Floating University Berlin: Natureculture Pedagogies, Natureculture Strategies
Floating University Berlin is a natureculture learning site created by over 50 artists, designers, architects, scientists, engineers, neighbours and kids. It is located in a polluted rainwater retention basin of the former Tempelhof Airport. It is simultaneously a working infrastructure of the city's water system and a home to wetland plants, birds, frogs, bats and foxes. The experimental educational campus was built with low-impact materials and includes various water filtration systems. Today it offers a broad range of cultural and educational programs around peoples' relationships with the city and the more-than-human world.
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment (hard investment)
As a representative of an organisation
Name of the organisation(s): Floating e.V. Association Type of organisation: Non-profit organisation First name of representative: Katherine Last name of representative: Ball Gender: Other Nationality: United States Function: Floating e.V. Association: Applications Working Group Coordinator Address (country of permanent residence for individuals or address of the organisation)<br/>Street and number: Floating e.V., Am Flutgraben 3 Town: Berlin Postal code: 12435 Country: Germany Direct Tel:+49 1523 6182013 E-mail:email@example.com Website:http://floating-berlin.org
Floating University is a natureculture learning site located in a polluted rainwater retention basin in urban Berlin. The rainwater basin receives the rainwater runoff from the former Tempelhof Airport and adjacent Columbia Damm Road, since the 1930s. After nearly 100 years, the airport has become a public park and its rainwater basin is inhabited by water plants, birds, frogs, bats and foxes who acutely feel the basin’s changing water levels. Floating University is an experimental educational campus. The Floating e.V. - 50+ artists, designers, architects, scientists, engineers - came together with neighbors, kids and visitors to construct an auditorium, multipurpose classrooms, workshop spaces, a kitchen, a greenhouse, and a bar. Since 2018, Floating University hosts cultural, educational and discursive programs at different levels, from academic to child education. In the first year alone, over 10,000 people came to visit and 25 universities from around Europe activated the campus for different learning experiments, workshops, lectures, discussions, dinners and film screenings, all under the broad theme of reimagining life in contemporary urban space and peoples’ relationship with the city and nature.
On a larger level, Floating University is a model project for public-civic partnerships in urban transformation, focussing on reshaping processes of city making. The unique perspective of floating comes from its site: technical infrastructure meets nature preservation meets human needs and desires meets urban investment dynamics. Floating University is a way to inhabit the question of urban transformation.
Floating University is a natureculture learning site located in a polluted rainwater retention basin in urban Berlin. The rainwater basin receives the rainwater runoff from the former Tempelhof Airport and adjacent Columbia Damm Road, since the 1930s. It is an important site related to climate change. After nearly 100 years of being an epicenter of CO2 emissions and toxic runoff associated with air travel, the airport has become a public park and its rainwater basin is inhabited by water plants, birds, frogs, bats and foxes who acutely feel the basin’s changing water levels. The goal of Floating University is to open this unique site, enabling people to connect with water, plants, animals, therefore strengthening human-environment relationships. Floating’s built structures include mostly reused materials and low-processed, biodegradable materials with small CO2 footprints, and a self-built water filtration system. Floating University Berlin re-envisions an urban water infrastructure that invokes public participation. At Floating University, experimental water systems are constructed at every possible avenue. Water cascades down the laboratory stairs and spirals through a series of biological filters. Then, the filtered water journeys to the University kitchen, bathroom, auditorium, and greenhouse. The filters are made out of plants, mushrooms, biofilms, sand, activated carbon, molluscs, and bacteria. They are located in a ‘spiral of bathtubs’, a ‘membrane filter’, and a ‘moving bed reactor’. Floating e.V's vision to transform the Tempelhof rainwater basin into an infiltration basin is a design for how to use nature-based solutions to filter the rainwater in the basin and make it possible to reuse to water local parks and graveyards affected by the drought and to infiltrate into the ground, rather than going unfiltered to pollute the Spree River like it has for the last 100 years. Any work done at Floating is paid fairly, per the Berlin LAFT arts payment standards.
The Floating e.V. Space Group is composed of members with diverse backgrounds who are catalysts for the visions of the association. The architecture on site is constantly evolving: being built, deconstructed, and rebuilt. In summer 2020, after a series of workshops that collected spatial desires from association members, a “space task force” worked towards translating these wishes, as well as maintaining the existing infrastructure of the basin. In its design, the space group tried to take all relationships within the basin into account – talking with association members, observing trees and polluted water levels, discussing with political actors as well as neighbours, kids, grown-ups or nesting birds. In 2018, the project began as a visionary inner city offshore-laboratory for collective, experimental learning, knowledge transfer and the formation of trans-disciplinary networks to challenge routines and habits of urban practices. The building process was collaborative. First planned at the offices of raumlabor architects Berlin. In spring 2018 the building process started and a team of building experts part of the raumlabor network as well as students and their teachers from Berlin, Europe and elsewhere collaborated on building the campus: learning spaces, workshops, an auditorium, a laboratory tower for experimental water filtration systems, a kitchen, a bar and of course the toilets. They created a space for exchanging knowledge within experimental, educational formats. A place where transdisciplinary research teams and various positions came together to grapple the complex questions of urban practices. For futher information about the design: Spatial Experiments 2018 (https://floating-berlin.org/site/spatial-experiments/2018-2/) Spatial Experiments 2019/20 (https://floating-berlin.org/site/spatial-experiments/2019-2/), Spatial Experiments 2020/2021 (https://floating-berlin.org/site/spatial-experiments/2020-2/).
Entering: the site is wheelchair accessible, as well as most spaces on the site, including toilets and bar.
Listening: our events are in German and English. We will announce the language of the events online. If you have questions, please contact us. Sometimes “Denglish” is used. Members of the Floating association also converse in Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch, Polish, Estonian and Hebrew. Unfortunately we do not have facilities to support people with hearing-impairments. We aim to correct this in the future. However, the site is a natural biotope that engages all the senses. There are things to see and do here even if you are not attending our events. Participating: entry to our events is free. Floating University is open to everybody during opening hours, even if you just want to stroll around. Gendering: Our toilets are gender neutral. Please use the pink water containers to flush. Safer space: a safer space is intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations for marginalised people. People who are marginalised need their own spaces in which they can be free from the marginalisation that permeates every other societal space that we occupy, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Oppressed people need spaces where they can be free from the stereotypic gaze – where they can simply and authentically be and express themselves. We kindly ask that visitors to the Floating to respect the boundaries set by us or by a specific group if they see the safer space sign. Be our teacher: For those we didn’t know of yet and want to host a learning format themselves, please contact the program team. Our topics range from situated urban practice, climate challenges, ethics of care, environmental humanities, ecology to visions for better cities. Our site is especially suitable for kids, and we hold many events for children.
The Neighbourhood Network has existed since 2018 exploring the immediate social environment in and within the water retention basin in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The office is constantly working towards the building of a network of Berlin based groups and initiatives that are interested in being active at the Floating University. The office offers two moments throughout the year to connect and network with the neighbourhood: Sprechstunde “open-for-all” – a rubber boots tour followed up by an hour of conversation – and the Seasonal Weekends an invitation to experience the seasonal diversity on site. This non-natural-natural site is diverse, complex and evocative, and acting as its custodians brings many questions the festival hope to address: How do we hold space and sites for the complexity of our moment? How do we seek, create, and implement planetary alliances on a locally complex site?
Programmes at Floating are conceptualised, curated and organised by association members, sometimes in groups and sometimes independently. We nurture artistic freedom by following shared ethics and values. "Floating Kids Uni" is the programme for young explorers in the rainwater retention basin of Tempelhofer Feld. Kids Uni is a practical, ambitious and crazy laboratory, which is stubborn, playful, deep, forgetful, improvised, concentrated, serious and light-footed at the same time, and which has made it its task to enable children to do, research, enable and reflect on the city, art and space. "Climate Care" is a 10-day-festival engaged with theory and practice at the intersection of climate challenges, ethics of care and environmental humanities. Emerging from weathering the conditions of its site, the program is a result of in-depth cohabitation with the constructed water infrastructure, its human culture and its multispecies overlays. "(Re-)Gaining Ecological Futures " is a week-long series of affective encounters and collective engagements.
floating combines pysical design on location with teh programming and running of the campus. We understand both levels as substantial part of the design, opening several perspectives on the inhabitation of the nature - culture sphere. floating has sucessfully established an international network including institutions as well as indviduals from many disciplines.
As described unter "innovation" floating initiated a civic-public partnership to co-design the future of the site including representatives of the senate depratment of urban development - as the owner, Tempelhof Projekt - the state owned private company - as the ones responsible for the site - where floating brings the civic society into the conversation.
In spring 2018 the space and network building process started as an artist / architect initative and a team of building experts part of the raumlabor network as well as students and their teachers from Berlin, Europe and elsewhere collaborated on making the campus. floatings "learnscapes" group is nurturing a "community of pratice" between educational and learning practitioners of many institutions including TU Berlin, Science Po Paris, UdK Berlin, Universität Witten Herdecke, Khm Köln, ETSAM Madrid, Pratt NY, Columbia University NY, TU München, Universidad La Gran Colombia Bogotá, Bergen School of Architecture, HfG Karlsruhe, ENSA Nantes, UAL - Central Saint Martins London, Design Academy Eindhoven, Kunsthochschule Weissensee, Royal Academy the Hague, TH Nürnberg, Ecal Lausanne, HNE Eberswalde, HfbK Hamburg, Kunstuniversität Linz, KTH Stockholm, and more. This international network is bringing a wealth of knowledges into floating, accessible for academics and non-academics alike! The unique open space quality of floating allows the acadeimc programs to cross-pollinate with other ongoing activities.
The Floating e.V. Association is 50+ artists, designers, architects, scientists, engineers who come together with neighbors, kids and visitors to construct the experimental university campus Floating e.V. and keeps open, maintains, and takes care of this unique site while bringing non-disciplinary, radical, and collaborative programmes to the public. We create, host, co-produce, support a multitude of programs and welcome activities organised by others. The Floating University campus includes an auditorium, multipurpose classrooms, workshop spaces, a kitchen, a greenhouse, and a bar. In Floating's first year alone, over 10,000 people came to visit and 25 universities from around Europe activated the campus for different learning experiments, workshops, lectures, discussions, dinners and film screenings, all under the broad theme of reimagining life in contemporary urban space and peoples’ relationship with the city and nature.
We aim at not categorising our activities by diciplines. Openness to trans disciplinary coross polination is a founding principle. The architecture of floating university is designed by our associations space group, bringing together architects with other people interested in spacial practice. Space group runs a reflection process with other working groups and monitors the site's use and performance for alterations and improvements according to interests and needs. The more-than-human perspective is an important factor in this, as the large open-air-site includes a patch of wild reeds, important breedings grounds for animals and amphibiae.
Spatial building actions are opened by open calls to anyone interested to join. Artistic and scientific programs coexist with neighborhood programs and the open-door policy, allowing visibility and acessibility of all ongoing activities on low threshold levels. One of teh brauties of floating is the element of suproise and productive collision between the manyfold activities and programs.
Floating inabits a piece of urban infrastructure and adds a layer of civic and programmatic hybrid use, opening a conversation about the urban transformation directive of the site and beyond the place about the city as such. The close engangement with nature-culture perspectivves allows a cross examination of the athropocentric view on the limited planetary system. The deep liks between local actions and lobal implictions as discussed as climate crises are ways to look for meaningful actions and relations in the disempowering scale of the crisis.
Opening the site for civic programming, building and actions is a new aproch to urban design, espacially acted out on the time scale of years, where the self organisation matued from artist / architect initiative to full civic self organisation, maintenance and care. This action on the ground is gathering omportant knowledges to be fed into the long term transfromation process. A collaborative platform between public and civic stakeholders is being established to co-design the future transformation. Permanent negotiations are adressing conflicting interests, allowing to re.adjust the roles in the planning process as such.
While planning aims at anticipting future problems and avoiding them, local action deals with the questions as the arise and a re adressed in a tactical way - often using efficiennt and low impact strategies.
This planning innovation is made possible and substantially supported by th amany activites of the ongoing use and programming of the floating, Programmes at Floating are conceptualised, curated and organised by association members, sometimes in groups and sometimes independently. We nurture artistic freedom by following shared ethics and values.
"Learnscapes" is how we describe a floating landscape of knowledge production, of knowing and being and processes of un-, re-, and co-learning, of working and thinking collectively within the site. Floating University offers a broad range of public learning programs in the shape of lecture series, seminars or workshops. The Floating Learnscapes programme extends these ongoings through two extra academic perspectives: the Free Radicals support system and the Academic Beach resort. "Silent Conversation" is a methodology aimed at manifesting terminological thinking. A public process which does not only describe elements of practice, but also embodies the values of the project – the Silent Conversation methodology facilitates horizontal, experimental, inclusive writing, thinking and ideation. Since 2018, the methodology has evolved and been adapted by different practitioners to fit critical explorations in several university and workshop settings. Through these developments, Silent Conversation has become a broad, easily applicable artistic methodology for thinking together, for becoming otherwise, for group-instituting. "Water Filtration and Infiltration" is the term used for how Floating University Berlin re-envisions an urban water infrastructure that invokes public participation. At Floating University, experimental water systems are constructed at every possible avenue. Water cascades down the laboratory stairs and spirals through a series of biological filters. Then, the filtered water journeys to the University kitchen, bathroom, auditorium, and greenhouse. The filters are made out of plants, mushrooms, biofilms, sand, activated carbon, molluscs, and bacteria. They are located in a ‘spiral of bathtubs’, a ‘membrane filter’, and a ‘moving bed reactor’. How will life change as our relationship to water transforms and we shift from being consumers of water to stewards of water?
Floating e.V. is a self organized space and group, where practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds meet to collaborate, co-create and imaginatively work towards futures. It is in solidarity with the history of the site and with the lineage of alternative narratives for urban development that the Floating e.V. situates its mission: to open, maintain, and take care of this unique site while bringing non-disciplinary, radical, and collaborative programs to the public. In other words, it is a place to learn to engage, to embrace the complexity and navigate the entanglements of the world, to imagine and create different forms of living. Floating e.V. is organized in working groups that work on specific tasks and topics driven by interest and desires – or what we also like to call Fields of Knowledge and Action: from maintaining and developing the site to gardening, cultivating collaborations and taking care of neighborhood connections. We host, co-produce, support and welcome activities organised by others. Programmes at Floating are conceptualised, curated and organised by association members, sometimes in groups and sometimes independently. We nurture artistic freedom by following shared ethics and values. Guidelines for cooperations: Activities should be in tune with the Floating University spirit and values – a place to learn to engage, to embrace the complexity and navigate the entanglements of the world, to imagine and create different forms of living. It should not be just rented as an event venue, a wedding hall, a backdrop scenario or for solely commercial purposes. Activities bring in content but also expand the network. We are interested in the production of knowledge and in forming long-lasting bonds with people and organisations. Activities should respect the nature of the site: a fragile eco- system where diverse species co-exist. In the basin you can find anything from foxes to bees, ducks, algae and sometimes humans.
One local solution Floating e.V. Association is working on related to the global challenges around water is a vision to transform the Tempelhof rainwater basin into an infiltration basin as a natureculture learning site in Berlin. Using nature based-solutions, the Tempelhof rainwater retention basin could be transformed into an infiltration basin. This design and water quality assessment was created by Floating e.V. Association, which organizes natureculture and educational programing in the rainwater basin since 2018, in collaboration with Polyplan Kreikenbaum GmbH, the premier environmental engineering firm in Germany specializing in lake restoration and natural swimming pools. We conducted an analysis of the rainwater basin to understand how polluted its water, sediment, reeds, and concrete are. We created a design for the transformation of the rainwater basin which: 1. filters the water in the basin, 2. improves the water quality and wetland habitat for the species that live in the basin, 3. creates a natural swimming pool for people to swim in, 4. makes stormwater reuse possible for neighborhood and city needs, and 5. infiltrates the water into the ground. This would not only improve water habitat and resources in Berlin, it would also save the city over 500.000€ a year, which is currently paid to the Berliner Wasserbetriebe water utility to put the unfiltered, polluted water into the canal system, which drains to the Spree River. In the future, this redesign would transform the polluted basin water into water that you could swim in. The water would be filtered, reused for irrigation in the neighborhood, parks, and graveyards, and infiltrate into the ground in the basin. The existing outflow tunnel would only be used in high rain events, on average once every 10 years. The vision is to move forward with this design – and – the programs of Floating University would both participate in the process and occur in parallel.
In Floating's inaugural year 2018, over 10,000 people visited and participated in Floating's programs. Since then Floating has collaboratively constructed two different iterations of its campus and continued to run programs that help people explore their relationship with the city and their relationship with nature in the city. Now in 2022, Floating is midway through a two-year program called "Natureculture Pedagogies, Natureculture Strategies" that brings nature and culture together while promoting slow and steady learning processes that stabilize cooperation and methods. With success in its first year due to many overlaps in the program and among participants, the reach was increased and the internal production structure of the association was further developed. Now in the second year it acknowledges learning processes are not linear, but build on iteration and repetition and are nourished by experimentation and curiosity. In 2023 Natureculture Pedagogies, Natureculture Strategies flows into a research series that layers commoning among the series's programs: Climate Care, the Open Soil Days and the academic cooperation in the Learnscapes program continues. (Re-)Gaining Ecological Futures creates a festival on mycopoetics. The Floating Kidsuni shares its specific approaches and methods within the respective program points and continues the cooperation with educational actors with the learning laboratories. The Office for Neighborhood Networks integrates local initiatives and neighbors into the Natureculture Strategies. Contaminations makes a climate movement program with embodied practices of breakdance, acrobatics, and parkour. In addition, the thematic framework is enhanced by new research on toxic commonsand hybrid infrastructures. This multifaceted work will enable Floating e.V. to fulfill its mission to open, preserve and nurture this unique place while offering non-disciplinary, radical and collaborative programs to the public.
Technology is part of the answers to our environmental challenges, what else is missing is our relationship to the earth and the many species we share it with. Floating University's site and programs are a place and space for people to develop deeper relationships with each other and the more-than-human world.