Author : Arseni Timofejev

University : Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art

Status : DipArch, 2015

Title : Balloon Station Friedrichstraße · Berlin

The station of Friedrichstraße is an incredibly complex, three–dimensional node. [ 50 000 people ] rush through this maze–like structure daily: commuters change the elevated trains for trams or subways, shoppers take advantage of the Friedrichstraße terminus to hop on a bus, tourists get off ferries and dash to see all the sites nearby. Nobody stops, for there is little to do except drop by one of the retail units to grab and go. It’s a >>> transitional space, a habit — an [ invisible node ] that has little character or interest in the urban experience.

The Thesis introduces a Balloon Station as a strategy to change the reading of this node, to turn the everyday transitional space into a place. The functional spaces of the existing station are traversed by a series of positive events that offer delight, intrigue, and reason to see the station as an exciting part of the urban experience. The train station and the Balloon Station act as one — sharing infrastructure, enhancing connectivity, fusing functionality and joy.

Balloons — the symbol of freedom and celebration — reverse the fame of the place as a Station of Tears, its role as a node of separation during the era of divided Berlin — and transform it into a node of celebration. The programme of balloon manufacture, enjoyment and launch into the Berlin skies — and their return by means of existing public transport — turn the station into a centre of circulation that  [ connects ] the entire city by means of a highly visible, celebrated cycle.

Interview

S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
AT_ Quite a few aspects of the complex site, ambitious programme and urban relationships have been investigated in more depth than it is possible to show in the digital data above — for example, an in–depth study into the use of human body heat as a sustainable energy source found that the 50 000 daily users of the station could power up to 44 hot air balloons without the need for the traditional propane fuel; this study and further high–resolution images can be found on my website www.arsenit.com

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
AT_ I am fascinated by languages — their use as a tool to describe, measure and understand the world; the power of different languages to provide new perspectives; and the ability to ‘read’ a culture/context through the analysis of its language. There’s a lot of parallels with Architecture, and I hope to connect the two interests as I explore the world, both architecturally and linguistically.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
AT_ Architecture School is a very small bubble — so the most useful perspective often comes from outside; it’s important to find the time to ‘step out’ and evaluate what you’re doing from a distance.

S//A : Describe your dream project
AT_ I don’t like the concept of a ‘dream project’ — what I’m working on at each moment is given 100%, explored to maximum potential, and turned into the most exciting and ambitious version of itself — otherwise, what’s the point of doing it? One can wait for a ‘dream project’ for a lifetime — I think it’s more challenging and rewarding to grab the opportunity at hand and make it the absolute best.