Category Archives: Day by Day

Alternative Tour of Berlin: City Planning Thoughts

Walking tour focusing on culture and creativity in Berlin

Today we took a tour of alternative Berlin. We had taken a historical tour of Berlin on the 13th but today’s walking tour focused on sources of innovation and creativity in Berlin. The tour focused on art and graffiti, urban culture, alternative lifestyles, cultural icons like the YAAM Beach Bar, and artists’ squats. Themes that ran through these sights were significance of the areas and current city planning problems including the tension between preservation of Berlin’s history and modernization initiatives that might spur economic growth.

The alternative tour focused on many aspects, including the graffiti culture in Berlin. Although this tag does not look that impressive, there is a large fine since this is a very public area under the Berlin train station. Graffiti artists often gain credibility for the measures they took to tag the area and this tag becomes arguably a bit more impressive when considering the likelihood of a big fine.

We started our tour at Alexanderplatz, one of the best-known public squares in Berlin. It was a central meeting place during communist rule in East Germany. It has the iconic Fernsehturm television tower and the surrounding shops are very commercialized—including a Starbucks and other shopping chains. Like much more of what we would see, Alexanderplatz demonstrated the tension between history and modernization are affecting Berlin’s growth and redevelopment.

We saw quite a bit of street art on the alternative tour and this sculpture spoke to the theme of an increasingly commercialized world. The Native American is wearing the cliche I

Another aspect of alternative Berlin relating to city planning that we saw was in the Hackescher Markt area, specifically the Spandauer Vorstadt area. A number of artists’ squats, workshops and galleries sprang up here in the early 1990s. The area we walked through was a former artists’ squat and now has a flea market, a beer garden, the Anne Frank Zentrum (home of the Anne Frank: Here and Now Exhibition), and the Monster Kabinett (part art gallery, part haunted house holding massive robotic creatures, metal sculptures, and insect-looking beasts). This former art squat describes the action of artists to occupy (squat) in abandoned buildings and using these to create art. The concept of art squats, some of which are still open, really spoke to the alternative culture of Berlin and how different conceptions of housing are in the United States as opposed to in Berlin. Art squats in Berlin seemed to be much more accepted in Berlin than squatting would be in the United States.

Hackescher Markt had a really great market with jewelry, produce, coffee, spices, and lots of food.
This is the former artists’ squat that now has two beer gardens, the Anne Frank exhibit, the small flea market, and graffiti and art on the walls

My favorite part of the tour was when our guide mentioned YAAM Beach Bar, which our group went to after the tour ended. YAAM is an acronym for “Young African Art Market” and is located on the River Spree. YAAM is a cultural hotspot and has a club, beachbar, and gallery, complete with sand, hammocks, and picnic tables. YAAM is incredibly laidback and although it’s really close to some of the main attractions in Berlin, namely the East Side Gallery (the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall), it is not face paced and is a really unique area.

Mediaspree is one of the largest property investment projects in Berlin and aims to establish telecomm and media companies along the section of the banks of the River Spree where YAAM is located. Unused or temporary occupied real estate is to be converted into office buildings, lofts, hotels, and other new structures. Our guide said that YAAM’s current location is its third location due to these Mediaspree plans. YAAM is temporarily thriving in its current location, but only time will tell whether it will be able to survive the increasing commercialization of Berlin.

To the right of YAAM we saw the Mercedes-Benz arena being built which to me really embodied the increasing commercialization of Berlin. The arena is being built right by the East Side Gallery and Mercedes-Benz. That is the type of mix between history and modern initiatives that this alternative tour and all of our time in Berlin kept demonstrating. We can debate the merits of this commercialization and the Mediaspree plans, but it will likely take active citizens to keep places like YAAM from being bought up by larger corporations. This alternative tour demonstrated all of the careful planning that must go into city planning initiatives in a city that will likely keep growing for quite some time.

-Jennifer Craft

Farewell Dinner

The last gathering of the Burch program

After an exciting alternate tour of Berlin focusing on street art and gentrification, students were given about five free hours to explore the German capital city. Students dispersed in small groups to view the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, city center and the Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest inner-city park. After exploring the city students headed out to meet the professors for the farewell dinner reservation at 5:45, a couple S-Bahn stops away.

Städige Vertretung, the restaurant where students and professors gathered to eat their last meal together.

Professor Gangi and Radamker chose a restaurant called Ständige Vertretung, which means permanent or steady representation. Upon entering it was certain that the restaurant had an archive of history hanging on its walls. Black and white pictures of politicians, historical icons like the Berlin Wall and various photographs of political groups covered all available wall space.

Coaster and menu of the restaurant. It was quickly evident that this restaurant is a place of great history.
A hungry and happy Professor Gangi ponders the menu as he awaits students to arrive to the restaurant.

As it turns out, “Permanent representation” has a significant political meaning. After WWII, and the fall of the Nazi regime, the German country was controlled by two main political sectors. The Western Allies held the western side of the country while the Soviet Union covered the eastern side. Tensions began to grow between the east and the west territories which eventually led to the cold war. Citizens on the eastern side began to flee to the west for a safer life. In response to this migration, in 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed to officially divide the two territories. Crossing was possible only at certain checkpoints, as for instance Checkpoint Charlie, though only people from West Berlin were able to pass through to the East. These two sides did not have regular embassies, but “steady representations” in the regions of Bonn and East-Berlin. When the Berlin wall was torn down in November 9th, 1989, a bitter fight commenced between the west and east capital cities. Eventually the city of Bonn lost and Berlin became the capital of the united Germany, after which the city expanded greatly. Therefore, forty years of Bonn as a German capital was consigned to history. This is why Städige Vertretung restaurant was born! A French news agency previous wrote – “The ‘StäV’ is not an ordinary pub, but a political reading-book … The past decades’ history is brought back.”

Hungry students and professor Cor preparing to feast. Bittersweet emotions before the start of dinner.

Students were seated at two tables with the professors, Emily Gangi, and Gina Difino, the Burch program head administrator. Professor Cor Radamaker gave a heartfelt toast to the group, saying “it’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you, and I hope to keep in touch.” The menu offered various traditional German meals, like curry-wurst sausage and flammkuchen, a German style flatbread pizza. Over the delicious meal, everyone traded food and reminisced on the top memories of the seemly quick six-week program. Some best memories included the castle day, where students hiked up hills in the French country side, or watching the sunset on the beach every night in The Hague. A bittersweet atmosphere filled the room as deserts were ordered and students realized their summer adventure was coming to a close.

The final meal, which consisted of meatballs, fish, and german pizza called flammkuchen. It was all delicious!
Professor Cor commencing his final toast during dinner. Quote, “it’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you, and I hope to keep in touch.”
Burch students bonding for the last time together at the end of the six week program. Also, note the interior of the restaurant, and its historically decorated walls.

As the tab was paid and everyone moved outside the restaurant, the program was officially concluded. No more eight o clock program day mornings and no more train rides through the beautiful German countryside. After hugs and an official goodbye from all the professors, two students snuck up behind Dr. Gangi and started a program wide group hug in the downtown district of Berlin. There could have been no better way to end such and amazing six-weeks abroad.

-William Onorato

Berlin’s Street Art Culture

Graffiti and Other Forms of Street Art in Berlin

During our alternative tour of Berlin today, a lot of time was devoted to discussing graffiti culture within Germany. Many of us came into the tour with generally negative feelings towards graffiti in public spaces, especially when it seems sloppy or inconsiderate. However, upon closer inspection, a lot of this street art is created with a message or goal in mind. When you start to look at it more like art and less like vandalism, graffiti can serve as a great window into the minds of the artists who create it.

This mural, painted in an area where street art is legal, pokes fun at tourists who take too many pictures. Ironically, I took a picture of it.

We started our tour on Dircksenstraße, a street near the famous Alexanderplatz square that leads towards Hackesher Market. To be located between so many upscale areas, Dircksenstraße is littered with street art in all forms. Our guide first showed us several pieces by popular artist El Bocho. His signature piece involves reimagining an old Czech cartoon called “Little Lucy”. In this show, a young girl named Lucy embarks on adventures with her cat; however, El Bocho chooses to twist their friendship in his artwork by depicting Lucy murdering her cat in a multitude of ways. Our tour guide suggested that this may be a way to show the levels of morality that exist in every one of us. No one is entirely good, like the original Lucy, just as no one is entirely evil, like his version of Lucy.

This is an example of the Little Lucy series that El Bocho has scattered throughout Berlin. Here Lucy is seen cutting her cat from a spit and using the meat in a döner, one of the most cherished fast food items in Germany.

Like El Bocho, graffiti artists try to find ways to leave their mark on the city they inhabit. The most common way they accomplish this is by leaving their tag, or their groups’ tag, in the most dangerous places possible. Different areas are dangerous for different reasons. For example, tagging a wall in a populated part of town is dangerous because of the high risk of being caught. On the other hand, tagging a sound barrier next to train tracks, or the top of a building’s wall, is dangerous due to the risk of dying. In fact, the very top of the exterior wall of any tall building is called the “heaven spot” for its desirability among artists.

A member of the POET graffiti group has claimed part of the heaven spot on this building. This was likely painted by someone being held by the belt from above.

Apart from graffiti, we also saw a lot of paste-ups throughout the alternative tour of Berlin. Paste-ups are a form of street are that involve printing, drawing, or painting on relatively cheap paper, and then pasting it a wall with special glue. This type of street art seemed to be more common in some of the areas we visited, likely because it is punishable by a fine of 25€, while graffiti can result in thousands in fines. Along Dircksenstraße, we mostly saw paste-ups done by SOBR, an international artist currently working in Berlin. His series titled “It’s Time to Dance” features photos of real people dancing in bars and clubs. He chooses to paint the people in black and white, and then covers them with colorful confetti after pasting them on the wall. This contrast draws attention to his artwork, which is common throughout Berlin.

An anti-Trump paste-up is peeling off of the wall along Dircksenstraße. Many Europeans feel strongly about his presidency, and he is a common figure in street art throughout the continent.

In addition to these more visible forms of street art, we also discussed some strategies that groups use for temporary awareness. For example, the popular group called 1UP sometimes engages in “train bombing”, an activity which involves rushing into a train yard and covering a train wagon in graffiti in a matter of seconds. Germany, especially in its big cities, is very quick when it comes to cleaning their trains and train stations. However, train bombing will allow graffiti to travel for at least a day before it is removed, showing everyone the groups’ daring stunt.

Although all of these forms of illegal street art are common in Berlin, there is also a fair amount of commissioned, legal artwork to admire. Victor Ash’s “Cosmonaut” is one such piece. It stands at 72 feet tall and is painted in the style of a stenciled painting, although it was done freehand. At one point, the shadow of a nearby flag would land in the cosmonauts’ hand at night, however, the flag has since been removed. Ash has said that the mural was meant to represent the Cold War era space race between East and West, an important issue for Berlin since it was caught in the middle of this power struggle.

Victor Ash’s “Cosmonaut” stands tall over a block in Kreuzberg. It has received international attention as one of the most well-known paintings in Berlin.

After our alternative tour, many students, myself included, came away with new ideas on graffiti and street art. Although it can certainly be disturbing and ruin certain areas, such as well-known monuments, it can also offer deep insights into current issues and even be aesthetically pleasing. In certain cities, like Berlin, street art has become a part of the culture and is likely here to stay.

-Jed Higdon

The Future of Energy

A Lecture at Heinrich Böll Stiftung About the German Energiewende

The day began with a visit to Heinrich Böll Stiftung for a lecture about the Energiewende (German energy transition). Heinrich Böll is a political foundation that supports the Green Party in Germany. The four pillars of the Green Party are ecology, democracy, social justice, and pacifism, which includes an aversion to nuclear energy. Similar to other institutions we visited, the foundation’s funding comes from the German government, and the amount that a political foundation receives depends heavily upon how well the party does in the current election. Our presenter explained that contrary to American politics, foundations with political affiliations in Germany avoid publishing propaganda. There is a focus on political education, including networking, operating as a think tank, and releasing publications.

The logo at Heinrich Böll Stiftung, our first presentation of the day.

Students were very interested in our presenter’s experience with the Energiewende. One of the key differences with the United States is that energy is significantly more expensive in Germany. In North Carolina, energy costs about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. In Germany, it’s about 28 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, if you produce your energy with solar panels, it’s only about half the price. Incentives such as this have greatly increased the share of renewable energy in Germany. More than 50% of the energy produced is from citizens, through initiatives such as cooperatives.

Students listen to the presentation, taking notes and thinking of thought-provoking questions.

The Heinrich Böll representative also gave us her opinion on the future of the energy transition. Now that the feed-in tariff is phasing out, putting the “true price” on energy is becoming more important than ever. In her eyes, politicians cannot use phrases such as “carbon tax,” but rather should say, “making renewable energy more affordable” or “decreasing fossil fuel subsidies.”

In her words, “Individual freedom ends where the freedom of future generations is threatened.” Citizens want change, but in a convenient way. We discussed the phrase, “Wash my hair, but don’t make me wet.” However, most German citizens are supportive of the Energiewende. They see the need for cleaner air in cities and the potential to move away from nuclear energy by increasing the share of renewables. As the speaker explained, Germans were surrounded by nuclear power on both sides during the Cold War, and are not fond of the energy source.

Our presenter, a Heinrich Böll employee who focuses on policy education.

Coal is also being phased out as part of the Energiewende. The energy transition encompasses energy, heating, and mobility. Therefore, electric cars and public transit are becoming more and more popular in Germany, and the Heinrich Böll employee expressed her own dislike for SUVs and other fossil-fuel vehicles.

Unfortunately, the transition away from the feed-in tariff means more and more small citizen initiatives will have trouble producing renewable energy. The political framework is shifting towards an auction system, where companies compete to offer the lowest bid on projects. This will favor larger corporations, in Heinrich Böll’s opinion. In the past few years, the feed-in tariff allowed cooperatives and small citizen initiatives to enter the market, guaranteeing fixed contracts for up to twenty years. Now that the policy is ending, it will be interesting how the Energiewende changes. All the students thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, and thanked the employee for her time. Then, we grabbed a coffee for the road and headed to our next appointment.

-Erin Danford

TXL: The Urban Tech Republic

TXL airport becomes showcase for future Smart Cities

After visiting the Heinrich Böll Foundation, we visited Berlin TXL: The Urban Tech Republic.

The Urban Tech Republic uses lots of bright colors and fun graphics to communicate that the finalized product is a fun, creative use of space that will benefit the community.

Our host first provided context for understanding Berlin. She described the two major phases of development in Berlin, after 1945 and after 1989. After these periods, the industrial employment base collapsed by two-thirds between 1989 and 2001. To combat this change, the city invested in the knowledge industry.

Students arrive at the Tegel Project office space. The organization shares the building with several other businesses.

Today, there are four major institutions in the city and a high concentration of talent, both of which curate an innovative ecosystem. Berlin now functions as a cultural center, known for its diversity, creativity, tolerance, cluster of start-ups, and more. As the presenter described, these qualities are summed up by the “three Ts:” technology, talent, and tolerance. There is also a digital ecosystem, which is concentrated in the capital. There are lots of co-working spaces and incubators in the area.

Students take notes and ask questions during the presentation. The Urban Tech Republic provides a perfect example of how to reshape old infrastructure for the needs of the future.

Berlin is doing well, seeing GDP growth and general economic health. As the population grows, the need for space for living and working within the city does too. Between 2003 and 2014, the number of inhabitants increased by 7 percent, and the working population increased by 17 percent. This influx of residents and workers will only enhance the positive feedback loop of innovation.

Students check out the plans and projections for the finalized project.

Then we began discussion about Berlin’s three airports: Tempelhof, Tegel, and Schönefeld. Tempelhof was closed in 2008 and was converted to a green recreational space. Tegel, which sits on approximately 500 hectares of land, will be closed in 2019 and opened up. The campus will have a green landscape, an industrial park, a commercial area, and a main campus. The space is meant to be a showcase of what a Smart City can and should be.

In the development of this project, the team faces several challenges: resource scarcity, climate change, demographic change, urbanization, and digitization. Even so, it is the Urban Tech Republic’s goal to “do well by doing good.” The organization engages in lots of activities to better the city: developing/testing mobility concepts, inventing materials, field-testing new energy sources, upgrading recycling, improving water tech, and creating ICT solutions.

Students take advantage of the opportunity to speak with a member of the Urban Republic staff.

Nearby residents are supportive of the project because they will not have to endure the noise pollution that airplanes create. However, some citizens think Berlin still needs two airports to manage the tremendous amount of traffic, but the Urban Tech Republic argues that the Tegel airport is already so old that it would be too intense to renovate to the international standards anyways.

-Olivia Corriere

CleanTech Innovation Center’s Start-ups and Culture

Three Start-ups in the early stages of development

Today we spent our afternoon at the Clean Tech Innovation Center. Although it may have been hard to find, it was a very interesting space with a lot of early stage startups. While here, we were able to check out three very different startups that all share the same space.

Nuventura:

Nuventura is looking to find a way to make a cleaner grid by producing an IP based technology that converts synthetic CO2 into naturally decomposable substances. The founder took some time to speak with us about his motivations and his struggles being an early stage start up. Formally an electrical engineer, the founder quit his day job to work on a technology he believed would solve the world’s future problem regarding CO2 emissions. He focuses his work on the technology and not on creating a marketable product since his background his not in advertising or manufacturing.

He also shared his thoughts about working in a shared workspace. Something he said that was intriguing was that he liked that he was able to bounce his ideas off of people, but also that they all had a connection because of the fact that they were all trying to become something from nothing. They all face struggles with funding. Yet, he told us that he doesn’t feel competitive against the other workers because they are all working on such different ideas.

A representative of Shoutr Labs explaining the innovative technology to our group

Shoutr Labs:

Shoutr Labs is creating a beacon Wi-Fi network for museums. These beacons offer an interactive audio guide for patrons of the museum, which allows people to use their existing technology without taking up any storage or using any data. This auto-syncing technology even allows people to view 360-degree photos, by simply scanning a QR code upon entering an exhibit. One interesting feature that this technology offers is a type of virtual experience. Shoutr Labs created a system for the natural history museum that makes it seems like there are dinosaurs in the room via your phone screen. With this function, people can take selfies and feel close to live dinosaurs!

A QR code for Shoutr Labs’ beacon network. It allows museum goers to enter a world of virtual reality when walking through exhibits.

Skypoint:

Skypoint is working on producing storm resistant fix drones equipped radar, camera, and surveying systems. These drones are tethered to the ground and produce energy through wind collection using the small turbines on the product’s shell. The product’s founder and CEO has a lot of visions as to where this technology can go. For example, it could be used for property protection, open pit mining, delivering goods after a natural disaster, filed management, control of an unmanned vehicle, herd management, and border control. Border control, specifically for the US-Mexico border, seemed to be the main target for this product as he was marketing to private security companies.

All the functions and uses that Skypoint technology was looking to solve. Although still in the early stages of design, this product seems to be a very versatile option for the future.

-Megan Gwynn

Clean Tech Center

The Benefits of Creating an Industry Cluster

On the east side of Berlin, the Clean Tech Business Park and Innovation Center are growing to become the hub of clean technology. The Clean Tech Center is focused on supplying co-working office space and manufacturing space for any startup or business that contributes to sustainability and environment consciences. When we visited, they explained to us the benefits their park and greater Berlin offers to its customers and how the formation of the center forms an innovative cluster.

The logo of the Clean Tech Innovation Center in Berlin.

The property contains office space, production space, and large outdoor testing lot. The Clean Tech Center is forming spaces suitable entrepreneurs by giving them areas to create, test, and produce a product. This all-inclusive area is one of their selling points and something they hope will draw people to the area. Also, they hope will draw more people with the attractiveness of Berlin. As Berlin is being reshaped since reunification it has become the startup hub of Europe and a central city for research universities and economic opportunities. The Clean Tech Center hopes this environment will draw innovators to their campus.

A communal kitchen and eating area for the workers. This area is surrounded by four or five open room offices where different startups are working on their ideas.

The Clean Tech Center also offers incentives to increase the area’s desirability. They receive funding from the European Union which allows them to lower rent to a cheap price of €99-129 per month. The area is located near transportation stops, to cheapen the cost of transportation. On campus, they offer networking and collaboration services so innovators can meet with each other, share ideas, or network. Also, younger companies can learn and grow from the older companies. Conjoining an innovation center and a business park also has many benefits. By connecting the two parks people can now stay in one area as their business grows.

The property and facility brochure the Clean Tech Innovation and Business give out. These pamphlets discuss the benefits that come from working in a shared space, and having the ability to share knowledge and infrastructure.
The partners of the Clean Tech Center, notice that universities (local and international), companies, and the local government are all involved in the future of this cluster.

Creating a space for innovation in an environment that will sponsor it is a fantastic idea and needs to start happening in America more. Currently, America has large clusters like Research Triangle Park and, on a larger scale, Silicon Valley. These American clusters lack the shared infrastructure that makes the Clean Tech Center so appealing. The clusters in America are located well, surrounded by research universities and economic markets. But they are less dense and normally involve innovators working in their own building, and staying within their company. These places lack denser shared workspaces, and normally only have the occasional incubator or shared building.

American entrepreneurs should look into creating attractive workplaces with shared space. Having places like the Clean Tech Center could change the culture of working in America, shifting from getting a job in a pre-existing company to creating one’s own job in one of these shared workspaces because the social benefits and creative freedom is so attractive. Also, surrounding one’s self with people with like ideas and a place to collaborate will foster growth and innovation. I think shared spaces will motivate more students and people with ideas to feel their idea can become reality.

-Emily Bulla

The Reichstag

The History of Germany within a building.

The Reichstag is a building that has as much history as the country it represents. In the Heart of Berlin, Germany’s Capital, there is a massive stone building that holds Germany’s Federal Government. It was built in the late 19th century, and has laid witness to the incredible history that has taken place in Berlin since then. It was constructed at the beginning of the unification of the German States into one Federation, which would be ruled by Wilhelm of Prussia.

The federation was formed in 1871, but construction of the building didn’t start until 1882. There was an architect picked to design the building in 1872, but Wilhelm I would argue with Otto von Bismarck to the extent that all progress was halted. In 1882, another architect named Paul Wallot was chosen to design the building. His design was the one that would become a reality, and aspects of the buildings are still relevant today.

This is an side view of the building. It was important to note that the German flag flies right next to the European Union Flag on the building. Germany is very influential in the EU, and it is an important symbol for the German people.

The most noticeable part of the building are the four towers. Each tower represents a kingdom of Germany, and the statues on the pillars were intended to be representations of people from each region. Another architectural `feature of the building that was done in the original construction is the carved paneling that boarder the doors. These panels represent the two rivers that border Germany, the Rhine to the west and the Neisse to the east. This was supposed to be a symbolic entrance into Germany.

Wall carvings that represent the Rhine river. It is located just outside the door to represent a border for Germany. The other side of the door has a representation of the Niesse River.

Not everything on the building was originally planned to be there. On the upper façade of the building there is the phrase, “Dem Deutschen Volke”. This translates to, “for the German people”, and was a controversial addition. In the heat of the first world war, there was low moral on the battlefield, and within Germany. The Federal government had the idea to add this phrase to inspire the German people. However, Wilhelm II fought hard to keep it off the building due to its democratic implications. He eventually lost this battle, and the words were added in 1916.

The “Dem Deutchen Volke” means “for the german people.” It was added during WWI as moral booster for the the weary soldiers. King Willhelm was very against this addition.

After the war, Germany had a small revolution and the Weimar republic was created. Phillip Sheidemann, a German politician, actually declared Germany a republic from the balcony of the Reichstag. This building stayed the federal government during the years of the Weimar republic. After the Weimar Republic, the Nazis took control of Germany and thus the Reichstag. At the beginning of Nazi rule, the Reichstag caught fire with unknown causes. This gave the Nazis an excuse to basically decommission the building. This fit in with shutting down the German government I its current form. It was hardly used during the Nazi reign, but it still served as symbol for Germany. The soviets were keen on taking this building over as the final blow to the Nazis. The soviets actually lost rights to the building in the division of Berlin.

The Reichstag was in the West side of Berlin, but it was very close to east Berlin. West Germany had no need for a parliamentary building in West Berlin, so it was used mostly as event space. It was restored during this time to fix damages from the war. The fall of the wall saw a new future for the building.

This is one of the four towers on the building. They each represent a major region of germany that came together in the Unification. The towers have carvings and sculptures that represent things that come from that region.

The ceremony celebrating the reunification was held at the Reichstag, and it became the center of the city again. There was an argument of whether or not to bring the government back to Berlin from Bonn. After much deliberation, they decided to make Berlin the Capital yet again, and The Reichstag could return to its original purpose of holding the federal government. The Reichstag has witnessed an incredible amount of change, and still remains a marquee building for German culture.

-Matthew Bravante

Berlin: A City of Opportunity

Learned from the past, focused on the present, planning the future

Staying consistent with the last few days, a steady drizzle once again persisted as students transferred from Hamburg to Berlin to round out the study abroad trip. Upon arriving in Berlin, they were amazed by the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Students had visited many multimodal train stations over the course of the trip, but nothing like this in Berlin. Not only did the main train station have many forms of transportation integrated within it, but it had multiple levels for train lines as well. Many call this Hauptbahnhof “the greatest train station in Europe.”

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, one of the biggest and most impressive train stations in Europe. It features a multimodal transportation hub as well as multiple platform levels for long distance trains.
Sign located on a German long distance train that informs riders that this train runs on renewable energy.

Upon arrival at the hotel, students did some quick exploring. A unique feature of the Berlin Plus Hostel is its location. Just a block away is the location of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin. Although the wall was torn down in 1989, part of the wall still stands a couple blocks away from the hotel. This wall is a tribute to the cold war and has been decorated by professional graffiti artists making various political statements.

The rest of afternoon was spent visiting Adlershof, one of Berlin’s biggest technology and research sites. Located in East Berlin, Adlershof employs roughly 17,000 workers in a 4.5 square kilometer campus. They employ the triple helix management structure which works to integrate education, research, and products/services. Here, large companies work with smaller start-ups to match innovation with the money to back it up. On-campus, they have main tech areas specializing in photovoltaics and renewable energy to IT and media. Each of these tech centers has their own specialized hub which is customized for specific needs. Generally, all the hubs receive high speed communication systems as well as high-tech equipment which include things such as labs and workshops. Adlershof provides resources and equipment to start-ups and students that normally they would not be able to use affordably.

Frank explains how Adlershof has expanded over the years and the location of specific tech hubs on the campus.

The campus is not all sunshine and rainbows however; they do face some challenges when it comes to its workforce. The campus is located forty-five minutes away from Berlin’s city center. As a result, the young workforce they rely on for breakthrough ideas has to commute this distance every workday. A possible solution is to create housing very close to the research park which would significantly reduce commute time. With this solution however comes a few requirements. For employee satisfaction and the general “want” to live there, the local area must have the right infrastructure. This includes necessities such as good schools for their children, recreational facilities, and everyday stores needed for a high quality of life. These are all improvements that Adlershof is working on for the good of the employees in the park.

This is an example of some the housing in the vicinity of Adlershof. This location significantly cuts down commute time for employees compared to many who live in downtown Berlin.

Adlershof is a bright point in East Germany, competing for national and international business. They provide start-ups a brand name to build off of and promote their product. To stimulate this innovation, they provide an open space with no fences and many common areas for easy, casual interactions among different companies. This is a company that is continuing to expand and contribute to global innovation.

-Basil Rodts

Smart Adlershof

How One Town Reinvented Itself For a Greener Future

Today marked our final travel day of the program! The station, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, looked quite different today than it did on the day of our arrival; instead of hordes of people armed with brooms to clean up the city following the G20 protests, there were just a handful of quiet travelers with their luggage. Our destination, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, was stunning. A large, glass ceiling and many different levels of tracks gave it the feel of one of the most modern hub of Europe. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we were off to Adlershof.

The outside of Berlin’s Central Station. With 5 different levels and an exterior of nearly entirely glass, the Hauptbahnhof is the largest and most modern connecting station in Europe.

Adlershof’s history is long and varied, but it has an interesting connection to North Carolina in the form of aviation history. The Wright brothers were the first to fly, doing so in Kitty Hawk, NC. The first German motor-driven flight occurred less than a decade later in Johannisthal airfield, which is modern day Adlershof. The area grew as a hot spot for innovation in flight, and while touring the park we got to see some of the infrastructure that was used to test engines and planes in the 20th century.

This is a former vertical wind tunnel used to test the aerodynamics of various planes. Adlershof has a long history of innovation in the aviation sector, and it was the site of the first successful German motorized flight.

In the early 1990s, Adlershof once again redefined itself and moved to become a center for research and industry. The long tradition of adaptability was quite evident as we toured the area. Walking around, we noticed not only how impressive the buildings were from an aesthetic standpoint, but also how environmentally friendly and smart they were. It was apparent that this was a source of pride for those involved in Adlershof, especially for an area that brings so many people in to produce new and innovative ways of reducing our impact on the climate and finding more sustainable solutions.

The group gets an inside look at what it is like to work in Adlershof. Despite the location being a little far from city center, the infrastructure and resources available are huge attractors to companies, especially start ups.

At the minimum, many of the buildings had passive solar designs. By using windows and window coverings that can either trap heat or deflect it based on the season, the heating and cooling needs are greatly reduced. The “Amoeba” buildings, nicknamed for their wavy shape, used colorful coverings like these that look good while saving energy.

The so-called “Amoeba” buildings in Adlershof. The name is a reference to the wavy, rounded edges around both buildings. They both utilize passive solar and smart insulation to warm them in the winter, cutting down on heating costs.

Other buildings were creative with their use of traditionally forgotten space. Looking out at the rooftops, we saw that nearly all of them were “green roofs”. These have a multitude of important benefits. Firstly, they can help prevent flooding from sudden downpours of rain. The soil and plants soak in much of the precipitation and then slowly release it over the following hours. This helps reduce the peak amount of water in the drainage system, which is a huge help for stopping flooding. In addition, green roofs can diminish the “urban heat island” effect. This is caused when an area has a lot of asphalt and other materials that reflect heat rather than absorbing it, and is the reason why some cities can be 1-3° Celsius warmer than the surrounding areas. The plants absorb some of the heat that would be reflected by traditional roofs. In addition, they can filter the air of pollutants and carbon dioxide.

The “green roofs” in Adlershof. These help to lower the peak amount of water in the drainage system during downpours and can also help cool down the area and reduce the urban heat island effect!

Finally, we were struck by just how many solar photovoltaic cells we saw. Many were set up on top of the buildings and thus were usually out of sight, but there were some that were creatively installed around the façades. For instance, workers eating in the café were shaded by a semi-transparent array of PV cells adorned on the front outer wall. Another building had a concave array, which we learned was a great breakthrough when the technology was created.

Housing for students attending Humboldt University. Compared to our living spaces in Chapel Hill, we were shocked at how affordable these units were. We also learned about how the floorplan was specifically designed to try to increase social bonding between students.

Adlershof was an interesting look at how smart communities can successfully integrate multiple different institutions: industry, government, and higher education. In some ways, it was the perfect representation of both main topics of interest for our program: renewable energy technologies and smart city planning.

-Keegan Barnes