Berlin Wall 1989-2017_From the border system to projects for the memory retrieval


The compatibility between modernization and respect for the collective cultural values in which a civilization is identified is far from obvious. Due to its intrinsic logic, the modernization process relies on the potential of places. The result is an inexorable gap between innovation and conservation of the identity symbols of a community.

The thesis studies the transformation of Berlin between 1989 and 2017 and in particular, the ways of reappropriation of the areas characterized by the presence of the track of the Wall that divided East Berlin from West Berlin.

In a preliminary phase, the research studies the evolution of the boundary system. Then it focuses on the architectural and urban transformations that the demolition of the Wall has produced in eight areas of the city, chosen according to geographic, historical and social criteria.

The studies underline the presence of an incomplete system, composed of different languages. With the aim of making it unitary, we propose the realization of two landscape projects, supported by architectures that respond to the districts needs. The intent is to crystallize historically relevant spaces that would otherwise be deleted by the constant building expansion. The interventions will restore the mnemonic continuity of the former border through the use of materials and methods already present in other parts of the city that face the same themes, with the aim of not overloading a system already rich in symbology


Who influence you graphically?

The graphic had a continuous evolution along with the project.

We tried to abandon the hyperrealistic representation which sometimes closes the door to other forms of expression trying to transmit both the project idea and the atmosphere created. We took inspiration by many sources, Eva Le Roi is definitely one of the main, then the work of Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tartara, the artists David Hokney, Henri Rousseau and many contemporary Architectural offices and magazines.

What defined the graphic representation of the project, what role did the colour blue play? How important are the views in relation to the axonometric projection?

Since there are numerous themes related to the thesis, we felt the need to emphasize the focal point thanks to the graphic ploy of the color. All the different kind of representation are linked thanks to the main object represented by the Wall (either it is a material presence or just represented). Everything, somehow connected to it, assumes the color we have chosen; the entire area of the death belt, the memorials, the Wall itself and the buildings constructed in its place.

The axonometric projection and the views are closely linked but at the same time they delineate something different. The former give a global view of the system designed, the latter express the atmosphere created in the space through architecture and people, who are attracted by it.

What influenced the typology of the memory objects? How do these elements work together and singularly?

In fact what we did is to represent the memory objects already existing within the city of Berlin. We have catalogued and reused them in our projects to avoid overloading a system already full of symbology.

In designing these totems, what were your key parameters? Would these be site specific and respond to the singular context?

We have introduced in our projects two memory symbols of those listed. In one of the two projects the memory is more discrete; we have inserted the porphyry tiles in the area of ​​Kieler Straße because it is more peripheral and it has a character purely related to sport and rest. In the central area of ​​Luisenstadt, between Mitte and Kreuzberg, the memory object used is the corten steel pole. A series of poles, as in Bernauer Straße, make sure that those who pass by that place notice that something important happened there. The use of the series of poles also has the symbolic meaning of the act of crossing a border that once was a barrier.

What mediums and documents did you use to trace and analyse the evolution of the boundary system?

We researched the historical maps in the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin and we asked the municipality for the orthophotos dating back to 1989 and before.  We read  books regarding the Berlin Wall and we watched a lot of movies such as “The spy who came in from the cold” or “der Himmel über Berlin” by Wim Wenders, to figure out how the “death belt” worked.

The contribution of many websites has also been really useful.

What were for you the most interesting conditions when analysing this process of evolution and the contemporary condition?

The research analyses more in depth the architectural and urban transformations that the demolition of the Wall has produced in eight areas of the city, chosen according to criteria of geographic, historical and social centrality. It emphasizes how the memory of the Wall has been preserved, interpreted or lost. Surveys in the city and analysis on the historical cartography show that the process of the re appropriation of the spaces has not influenced the landscape everywhere and especially in the peripheral borders. The presence of macro-categories allows us to affirm that while in urban areas the correlation between history and the conversion of spaces appears evident, in peripheral boundaries, where functional and expansion logics overlap with the need of preserve the memory, it is weaker. In the most external part of the city, the spaces left empty are today characterized by infrastructure, residential areas, green spaces. ( a first idea was to use the empty boundary to create a huge infrastructure  but the nit did not happen).

The city centre is instead characterized by a system linked to the memory that crosses the entire metropolis; a paving in porphyry goes through the woods, cuts the streets and traces the footsteps of what was once the Wall and in the most touristic points you can find artistic installations.

If you could speculate in the future where do you see this boundary developing? How would you proposal work in the long term and affect the singular spaces?

This is exactly what our design project tries to do.

From the aforementioned atlas of situations, an incomplete system emerges, it is composed of different languages and is incomplete relatively in the areas of Luisenstadt and Kieler Straße. With the aim to make the system unitary, we propose the creation of two landscape projects supported by architectures that meet the needs of the district in which they are located. That can be an example for other areas which are situated in the ex death belt more in the periphery, for example after Bernauer Straße in the north and East side gallery more in the south. We believe that if you give people attractive places to meet, a sense of community is naturally strengthened and do it in a place that was a symbol of division is fundamental.


Eleonora De Fabiis was born in 1992; she studied architecture at UNICAM Saad, IUAV University of Venice and Technische Universität Berlin. She had work experiences in Italy, in Berlin by Lin architects and currently she works in Paris in the office Maison Edouard François.

Luca Stefanet was born in 1988; he studied communication through graphic drawings and was practicing design through professional experiences in Milan. He studied at IUAV university of Venice and collaborated with HDG Hangar Design Group, LTS Land Technology & Services, OTT ART. Currently he is Architect by Oberpriller Architekten in Munich.