• Experimental Fields: A Cultural History of West Berlin
    Sandra Jasper
    Columbia University Press, 2019
    Sandra Jasper

Brache (wasteland) at Lützowufer, IBA-site, 1982, West Berlin, West Germany. Courtesy of Diathek des Landesbeauftragten für Naturschutz und Landschaftspflege.

West Berlin's material anomalies, its heterogeneous and elusive terrain, and its role as a generator of distinctive intellectual ideas are the primary focus of this book. Drawing on oral history, archives, and ethnographic insights, the book traces how the unusual characteristics of postwar Berlin—an extensively destroyed city and walled-in enclave—created a "laboratory effect" enabling different forms of cultural and scientific experimentation to emerge. Through different examples, including the design of a modernist concert hall, the cultural and scientific discovery of Brachen (wastelands), the strong presence of feminist theory, and cultural responses to the marooned enclave in the visual arts, Experimental Fields presents an alternative history of West Berlin that was confronted with the institutional and political limits to radical experimentation. The book combines insights from geography, architecture, landscape design, feminist theory, art history, and urban ecology that emerged in the particular context of West Berlin.

Sandra Jasper is a postdoctoral fellow in geography at the University of Cambridge and a research associate at King's College, Cambridge. Her research is focused on the corporeal and material dimensions to urban space. She has published a range of essays on feminist theory, soundscapes, and urban nature in journals and edited volumes, including Dialogues in Human Geography and The Journal of Architecture (forthcoming). She is coeditor of The Botanical City (Jovis, 2019) and executive producer and coauthor of the award-winning documentary film Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin (2017, UK/Germany, 72 mins, directed by Matthew Gandy). She is currently developing a new research project on late-modern soundscapes.