Last year, the European College of Liberal Arts (presently ECLA of Bard) became one of the satellite academic institutions of Bard College, located in the Hudson River Valley of New York state. The new leadership of the college aims to expand the student body and administration. As a result, the current physical structure is also under review for some changes. I decided to interview Lars Köhler, ECLA of Bard’s site manager, for insight on upcoming changes.
Maria Khan: Can you give us a little historical background of the site which is currently in use?
Lars Köhler: The school is situated in the residential neighborhood of Pankow and the administrative and residential buildings are spread over in the area. These buildings were embassies during the 1960s and are built following the Bauhaus architectural movement from the 1920s. I can give you some information about five buildings in use at the moment. The dorm in Waldstrasse 15 was the Iranian embassy, the one at Waldstrasse 16 – the Iraqi embassy, and the cafeteria was the embassy of Congo. The two buildings on Platanenstrasse were as follows: the administration building was the Indonesian embassy, while the main teaching building, P98A, was the Nigerian embassy.
Maria: What changes are planned for the physical structure?
Lars: ECLA of Bard owns an old factory at Eichenstrasse, which is to be renovated for art classes, workshops or studios. This new space will most probably be used by David Levine and his students. Other than this change, all of the buildings currently in use are grey and uninteresting. We are planning to give different colors to these buildings, in order to make them more aesthetically pleasing and appealing. We also feel that the school remains buried in the neighborhood, and, in order to make it more prominent, we will place the logo of ECLA of Bard on every building. These are the only the changes that are officially in store for the near future. With the expansion of the school for the long term, we might need more space in this area.
Maria: What is your opinion on the fact that most of the students live in ECLA’s residential campus, which is away from the main city? And if ECLA of Bard aims to expand, do you think that the school should move to a busier neighborhood in Berlin?
Lars: I think the biggest charm of studying at ECLA of Bard is living in Pankow. The area is soothing and very quiet. It gives one the chance to recoil in one’s room or read under the trees in the parks. The best aspect of the area is its nearness to the city center: it is only 20 minutes away from Kreuzberg, Schönhauser Allee and some other areas in Mitte. Students do not have to go too far off looking for special and exciting events – the city presents a lot of opportunities everywhere. I will have to emphasize here that Berlin offers history at every nook and cranny of the city. Pankow for instance was part of East Berlin before the Wall fell, and we can still find check posts from the GDR period. Living in Pankow gives one the sense of being at home and also the ability to enjoy the life of the city to its fullest.