Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The WISTA walk

At the beginning of this year, Oliver Wainwright wrote an article in the Guardian predicting trends in architecture in 2014. One change was titled “Public space: no longer public”. He was talking about an increasing trend of privately owned streets and squares in which we are “generously granted access” by the corporations and businesses that own them but in which we must “please enjoy this private estate considerately”. 

This reminded me of when I was taking photographs of a Science and Technology Park in Adlershof, known as WISTA in 2004. The WISTA-MANAGEMENT GMBH, an associate company of the Federal State of Berlin, is the operator of the park, establishing and managing state of the art technology centres. So, it was probably their form that I had to sign that day in order that I be allowed to carry on taking photographs of their technology park.

Just to clarify, this area looks for all intents and purposes like an open public space, with street names and pavements and the usual street furniture and is mapped out like any other part of a city. 

I had spent a few hours walking down newly formed eerily empty streets literally coming to the end of a street in some places because the cobblestones had yet to be laid. It was while I was taking photos of one particular research building that I was approached by a security guard who told me that I was not allowed to take photographs because I was standing on a private street. In fact, he continued, all of the science park area was PRIVATE, which meant I couldn’t take any photographs, unless I signed a disclaimer form. 

What exactly I signed that day I can’t quite remember. What I should have photographed was the form itself, as I don’t recollect what it even said. Celebrities, who may be indulged in their vanity, don't even have that kind of total control over their image! This building was private, not just on the inside but the outside too! 

It was a tawdry experience which belied the building's disarming and playful candy-coloured facade.

Anytime you're Erich-Thilo-Stra├če way, any evening, any day, you'll find yourself...........

......doin' the WISTA walk. Oy! (just don't bring your camera)

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