A day in the life of »Building a Proposition for Future Activities«

On the morning of September 14, 2016 – day 3 of the summer school – Ina and Bernd want to move things forward with the construction of the mini golf courses. In the past two days all participants appropriated the container and its surroundings: installing the kitchen container, furnishing the office container, scheduling meal preparation, making lists, getting to know each other, mobilizing contingencies. Ina, an artist and professor for sculpture at the University of the Fine Arts in Berlin, asks half of the mini golf team to join her at the table to sketch out the possible positions of the lanes and work on a narrative for the course. In the meantime, Bernd, organizer of the summer school and Urban Design Professor, collects the other half of the team plus extra guys from different work activities to stake out the outline of the prototype lane 1 on its future green. The team members arrive, tools in hand, from another work station. At this point, the participants perceive each other as belonging to one of the three categories: international architecture students, industrial school students and refugees. The presence of modified ISO containers on a summer school location, safety boots during a dinner lecture, a concrete mixer next to a children’s playground, cracked yet functional iPad Pros with pdfs of Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building on provisional tables, a baby carriage parked on the lowest level in a wooden ›support structure‹ reveal a situation in which the ›discipline‹ leaves the ivory tower by engaging performatively with the given context without closing out contingency.

Questions about position, form and construction techniques of the mini golf lanes for the First International Mini Golf Grand Prix in Poppenbüttel zig-zag across the table – a self-built provisional of multiplex panels measuring 12 x 1250 x 2500mm, roof battens of 24 x 40 x 2000mm and Spax screws of 4,5 x 40mm produced on day one of the summer school. A4 sheets of printing paper and sketch paper follow questions to illustrate potentialities – those who get a hand on Flo’s bricklayer pencil draw on the table. Farid puts his Samsung phone on the table displaying Google’s image search with the words ›mini golf‹ typed into the search bar, Ina reports on previous art projects.

Days later participants pick up the construction of the first prototype lane after testing the concrete mix together with a foreman from the general contractor. He is only available at the beginning of week two, so the construction process is on halt until then. In the meantime, the project team decided on the outlines of all lanes and asked the digger from the construction site to excavate the pits for the foundation. The ordered gravel has been delivered in two big packs weighing about 1,200kg. With the first ten pushcarts making the 300 meters from the place where the material has been dropped to the final site of the mini golf course only filling about 15% of the excavated pits, participants decide to look for another mode of transportation. Ivan, one of the participants working on Take 1, has a Mercedes Vito with a hitch and a low trailer. Participants empty the big pack until only about half of the gravel remains in it and slide it onto the hitch by pushing a wooden beam measuring 100 x 100 x 2000mm through the loops on top of the big pack over a highly resistant screen plate initially ordered to construct forms for the mini golf lanes. With an eased grin participants repeat the process and all pits are filled by the end of the day.

Breakfasts from 9am to 10am are used for scheduling things do to for the day and figuring out how to do them. Participants quickly agree to transport the wet concrete in a similar fashion as the gravel. Only Ivan is not on site today as he is working as a freelance architect on another project in Hamburg. Just as the first pushcarts are filled with wet concrete, Lukas, an industrial school student, parks his VW Polo in front of the running concrete mixer, steps out of the car, opens the trunk and asks Flo to sit in it. Lukas passes a loaded pushcart into Flo’s hands, asks if he will be able to hold onto it, gets back into the car and drives with about 15km/h to the mini golf course site. Again, improvisation is key on a design build construction site. Julia sketches out what she perceives as assembly line in her journal and gives a copy to Marius, who in addition to receiving credits is paid as student assistant and is responsible for archiving the process.

Participants quickly poor the wet concrete into the mini golf lanes as the 3 x 20mm metal plates suddenly appear to slightly drift topside and builders fear the lane could break out of their frames. Shafiq asks Nicolai for his ripsaw and his assistance. He holds a piece of a wooden board over the framing metal plates and marks two cuts in the position where the plates are supposed to give form to the concrete. Nicolai, who still doesn’ t know what Shafiq intends to do, saws the cuts and hands the board over to Shafiq who positions the board and the two metal plates so plates fit into the cut-outs. The board is a brace. Shafiq has been working as an untrained concrete worker in Syria for years. The other participants quickly produce more braces based on Shafiq’s procedure and place them on all lanes as Lukas and Flo are quick with more pushcarts of concrete. With all lanes filled, two days remain until the summer school’s final presentation day.
While the Mini Golf course itself is nothing new, it needs to be enacted and activated to stress its processual dimension as opposed to its mere object qualities. A self-build community building cannot be provided to those for whom it is but needs to be developed, planned and self-built with its future users, and potential uses in mind.