Wires, Waves, Data: Excavating Berlin’s Urban Media

From 4 – 10 September 2023 (location: TU Berlin), the Department of Architectural Theory will host the annual workshop of the Alliance4Tech cooperation. Klaus Platzgummer is organising this year’s workshop entitled ‘Wires, Waves, Data: Excavating Berlin’s Urban Media’, in which 25 students from the Politecnico di Milano, ETSAM and TU Berlin will go on excursions to explore Berlin as a medium – a storing, transmitting and processing carrier of historical traces of geopolitics. In accompanying seminars, the media-theoretical postulate “The city is a medium” (Kittler, 1986) will be discussed and the workshop will result in an exhibition at the Institute of Architecture at TU Berlin.

„MEDIA record, transmit, and process information – this is the most elementary definition of media. Media can include old- fashioned things like books, familiar things like the city and newer inventions like the computer.“

Friedrich Kittler, The City Is A Medium (1988)

Telephone lines, radio antennas and supercomputers are all media—recorders, transmitters and processors of information that are, often literally, “built-in” to cities. Berlin provides a particularly fertile historical sediment for understanding such media and their “incorporation” into urban fabrics, offering, for example, the Berlin Radio Tower, which both broadcasted radio waves across the city and served as a Nazi observation post; the Berlin Spy Tunnel, which the CIA and MI6 dug to wiretap the communications of the Soviet Army; and the Field Station Berlin, a listening station on Teufelsberg, where the NSA moni- tored, recorded and even disrupted the GDR’s radio traffic during the Cold War.

But urban media are more than “built-in” and “incorporated” things in cities. As media theorist Friedrich Kittler postulated, the city itself is always already a medium. Probably nothing
in Berlin shows this as clearly as the many holes left by the bombs and shells of World War II, still visible on many buildings to this day. Like photographic paper, buildings, cities and environments in general carry the indices of past events. Cities record, transmit and process information — their histories.

The Alliance4Tech Workshop 2023 explores Berlin from a media-archaeological point of view. The aim is to excavate, identify and document Berlin’s urban media. An inte- gral part of this endeavour is excursions; theories and histories of urban media are introduced and discussed in seminars and guest lectures. The workshop documentation is exhibited at the BHROX bauhaus reuse, Ernst-Reuter Platz, Berlin.

Wires, Waves, Data: Excavating Berlin’s Urban Media, © Grafik: Alliance4Tech Workshop 2023