02/07/2020Benjamin Menzel


Desire and design draft by Benjamin Menzel

With my prototypical design draft, I desire freely accessible, protected, open public spaces in order to offer an alternative to commercialized public spaces. Places should and must be created and maintained that enable a wide variety of people to meet and promote an exchange in public space - a roof that provides shade and protects when it rains.


In times of Corona we got to feel what it means to prevent social contact. Cultural locations of interpersonal encounters were closed and we had to stay at home. Walks and outdoor activities were allowed, so the outside space played a crucial role in our everyday life. Permanently installed furniture and/ or the canopy of closed restaurants and shops were particularly often used for a stay outdoors. The need for protected public spaces thus became visible during the shutdown.


Before the pandemic and now again, squares, street corners, boulevards, and other public spaces are occupied for commercial use. Charming street corners and historical squares are used by the furniture of the cafes, restaurants and bars. In order to stay in such a place, to enjoy the atmosphere, the view or the aura, one should consume. It‘s normal these days. This extensive duty to consume in public spaces is an alarming development in our cities. To counteract this development it needs alternative places that enable encounters for diverse people and use.


For the use of public spaces, protected places are crucial as we are exposed to weather conditions such as heat, sun or rain. When it starts to rain, public furniture is no longer an option and when you don’t want to spend money you won’t go under the awning of a cafe to wait till the rain eases. So you quickly escape under the nearest canopy, bus stop or house entrance - you search for shelter.


Often, I have stayed under the canopy of a house waiting for the rain to ease. And many times I was not the only one. Others quickly decided to take the same place. Through this shared experience of spontaneous decision to find shelter, people are connected pleasantly and invited to a conversation. The natural fact to await the rain, allows you to encounter somebody openly. This kind of chance encounter is very valuable and would not have happened in a commercial place like a cafe.


For the sustainable future of our cities we need spaces in public environment that protect us from weather conditions and enables natural encounters independently of age, class, race and religion. Simply a roof can provide the fulfillment of these needs - a roof as public shelter in open space.


The design draft represents a combined open and sheltered public space to offer a place to meet and relax in all kinds of weather conditions. It reflects an easy transition from an outside option to kind of an inside option being able to move around according to the weather situation. It is elaborated as a wooden round pillar, square based system structure. The main construction is a roof that covers an empty ground area underneath it. Around the structure there is a seating platform installed which is separated for access on three sides. A translucent shell of the roof and platform enables a modest structure, which enhance the surrounded site.

Benjamin Menzel, public shelter, 2020 Berlin (DE)