we are here – we will have been here

What makes a place become a memory?
How is a place charged with emotion? What memories does a place hold? And what memories are created on it? First prize, Art-in-Architecture competition for the 49th elementary school in Berlin-Weißensee


Proposal submission pdf in German


Finding one’s place
“wer are here – we will have been here”


[Explanatory text]

The proposal consists of two parts:
– a sculpture on the front yard of the school campus
– a wall piece on the street facade of the gymnasium

In the briefing of the competition, the topographical setting of the school has been described as “Lost Space”. The site was shaped by earth and rock masses and water, housed swamps, steppes, forests, meadows, fields, a harness racing track, forced labor barracks of the Trumpf chocolate factory, a cycling track that became famous as an arena for concerts (whose echoes and reverberations shaped a generation), sports facilities, businesses, allotments, multi-family and single-family homes.

What makes a place become a memory?
How is a place charged with emotion? What memories does a place hold? And what memories are created on it?

In all likelihood, these are simply not interesting questions for elementary school children – children live in the immediate experience – they are more in the present than we adults are able to be. In school, however, children are brought into contact with abstract and socially determined experiences: with naming, categorizing, dimensioning, defining and differentiating. And parallel to this, around the age of 10, children develop a multi-layered self-perception. They increasingly see themselves through the eyes of others, begin to place themselves in relation (also to the past), they reflect, compare themselves, etc.

The proposal “we are here – we will have been here” operates in this field of tension:
With the part of the work “we are here” I create a place, a settlement, which impresses with its sheer physicality. A stone in the shape of a flat pebble, as if it had been finely polished by millions of years in the water has a finely ground surface. It simply lies there next to the school building. In our present. It is a natural stone boulder, a granite/gneiss; hard rock. On the one hand it is a manifestation of (earth-historical) time and at the same time with its mass and its presence it is simply exactly here now. A place, and an object, which one can climb (effortlessly), on which one can sit or also lie down. A sensual experience of a material, whose colorful and possibly crystalline structure and colors can become visible through the fine cut, whose soft, haptic surface warms up in the sun and gets cold in winter. A meeting place, a gathering place for the here and now. Like the children, it is here now. It was somewhere else before, it looked differently too. Now it is like a soft and yet quite firm companion of this place. It becomes a place in and part of the entrance to the school building.

“We are here,” that is, the manifestation of the present, the here and now, is expressed in slightly deepened (about 0.5cm) font quarter circle letters discreetly incorporated on the top of the stone with a font height of about 4cm.

From across the street (outside the school premises), the sentence “we will have been here” will be visible. It is applied to (the part of) the sports hall facade without windows and ornamentation.
The sentence refers to the future and at the same time to our present, which (later) will have passed. Indicative future II is one of the tenses that is also taught to children during their school years.
It’s powerful and also poetic implication is not at all apparent at first sight. Time becomes experienceable and relatable through linguistic empowerment. It is set in relation to one’s own sensation, one’s own memory, and also to measurable physical parameters.

For the car driver passing by, the person sitting in the bus, the person waiting at the stop waiting at the bus stop, passers-by cycling or running, all of those standing outside the school, this sentence may remind them of their own childhood.

“we will have been here” has an ironic, laconic, as well as a profound sound, reminding of one’s own of one’s own transience. Thus it opens a very free associative space towards the school building as well as towards one’s own life and time in this world. The reference to the responsibility of all of us for this world/our environment is also implied.

The typeface takes up the colorful ornamentation of the façade(s). The specially developed typeface derives the letters from the basic geometric shape of the quarter-circle and thus quotes the quarter circle shapes of the facade ornament. The same paint is used in the same color with which the ornaments are set. The quarter-circles emerge as elements from the ornamentation and become legible – as writing. A visual coupling to the process of learning to read is created here (that one can hardly imagine – once being able to read oneself) – the transformation of forms into signs, of signs into sounds and then into words.

For the children, especially at the beginning of their school career at the Rennbahnstraße elementary school, the stone can initially only be experienced as a presence. They will come here, they are here, they will be here and they will have been here. Like all the others who only pass and have passed this place.

“we are here – we will have been here” writes itself easily and at the same time quite massively into the history of the place as the experience and future memory of all, like everything and everyone before and after them.