Berlin Urban Furniture


llot llov has been invited by ZITTY magazine to develop a concept for an urban furniture in Berlin. With this interview you will get an idea about the concept.

The following interview is made by Esther Kogelboom with Ania and Jacob and gives an idea about the concept for Berlin.


Ania and Jacob, you have designed a kind of multifunctional scaffolding as a new type of »outdoor city furniture« for Berlin. Who are your intended users?
Jacob: During the planning phase, we started by considering our own needs. What kind of urban furniture would we want in our own neighbourhood? It should be something relating to the real residents, not a monument for tourists. Berliners put a surprising amount of stuff out on the streets, or in parks …
Ania: … which would be impossible in other cities. If you put something out on the side-walk in Munich, people would be calling the police and getting you arrested! A friend from Paris recently commented that Berliners were really good at putting tables out on the street and actually eating there with friends. In Berlin, there’s an amazing amount of communication going on in public space. You can see that from the amount of notices hanging on lampposts or traffic lights. I think the city tolerates things like this in order to protect a certain way of life.


On one side of your design, we can see notes on a bulletin board – like the ones you find at the entrance to the local Kaiser’s supermarket.
Jacob: These days you can sell any old stuff to make a little money, but we had more the idea of swapping in mind. Of course we didn’t invent the idea, we just want it to become a little more normal. It’s a shame that in Berlin you have to register bulky trash.
Ania: Yes, in a way. In Düsseldorf, back in the day, we found the coolest things. Every first Monday in the month was the day you could put your bulky trash on the street. We’d go around the fancy areas the weekend before and collect stuff.
Jacob: People also like to modify things standing out on the side-walk.
Ania: Once, near where I live, there was a fridge out on the street – you could have photographed it to document how it changed. First it was just gutted, then a few days later, the wreckage was plastered with posters and then finally painted over. And so, over time, it became a work of art.

Where does this Berlin freedom come from?
Jacob: It’s probably leftover from the chaotic time after the Berlin Wall fell. There is no other place that attracted so many young people so quickly to live and take over space for themselves.
Ania: The authorities couldn’t even keep up!

Jacob: In the meantime, this attitude has manifested itself as part of the city’s own way of life.


Was your design inspired by the love / hate relationship that Berliners have to scaffolding?
Ania: Yes. Scaffolding is part of the Berlin cityscape. People are used to it. There’s construction going on everywhere.


Not as much as during the post-Wall period. Most of the buildings are finished now, and you see scaffolding much less frequently.
Ania: Really? Since we started working on the project, we keep seeing more and more of it. With our design, you have anonymity on your side, like the »sharing boxes« in Mitte and Kreuzberg, where anyone can just leave unwanted objects and take away something else. But our scaffold also provides the opportunity to invite your parents to a picnic when there’s no more room in the apartment.


It’s scaffolding that stands up on its own, without a building?
Jacob: Yes. The good thing about scaffolding is that it’s a system you can expand forever. But scaffolding also makes things dark, and who wants a garden party right in front of their window in the second floor? Our model is a flat L-shape that invites you to communicate from corner to corner. The idea was also to ask ourselves why we should actually design anything in the first place. We think the charming thing about this is that passers by and locals can design the scaffolding themselves. We’re just giving them a little guidance.
Ania: The picnic tablecloth is already there, you just need to bring your own chairs. The string of lights is already there, but the lampshades are missing. The lockers are there, but there are no padlocks. Open structures were an important design factor for us.
Jacob: Because in this case, so many people feel really motivated to interact. For example, people are very often inspired to create sculptures in empty, in-between spaces. Then there was the bookstore in Neukölln where they built a bench out of books along a tree trunk.

Ania: Things grow and then get destroyed, you can’t hold onto them forever anyway.


Is there an ideal place for your multifunctional scaffolding?
Jacob: We thought about Oranienplatz. Basically, it could be set up in many different places. It doesn’t have to be an especially fancy part of town. In Berlin, there are so many gray zones, like the enormous area between Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, where people either go to Eberswalder Straße or to Boxhagener Platz, and there’s no real center.
Ania: We liked the idea of creating little centers for the neighbourhood…
Jacob: … a kind of marketplace that concentrates neighborhood life and solidarity in one spot. I live on Lausitzer Platz, where people take every opportunity to throw garden parties or street parties. It’s really nice that a village-like feeling can exist in the city.

Ania, you grew up in villages in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württenberg …
Ania: We met at the mailboxes at the end of the cul de sac. It was as simple as that. And then we met on the playground to secretly make out.
Jacob: To smoke!
Ania: No, first came making out, then smoking.
Jacob: Really? I smoked and then made out.


When you look at it closely, your design actually supports some Berlin prototypes. There’s even a place to barbecue.
Jacob: It’s all about creating a little utopia. You can browse through a book that’s lying around, or just rest while you recharge your mobile devices or light up the grill.
Ania: The smoke gets directed out at the highest point.


Excuse me? But then the people sleeping in the »resting area« will be disturbed!
Ania: You have discovered the one and only flaw! But maybe the sleepers will be inspired to get up out of their nest.


Will there be a user schedule where you can sign up?
Jacob: Like at the tennis courts? We thought about that too. But then we thought that what’s nice is actually the things that happen there by chance, the things you can’t plan. When the chair’s gone, it’s gone. The other thing that’s missing is some- thing for the city’s dogs.
Ania: One or two feeding bowls can’t hurt. But please, no canine climbing gym!


There’s also a swing. Is that for children or adults?

Jacob: I have to tell a little story about that. We were recently in Copenhagen. It was dark, and there were a couple of guys hanging around on a street corner next to an electrical junction box. They were pretty scary. Then we thought – imagine if they were sitting on a swing instead of standing around. They would make a completely different impression.
Ania: We want to give people who hang out on our scaffolding an opportunity to play around, so that people passing by get a general impression of friendliness and openness.

Your design is completely analog. Did that happen by chance, or was it intentional?
Jacob: We thought about using barcodes, similar to what the agency Platoon did – they installed a station where you can upload data from the immediate environment.
Ania: We don’t want people to sit alone in front of their devices. We want them to communicate directly with one another. The value of being together with other people gets lost in social networks.

Jacob: People flit past each other, talking at cross purposes, and before you know it, you’ve tweeted your whole day’s events. What’s left to say in the evening?

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.

Research image of existing concept in Berlin.