Lending an Ear to Architectural History: Commemorating Meyershof, ca. 1932 | Florence Feiereisen & Erin Sassin
Textile factory owner Jacques Meyer meant well when he commissioned the construction of Meyershof, one of Berlin’s largest Mietskasernen (civil rental barracks or tenements), in the working-class neighborhood of Berlin-Wedding in 1873–74. Initially housing more than two thousand people in 257 apartments, along with small businesses and workshops, Meyershof was conceived of as a city within a city. Meyer organized community events and offered a public bath on the premises free of charge to his tenants, and generous gas lighting illuminated the six multifunctional cross-buildings and courtyards of Ackerstraße 132/33.
This complex of courtyards and buildings in the heart of a lively working-class neighborhood was not only visually striking owing to its scale but was remarkable for the number of different residences and businesses on the premises—all of which contributed to its sonic environment. No material traces of Meyershof remain today; there are neither foundations to measure nor artifacts to excavate. Following significant damage incurred during World War II, the building was finally demolished in 1972. It was replaced with an apartment complex bearing little resemblance to its predecessor, essentially transforming and rendering its history—and the lives of its former residents—both invisible and silent. Using the concept of “auralization,” a process Besser and Salter have defined for the field of acoustic ecology as “converting an image of … spatial design into its acoustic properties,” our interactive website seeks to aurally recreate and (re)interpret Meyershof, once one of Berlin’s most infamous tenements and a microcosm of the city that surrounded it.1 Combining visual and aural experiences, we are able to evoke a more powerful response than would a single-sense presentation of the site…
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