Mullheim an der Ruhr, Germany, 2010 Urban Installation Project
Raumlaborberlin are a collective of architects and urban designers working across architecture, urban design and art. They have a particular interest in public space and urban transformation - boundaries between public and private. Eichbaumoper and Eichbaumboxer are part of an ongoing series of workshops, installations and events at Eichbaum Station, Mullheim an der Ruhr, Germany.
Mullheim an der Ruhr is a post-industrial region of Germany. Fall in industry during the 1970s saw devastating unemployment in this region, and goverments have been working since then to find ways to support this region adapt to change.
Eichbaum station lies at a complicated crossing of freeways, with an open station platform built below ground level. This station was under-utilised, plagued by vandalism and assaults, with many locals to avoiding it. Attempts to address these issues through stripping the station and installing video surveillance have proven unsuccessful.
Approach Raumlaborberlin recognised that this train station would be a site for development at some stage in the future, and sought to facilitate a temporary response for the site that might address greater community issues as well as localised issues at the station. They felt that to be successful, the project would need to be a big intervention so that its temporary nature would be able to overcome issues that one might associate with transience.
They utilised a process of community workshops facilitating discussion and interaction at the site. Through these workshops community narratives were recorded and potentials investigated. How do they use the site now? What are their visions for the future of the site?
These workshops expanded through the event program, informed by the youth users of the site to include a series of workshops focussed on their particular interests and needs. The approach was to investigate how young people used the site and to come up with ways to activate the site together, fostering relationships to draw out potential for renewal together. A series of activity based, interdisciplinary workshops including cooking, t-shirt screen printing, construction of a pneumatic chamber, photo shoot, city ethnological analysis and construction of a 1:1 model were used to help in the generation and articulation of ideas of the young people involved.
Program Eichbaumoper, 2009 Eichbaumoper was the first large scale intervention. The train station was transformed into an opera house, and a professional opera was written and performed utilising stories from the local community that had been gained through the workshop process.
Eichbaumboxer, 2010 Following the success of Eichbaumoper, Raumlaborberlin focussed the second large project on the youth users of the site. A series of workshops led to the transformation of the station into a 2-day boxing championship and rap battle for local youth.
Both interventions were produced through workshops and discussions with community groups, culminating in professionally managed and executed, temporary, public events. Each event saw the train station platform and entry spaces transformed to facilitate additional program. During both events the train station continued to be utilised - with trains running throughout, and being incorporated into the atmosphere of the events.
Raumlabor ingeniously utilised the existing condition of the train platform as an amphitheatre. Sunken below ground level with an open-air platform, the station platform offered dynamic possibilities for public viewing of events as the public could view the platform stage from balconies surrounding the station platform. Immediately the existing architecture of the station is re-invigorated and re-experienced by the local community.
Scales Raumlaborberlin placed particular importance on the use of 1:1 scale activities, interventions and workshops at the site. The result being a transformative and immersive reconsideration of public space and existing urban infrastructures for new program. These interventions act to foster community, develop future vision and set up dialogues for this future with stakeholders in the site.
This project seeks to address greater community issues through intervention at a site. The effect is both localised change at Eichbaum Station and dispersed change through the community, across all age groups.
How Raumlaborberlin utilised a difficult site to address problems facing a community. Workshops at the site and transformation of the site into professional events has offered opportunities for locals to reconsider their own urban environment. Design thinking and experience has been utilised to draw latent potentials from the site and from the local community, using workshops and activities to spark engagement and discussion. The events are supported by the use of professionals, to facilitate a high quality finish to ideas raised by local people. Existing infrastructure is re-activated through these temporary interventions, aiding government visualise, reconsider and readdress potentials of this difficult site. This project also facilitates active community involvement in a site prior to it being earmarked for development and change.
Challenges and Opportunities Community Renewal: This project utilises spatial activities to facilitate dialogue with a community and unlock latent potential and change. Engagement with the community facilitates their empowerment. The community are taken on a journey of investigation of site, place-making and visionary thinking as a collective. Youth users of the site are included, and a public event offers dialogue back into the community through audience participation.
Urban Renewal: ‘Visions’ for the future are created through the temporary activations and transformations. These visualisation offers agency for change. Community recognition and support of youth communities is encouraged, and political stakeholders are offered tested visualisations and dialogue to support future visions of the site.