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Location: Berlin, West Germany
Year: 1981-1985

The intersection of Friedrichstrasse and the Berlin Wall is the paradigmatic locus of the notion of memory. The strategy for developing this site was twofold. The first was to expose its history and its memories; the second, to acknowledge that Berlin was the crossroads of every place and no place. In the process of materializing this duality, the project attempts to memorialize a place and to deny the efficacy of that memory. The act of memory obscures the reality of the present in order to restore something of the past. Anti-memory makes a place that derives its order by obscuring its past. Memory and anti-memory work oppositely but in collusion to produce a suspended object, a frozen fragment of no past and no future, a place.

Proceeding without nostalgia or sentimentality, the project involves both making and unmaking previous hierarchies through a process of artificial excavation, superimposition, and substitution. The ground becomes an archeological site. The absent city wall of the eighteenth century, the foundation walls of the nineteenth century, the remnants of the twentieth-century grid as projected in the vertical walls of the existing buildings, and the Berlin Wall form a nexus of walls at different levels, which become a composite datum of memory. The Mercator Grid is superimposed as a second set of walls upon and among the historical walls. These artificial or “neutral” walls begin to erase the physical presence of the historical walls. It also renders them inaccessible by causing the ground plane to become deeply eroded; the ground now becomes a figure of its own history. The horizontal wrenching apart of the site leaves a gap between the site and the Wall. The vertical “wracking” of the site reveals the old Berlin grid. The walls of the Mercator Grid become the new horizontal datum: formerly man walked on the ground; now he walks on the walls. Equal in height to the Berlin Wall, they reduce its physical and symbolic presence to that of merely “another” wall in a city of walls.