Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

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Datum | 12.03.2018, 19.00 h
Ort | Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Augasse 2–6, 1090 Wien, Forum, 1.17A

IKA Lecture Series Winter Term 2017|18
The City’s Future Natural History organized by Sandra Bartoli | Endowed Professorship for Visionary Forms of Cities


© Sandra Bartoli


When does a human-constructed place go beyond the human, and how necessary is this transgression? To look at the built environment from the perspective of natural history allows one to explore the city as a system and construct of the natural and human together; furthermore it introduces the notion of the city (of tomorrow) as a producer of resources, and not as the machine of consumption we are used to assuming. In the logic consequence of the Anthropocene (the epoch of ecological collapse and mass extinction we currently live in), once the alleged antagonism between city and nature is dissolved, the urgency arises for models of constructed environments that conceive of human and more than-human creatures as equal and mutually dependent.

This series is composed of five lectures in 2017|18:

Lecture_1: 30.10. | Tiergarten, Landscape of Transgression

1 © Tiergarten, Rhododendron Grove, Photograph by Sandra Bartoli (2015) 

Tiergarten, 210 hectares of forest in the middle of Berlin and the oldest park in the city, is a place where many aspects of ecology, urbanism, heritage, daily culture, and politics are simultaneously present but also visibly transgressed. Over time, Tiergarten has become an island of anomalies that can be read as the radical expression of what is most urban and public in the city. Among many aspects about Tiergarten is that here, human history and natural history are constructed together to shape a model for future environments in an everexpanding sea of urbanization. Here, Tiergarten’s transgression can become a key to shift established ways of talking about the city.

Lecture_2: 13.11. | Sun, Shit, Compost, and Air

2 © Sandra Bartoli 

This lecture takes as a starting point the work of the German landscape architect Leberecht Migge (1881–1935). Migge was one of the first to consider the house garden as a core element in the planning of the city as a large system of recycling. Reflecting upon Migge’s ideas, the lecture will continue by touching on different examples and thought-models that span the centuries and continue to the contemporary moment.
In the context of Germany, the present discussion about “sustainable” city planning is strictly focused on topics of energy provision and the reduction of its consumption, of mobility (city bikes, public transport), and of process optimization (the smart city, big data). But what is missing is a general understanding of the life cycles of the city, which also include animals, plants, and bacteria. An understanding of this would reframe the city as a construct that produces energy and resources, instead of a mere machine of consumption. Here, the “classic” dualisms of city and countryside, human culture and nature, human history and natural history, are exchanged with the notion of the city as a living place for all species together.

Lecture_3: 27.11. | Worlds of Animals and Humans

3 © Sandra Bartoli 

That Tiergarten in Berlin stands by its own rules is not a surprise. Not only does both its considerable size and critical mass affect the entire climate of the city, but its many histories make it ‟incommensurable.” The scale of biomass and density of use and vegetation provoke a significant level of autonomy and self-determination that is mysteriously intrinsic to this environment. By “dissolving” the alleged antagonism between city and nature, and, in the logical consequence of the Anthropocene, by “conceiving” of human and non-human creatures equal and mutually dependent, Tiergarten seems also to relinquish a human overdetermination: a post-human condition that is haunting. The lecture will probe through thought-models, artifacts, and texts that inspire a post-human view of the city.

Lecture_4: 11.12. | The City's Ecology: Dirt and the Garbage Tree

4 © Sandra Bartoli, Nain 2016 

Instead of the assumption we are used to of the city as a mere machine of consumption, a closer understanding of the life cycles sustained—which also include animals, plants, and bacteria—should reframe the city as a construct that also produces energy and resources.

This lecture invites us for a mental walk in the wild, the urban, the natural, and through the resource systems of the city. It links together Persian water systems, mangrove habitats, fish farms, and the making of earth and air, along with the way alpine forests, meandering rivers, and lagoons can become “role models” for the construction of habitats where life-forms exist in mutual support. The lecture touches upon models and examples that, borrowing Irénée Scalbert’s words, “offer an account of the city in which the human and the non human and the social sphere are created together and are mutually dependent.”

Lecture_5: 15.01. | The City's Natural History

5 Foto © Kulturforum, Foto: Sandra Bartoli 

There is something inevitable and obvious in the powerful quality of a map to produce a new system of meanings for a city. Rather than being a mere abstraction of reality, such a map channels one’s perception, ultimately changing the physical reality of the environment. On the other hand, there is an exciting sense of captivation and a feeling of deep estrangement in seeing ancient traces of the future in random daily encounters with the city: urban fragments of plans from another time and reminders of potential trajectories still in progress. Maps and urban artifacts and spaces are all scripts of reality that work from different dimensions, in an ambiguity that is open-ended and freeing.

This fifth lecture will talk about maps and encounters that recount a specific story of the city and a city to come. This ranges from the biotope map of West Berlin and its tremendous ecological fieldwork, and glowing oases of concrete and destruction, to transgressive models leading to the construction of the most urban, public, and natural places for all species.

Sandra Bartoli is a cofounder, with Silvan Linden, of the Büros für Konstruktivismus in Berlin. As a practice of architecture and research, an attention for high resolution and raw context, both found and constructed, is exercised. An example is the ongoing publishing series Architektur in Gebrauch (Architecture in use), started by the office in 2014, in which “use” is explored as an aesthetic category that informs the development and transformation of space and the city.

Bartoli’s research focuses on sites of the entanglement of nature and city, such as the Tiergarten in Berlin, a transgressive example of place which leads to new definitions and models of what is “urban” under the challenge of the Anthropocene. Her book Tiergarten: Landscape of Transgression, co-edited with Jörg Stollmann after the international symposium of the same title, also conceived and organized by Bartoli at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in 2015, will be released at the end of 2017 with Park Books.

In 2017, Bartoli with Marco Clausen, Silvan Linden, Åsa Sonjasdotter and Florian Wüst were granted funding from the ngbk, Berlin for the research and exhibition project Archaeologies of Sustainability—Leberecht Migge and the Sun-Island, which will be realized in 2019. Bartoli is the author of the book Tiergarten (60 pages, 2014) and co-author of the book La Zona – Index (ngbk, 2012), published after the same-titled cocurated exhibition at the ngbk in 2012. She is the copublisher of Die Planung / A Terv (2007), a magazine dated in the future (funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Secretariat for Future Studies, Bonn).

From 2015 to 2017 she was Visiting Professor at the Master’s Program of Architecture & Urban Studies at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nuremberg and from 2009 to 2015, she was Research Associate at the Department of Urban Design at the Technical University of Berlin.