The long runways and enormous open airfields of the defunct Tempelhof Airport are now a series of parks, ready for “spontaneous and unplanned” use by all Berliners. Bicyclists, rollerbladers, runners and skateboarders march along the asphalt strips still marked with lines for airplane traffic. Picnics, soccer, sunbathing and frisbee spot the vast grassy fields. It all feels so incredible. This weekend was the close of the exhibition The World Is Not Fair, which used Tempelhofer Park as a site for 15 pavilion installations by artists such as Harun Farocki and the duo Tamer Yiğit and Branka Prlić. The title of the exhibition is a reference to the tradition of the world’s fair and its updated version the contemporary art biennial.
One of the participating pavilions was Olafur Eliasson’s Institute for Spatial Experiments, which he runs as part of an ongoing education research project at Berlin University of the Arts (UdK). Here it operated out of a small existing building on the grounds of the airport. The building’s interior was slightly modified to host a series of lectures, readings and workshops related to forms of smelling, hearing and seeing⎯perceptions of space. A wood hexagonal, tiered seating form was designed and built for this activity. When we visited people were seated on it, reciting excerpts from texts by Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and William Carlos Williams as part of a “Spontaneous Book Workshop.”
I have been thinking a lot about this kind of tiered seating form. I like the informality it poses upon people who use it. They are asked to physically negotiate with one another in a micro space situation with knees, shoulders and feet naturally touching. Also, individuals and groups tend to feel comfortable sitting on these stepped forms when they not in “use” for whatever primary function they serve. We are considering using a tiered form in an upcoming project.