The city as image of historical consciousness

The spacialization of thought, the temporalization of the city: the city as image of historical consciousness

Habilitation Dr. Ana Carrasco-Conde

In a text dealing with the relationship between Walter Benjamin and architecture, Winifried Nerdinger recalls the correspondence between Asja Lacis and Hildegard Brenner in which Lacis reminisces upon philosophy´s capacity to understand architecture as image. For Lacis, architecture expresses social conditions through its buildings, the layout of the streets and the use of certain construction materials, giving the example of the internal patios of Mietkaserne of the Ackerstraße and the Kudamm. As a stratified sample of social matter, the city thus appears to Walter Benjamin as the material form of the spacialization of thought, and as such, may be analyzed through architectonic and urban forms- ones which establish and condition how the city is inhabited. Following Benjamin’s approach, the current project is based upon the conception of the city as a space where the laws of our social and historical world are subject to sedimentation. As an objective, the project proposes to analyze how the past and historic vision are received, understood and recovered via the city. The city is thus understood as a space where there is a simultaneousness of times in which different historical strata -or as Koselleck might put it, ‘time strata’- are interwoven and then ‘spacialized’ (or made into space). Each of these strata thus remains clearly separate and marked out from the other while allowing, as Benjamin might have done, for the discontinuity of historical time and the rupture of any type of lineal conception of time. Yet not only is the past remembered in what we see: it is also embodied in what we believe. This sedimentation of historical matter (ruins, monuments, remnants) feeds into the reinterpretation of what is done with historical matter in the present (restorations, revival and historicist architecture, imitation ruins and remnants, eclecticism), taking in account people’s cultural identity and historic consciousness. As such, the second of objectives is to trace a relationship between the evolution of architectonic forms and how, with respect to the evolution of “the philosophy of history”, the past assimilates and adapts to the present within the fabric of the city. Given that the city will be understood as “text”, more specifically as “historical text”, in this philosophical analysis of the city particular attention will be paid not just to ideas considered by W. Benjamin but also to the work of Michel de Certeau, L´écriture de l´histoire (1975) and Histoire et psychanalyse entre science et fiction (2002). The project will focus on the Berlin of the 19th and 20th centuries and on Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the ruins of his Elizabeth Kirche, built between 1832 and 1835 and destroyed during the last world war (and which was not restored until 2008). After passing on to the Fr.-Werder-Kirche, the project will then examine the first International Building Exhibition in Berlin (Interbau) in 1957 which worked on the concept of “Yesterday´s city”. Two decades later, this would give way to Joseph Kleihues’ concept of “Critical reconstruction” which maintained that the task of architecture was to reconcile the city´s relationship with history. That being the case, this reordering or restoration of the city requires, in part, an invention of a highly important historic past, not just to structure historical consciousness but also to construct a cultural identity (Kevin Lynch).

Laufzeit: 1.01.2012 - 1.01.2015