Adam Bandler

Advisor: Mark Wasiuta

MS.CCCP 2011


The Berlin Wall was designed with the sole purpose of rendering the city of Berlin inaccessible, and as a piece of architecture, it satisfied its program with the utmost efficiency and clarity. Without the standardization of architectural components, construction and military logistics, its form and speed would have been nearly impossible to achieve. As an urban project, it set new standards in zoning that would become ubiquitous across the rest of the world, from Arizona to Israel, airports to internment camps. The wall, fulfilling the most essential of architectural functions, mastered the separation of inside from outside, haves from have-nots.

Universal in-access was not achieved simply by drawing a line on a map: spanning the wall’s twenty-eight year duration, it was continuously demolished, rebuilt and renovated to more efficiently fulfill its function. This project attempts to describe the simultaneously developing technologies of escape and counter-escape, access and in-access, from the manned coils of concertina wire in 1961 to the standardized wall components, electronic surveillance and codified patrols in 1989. In order to read the wall in these terms, I will not be presenting a paper as such. Rather, I will be reconstructing the design of the wall in the mode of the construction set, the coded language of architectural production. This method of drawing is critical to the project in three ways: 1. It sheds the wall of its East/ West, capitalist/ socialist ideology; 2. It explicitly illustrates the technological developments over its 28-year duration; and 3. It translates a historical artifact into a codified language understood by all members of the design, construction, and code writing and enforcement constituencies. In sum, four drawing sets will be produced, roughly corresponding to the four phases of the wall’s construction. Three sites within the city of Berlin have also been chosen to describe the varying contexts of the wall, how those contexts aided or prevented certain modes of escape and how the wall evolved to prevent further escapes. In this way, a historical analysis of the wall will be produced, demonstrating innovations in wall standards, codes and enforcement, and how these technologies came to define architectural access (or, in-access) in the city of Berlin.

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