Raumlabor are a group of architects based in Berlin, Germany, who came together in 1999 in response to the rapid and unrestrained development of the city following the fall of the Berlin wall. Their playful approach critiques this dominant mode of architectural production, proposing instead temporary projects that transform the urban landscape through what they call 'urban prototypes'. Pneumatic structures, submarines made out of waste materials and half-serious projects such as building a mountain from the rubble produced through uncovering a buried canal are all part of their repertoire. This approach is not only used to critique official planning processes but also to influence them, such as the 'Kolorado Plan', which was developed for a local authority in Berlin. Raumlabor proposed a long-term strategy for dealing with urban shrinkage that included small-scale interventions and involved local residents in the future of their neighourhood.
Working in between the fields of architecture and public art, Raumlabor, whose name means 'space laboratory', create projects based around events, performance and theatre. Collaboration is a key part of their strategy with specialists including engineers, sociologists, local experts, ethnographers and citizens, being brought together around specific projects. Primarily working in public space, they see the task of the architect as highlighting problems rather than solving them. Their projects try to open up a space of communication and negotiation in which relations can be made and conflicts played out, and they acknowledge that for them architecture is first and foremost a social phenomenon. Placing themselves within the utopian tradition of 1960's architecture, including in particular to the work of Yona Friedman, Buckminster Fuller and Haus-Rucker, Raumlabor preempted this contemporary turn towards an experimental and reversible architecture also practiced by Urban Catalyst and Exyzt.
Raumlabor, Acting in Public, ed. by Julia Maier and Matthias Rick (Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2008).
'Raumlabor', Berlage Institute, 2010, http://www.berlage-institute.nl/videos/watch/2010_04_27_raumlabor [accessed 15 June 2010].
Gabriella Giannachi, 'Recycling Site: A Performance Documentation of Raumlabor's Duismülsen U(topie)18', Contemporary Theatre Review, 19 (2009): 461
Joseph Grima, 'Avvistati spacebuster a NY City = Spacebusters sighted in NY City', Abitare, (2009): 130-132.
'Mobiler Aktionsraum = Mobile action space', Detail, 49 (2009): 1336-1337.
'Spacebuster: raumlaborberlin', C3 Korea, (2009): 112-115.
"The utopian spirit of bricolage that characterises all of these
projects demonstrates a new understanding of what architecture can
be. Instead of being static, everlasting, inflexible and expensive,
it can be removable, mobile, a stage for all kinds of scenarios."
- Raumlabor, Acting in Public, ed. by Julia Maier and Matthias Rick (Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2008), p. 5.
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