Roundup: Hybrid Futures with speculations by Helgard Haug, Jan Kampshoff and Moritz Ahlert

It’s week 10 of the partial shutdown due to COVID-19. The pandemic continues to shape event-culture, so last week, we moved from the real world to streamland and invited our audience to accompany us from home virtually with the support of Alex Berlin. For our second edition of Hybrid Futures. The Arts and Sciences – past, present and future, we looked at the future of the city. See video below.

The evening stated with a welcoming of the audience by the director of the Futurium Dr. Stefan Brandt and Ewelina Dobrzalski, coordinator of the Hybrid Plattform. Moderator Yvonne Zindel gave an overview of the evening and started with an introduction round of the three panel guest, working in architecture, urbanism, and theater.

Architect Jan Kampshoff proposed to look on architecture as an open discourse and a medium to engage in discussions about the city. For him the label ‚architecture’ seems to be too narrow and he emphasized the importance of contemporary construction—a vision Kampshoff had created a mindset from. He compared his practice to curating, which he defined from an architectural perspective as the recombination of structures instead of building new ones. He also stressed that architects should be mediators and space negotiators. Author and theatre director Helgard Haug, co-founder of the award-winning theatre label Rimini Protokoll, introduced her work by underlining the importance of telling stories of people. To her it seems essential to engage in conversations about life. Theater should exist as a varied experience that brings audiences into public spaces, where they not only become actors but „experts of everyday life“. Moritz Ahlert, architect, lecturer at TU Berlin and research fellow at the Habitat Unit, spoke about the role of graphic design in his practice, which is strongly influenced by mapping and cartography. He contributed particular importance to the translation of urban infrastructure to accelerate the digitalization of the city. In addition, Ahlert presented his ongoing project called „atlas of digital fragments“.

A collage of photographic impressions from the past weeks of the Covid-19 crisis was a gate to reflections about the influence of last weeks lockdown. Here, Kampshoff gave a glimpse into TU’s first digitally held semester by presenting works of first-year students and the influence studying from home has on their conscious perception. He stated that spaces should be rethought in more flexible modes after the crisis. Haug suggested that cultural institutions could work much more effectively by stressing the variable aspect of the theatre. Ahlert on the other hand emphasized that digitalization might be a double-edged sword, which offers opportunities and new forms of participation but also pressurizes privacy.

In the last part of the talk, the panelists were asked to imagine a city in 2107. This evolved in an invigorating discussion on the future of the cities, chances as well as challenges. Architect Ahlert stated that digital and virtual realm would melt into hybrid normality. However, he hopes that this would be accompanied by a positive change with a focus on ecological as well as social and cultural aspects. For theatre director Haug stages would survive, however theatres might operate much more mobile—in a literal sense of the word. Here, she referred to the National Theatre of Wales, a mobile theatre that designs its timeline and chooses locations. Kampshoff suggested to look-out for new sustainable ways and claimed that we should deal differently with our resources instead of asking for steady growth. In terms of social architecture, he spoke about community aspects and that we, in 2107 might live in multi-generational households.

All told, we’ve had an evening with vivid insights into three different practices and the future challenges for scientific disciplines and the city. A big thank you to our three speakers, moderator and the audience! We hope to have a similar evening—may it be online or in the real world—in the future.

– Tanita