dusk.

Saskia Hebert taught transformation design at the HBK in Braunschweig for five years, in parallel to her office job, giving lectures on sustainable urban development; around the question of what constitutes a sustainable society and the role that design, art and culture play in this. During the conversation, the topic of how people actually learn is addressed - sites of spatial experience in particular play a significant role in fostering sustainable self-empowerment and a "positive anticipation of a self-transformed future."

"What qualities does a place need to trigger admiration, perhaps even enthusiasm or initially alienation? What does it take for an understanding that such a place can function on its own?"

Saskia Habert

At this point, architecture comes into play once again: the lengthy search for the smallest intervention in order to achieve the greatest impact seems decisive in establishing a purposeful setting. A single color can transform an entire place as consciously designed and bind it cohesively as a whole.

After this initial exchange of ideas, the guided tour begins. Led by Katja Aßmann, the walk first passes the Ferris wheel. Its dismantling was carried out in February 2021, out of consideration for the kestrel's nesting season. The ecological advisory board is consulted before every step in the construction of the Spreepark. The Ferris wheel is the only ride that will be rebuilt. Designed in collaboration between the engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann Partner and realities:united, it will stand above the new water basin, which will serve as a future stormwater retention basin.

The tour continues. Past the designated biotope areas, the Spreeblitz and Monte Carlo Drive. A short break is taken near a cluster of large poplars along the path. There, artist Christian Orendt tells us about the artwork TOWARDS HUMANITY! that the artist duo Böhler & Orendt will install here as one of five permanent works to be completed. The poplars will be fitted with humanized masks.

As people approach, they will start commenting on their environment. "You can hear them chatting, and see their animated faces. There are seven trees standing there and they're talking about the people standing in front of them. Along with the park's various humane actors, the trees and plant life make up one of the park's largest, albeit silent, interest groups", Orendt said. Envious trees that people admire for seemingly trivial characteristics will become an integral part of the park's future. In an ironic and critical commentary, they will repeatedly draw attention to the fact that there is in fact no justification for simply ignoring non-human interest groups with their needs.

Katja Aßmann leads the group further, past the swan coaster, whose waters are home to the rare stiff-bristled stonewort alga, a Red List species that is being protected in the park. She speaks of the future plans for a rooftop terrace and redesign of the pavilion by artist Sol Calero.

"In my opinion, the underlying layers of this park are what make it so special; the stories you can find here, interwoven over time. The guiding principle for the future Spreepark is to preserve as much as possible of what already exists as material and immaterial resources. Artists and their work should be integrated as much of the process as possible to promote interdisciplinarity. It requires space for communication."

Katja Aßmann

Finally, the walk leads past the water basin, the former and future site of the ferris wheel, to the English Village with its far-reaching history as a performance venue. Here, a new performance venue is being built, designed by Winkelmüller Architekten, which will take on the shape of the former circus tent once located here. Slowly, we head back towards the Blue Hour, where a few newly arrived guests mingle among the group. Some people stop to grab a coffee, others spread out on the benches under the blue shining structure, whose restoration was initially planned to be temporary – initial ideas are now emerging as to how the site can be converted from a temporary to a permanent one while retaining its intrinsic quality.

So what's next for the Mero Hall and Spreepark? " Since I see this as a recreational area and know that children like to come here, I would like to see this place remain open to the public," says Ute Frank from the architectural firm augustinundfrank/winkler. She has cycled around the park time and again over the past twenty years or so, and has witnessed all its metamorphoses from the outside through the fence.

"In this regard, Berlin is very fortunate with its history of horticulture. There are examples set by great urban planners such as Peter Joseph Lenné, who laid out the Landwehr Canal. That was an urban planning project where functional considerations were reconciled with the idea of a green city, an urban landscape. With that in mind, you should always seek to pursue the essence of that idea."

Ute Frank

And so it remains a constant negotiation between the park's many stakeholders and the layers of time. Between public access and biotope cartography, between the "archaeology of the place" and its restoration - between brachial algae, talking trees and a shared outlook on a self-modified future. At this very intersection, the reinterpretation and transformation of the Spreepark unfolds, as a park within a park and as a challenge to change the common perspective and to elaborate on the potential of what already exists.