The Storyteller Idea

“(...) it is crucial to understand people’s life. If you understand the cultural background brought by people to this place, you will have more understanding of their behaviour. People are producing the everyday life of the neighbourhood and writing the non-official story of Wilhelmsburg. “– Ana Rosa

Ana Rosa and Valeria with Hiller the Dentist, one of the 34 protagonists.

What can an open process hotel look like?

While most oft he people worked more object-oriented on technical solutions, Valeria and Ana Rosa’s project turned out different. They walked around in Wilhelmsburg and asked People for facts, fictions or stories of the neighbourhood. They have considered the knowledge of the people in the neighbourhood as a resource to turn out the hotels characteristic as a hub for social interaction and communication. By interacting with different people in different ways, who then carry different knowledge and ideas to the project, the hotel’s development is always in an open state. But then maybe the question is, how can an open process hotel look like? How can concrete structures arise from a process? How to design them?

Q: The workshop was more object-based like one group tried to build a bicycle for the hotel’s gym that can produce electricity, Adrian was very much into building with the scaffoldings and so on... How did you get the idea to go around in Wilhelmsburg with Valeria and talk to the people?
A: I have some work experience with “empowering communities” (for example, I lived in a Favela on a previous research). Furthermore, my professional experience allowed me to deal with many cultural environments (Argentina, Brasil, Italy, France and Bavaria). My master thesis researched both IBA Hamburg 2013 and “intercultural gardens” in Germany, so I had a previous review about the social context in Wilhelmsburg.
In my opinion, through involving this social context, it is crucial to understand people’s life. If you understand the cultural background brought by people to this place, you will understand their behaviour. People are producing the everyday life of the neighbourhood and writing the non-official story of Wilhelmsburg.
Because of this, the first and essential step is to listen to people. This can answer many problematics that are being discussed in the “Hotel?”, as well as it could stimulate neighbors to come to UdN. The main questions of this project was: how could the performance of this hotel be improved by indulging people in this process.
In easy words: “Neighbors should know each other”.

Q: What was your project about and what was your idea behind it? How did you work on it?
A: My intentions were two. First of all, I intended to make a dictionary of stories of Wilhelmsburg – create a step by step link with the community. I would like to give them the opportunity of being estimated and as well as highlight their potentials. In easy words: everybody wants to be listened to, everybody has a story, and listening to people is appreciating them.
Second: as an architect, I thought to use the stories to design internal spaces/objects for the “Hotel?”. Besides their function, the spaces of the hotel could also “communicate” stories of Wilhelmsburg. I used to think how nice it would be to have a place where people can recognize themselves by reading their own stories. For me, it means producing a “cozy home” for neighbours.
The local memory “lies “in local tales of daily life. Prior research was conducted from the 11th until the 16th of February 2013 collecting an oral history of Wilhelmsburg (in the workshop headed by Tom Matton). That phase consisted of listening to residents to collect their stories. It was followed by transforming the more interesting stories collected into the format of a Limerick. The Limerick format was chosen because it is a short way of writing and also because it can be easily understood by people.
We conducted interviews with 12 inhabitants of diverse gender and age, asking them for facts, fictions, or neighbourhood stories. In total, we collected 33 stories (read below). These stories are being transformed into Limericks of four sentences:

1: Singing Bus Driver; 2: Chicken killer; 3: Yellow Ferrari; 4: Widowed Gipsy; 5: Prizessening Island; 6: Family White; 7: The Drama Drummer; 8: Mafia Bank; 9: Bandoleon; 10: Dentist; 11: Fake Italian Cook; 12: Kholn; 13: Neighborhood on the table; 14: Portuguese Restaurant; 15: Turkish Restaurant; 16: Deacon DJ ‘; 17: Driver Teacher; 18: Hallo Digger; 19: Pfeffer Sekers; 20: Unexpected Guest; 21: Mobile Church; 22: Nurse; 23: The pfeffer zeckers; 24: Trümmer Frauen at Vogelhuttendeich; 25: Farmers benefits; 26: Lady Pijama; 27: Indestructible Bunker; 28: The Bosnian bar; 29: The Indian pizza seller; 30: African from Togo; 31: Portugues de Portugal.; 32: The tunnel; 33: Biologist

Q: Did you know how the relation of your work and the hotel could be, before you started your research? Or did the idea you had to emerge at the end after you talked to the people?
A: I would like the hotel could tell stories of the neighbourhood from the beginning. Talking with people was a thermometer which could indicate how I should proceed or behave in the interviews. Meaning, which questions could be asked and which could not – sensing how far I could go.

Q: What was the most impressive experience during your research? Were you surprised by what people tell?
A: The most impressive experience is how people estimate their memories. As a Brazilian, I relate it with the fact that people are not so open here, as there. My perception is that this introspection keeps thoughts fresh. On the one hand, it lets the memories of people be apparent and concerned about their memories, and on the other hand, it was harder to get their stories.

Q: What was the story you will never forget?
A: The friendships I made and the people I met. All stories are critical because they are related to personal experience. People remember not all accounts. I’ve read once those meaningful experiences are associated with the sensibility, which makes the brain create a memory, and memory keeps “things” alive... One just can remember something has touched him or her.

Drawing from a workshop participant. During the workshop, they‘ve built a smoking lounge under the roof, which is modeled on the inside of a gypsy wagon.


So, what does “leaving the comfort zone “mean at the end? It could mean to leave the safe learned ways and go into the unknown. Thus, the workshop sub-projects were also a kind of intervention for ourselves, to walk different paths. This may mean going to a local car mechanic and talking with them about generators and voltages, like the people who have attempted to produce electricity with a bicycle during the workshop. Or just go out, and find out what it means to build a hotel for 70 persons from scaffolding by hand. Daily learned experiences and internalized actions make us a bit blind to see things in a reflected manner. Especially as a designer who deals with social spaces, this is an important finding and might help to design social behaviour.