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Frans Vogelaar is sitting in front of his laptop in the large, bright studio on Köpenicker Straße and enthusiastically explains the “Humboldt Volcano”. The rendering on the screen show the latest project of the Hybrid Space Lab, that Vogelaar together with his partner Elisabeth Sikiaridi operates. It is a kind of extension, a walk-in installation of stacked platforms connecting to the facade of the Humboldt-Forum. In the construction, on which trees from all over the world will grow, various restaurants will be accommodated. The design is based on the drawing of a volcano, which Alexander von Humboldt made on his travels. “This might not be not realized”, says Vogelaar, and laughs. It does not seem to frustrate him.
The Greek woman and the Dutchman are designers, architects and professors – he teaches at the Academy for Media Arts in Cologne, she at the University of East Westphalia-Lippe. 30 years ago together they formed Hybrid Space Lab to explore the limits of the design. Today there are many “labs”, “hybrid” at that time was visionary. “Hybrid”, explains Sikiaridi stood initially for analog and digital and is now a strategy. “Design has become more complex, the two are convinced.” “Design today it is less about objects but more about processes”, according to Sikiaridi.
In recent years, the flood of information that we have to deal with has significantly increased, decisions must be made faster. Political, economic and ecological systems are unstable. The sell-out of the cities to international investors is squeezing our Habitat. Here, designers can act as intermediaries. “We are specialists of creative processes,” explains Sikiaridi. This is very far from classic industrial design. “Industrial design had to do with planning, today we must rethink design completely” according to the designer, Sikiaridi studied architecture in Paris and Darmstadt and later worked with the famous German architect Günter Behnisch. Our design challenge today, is to create networks, to integrate all players, and to open ideas. “For example, the idea that design and use of urban space, cannot be only prescribed not just from the top down, but has to grow organically.”
Like the Humboldt Jungle, the first project the Sikiaridi and Vogelaar have developed for the Humboldt-Forum, a vertical tropical garden for the facade of the reconstructed Berlin city Palace. “This is not just about greening the façade”, Vogelaar says. “The stone facade of the Humboldt Forum is made for 97 percent made by robots and will be deadly boring. Berlin wants to become a world city; the ambition of the Humboldt-Forum is similar to that of the British Museum and the Centre Pompidou. “What is planned here – a space for global exchange – is very exciting, but the housing is a disaster!”
The vertical jungle had symbolic importance in this historic place, and stands for a fresh start by letting grass grow over the past, and it would fit in with the namesake of the scientist and explorer Humboldt. It also has the very practical benefit to ensure cooling in the summer at one of the hottest places of the city. “The project is realistic and unrealistic at the same time” says Vogelaar. “It can be done, but if the leaders don’t want it, it will not be realized.”