Project type: Monument
Location: Berlin, Germany
In Collaboration with Art+Com
Invited cooperative competition by GRAFT and Art+Com
Berlin has been a centre of European film since the advent of moving pictures. With the ‘Boulevard of the Stars’, Berlin made a tribute to the movie and television stars of the past and present. The idea proposed by Art+Com and GRAFT takes the familiar theme of the walks of fame and spins it further to create an intelligent experience worthy of Berlin.
The intention of the boulevard is to make the experience of honouring the stars an experience for Berliners and visitors through an interactive red-carpet movie premiere situation. The project extends along a stretch of the Potsdamer Straße between Potsdamer Platz and Ben-Gurion-Straße and created a dramatic intervention and tourist attraction that benefitted the surrounding shops and restaurants.
Its design and scenography draws on techniques and motifs from the world of cinema. The first stars, such as Marlene Dietrich, could be seen during the Berlinale in 2010. In September of the same year, the boulevard reopened with a further 40 stars. Each year 10 more stars would be unveiled. The featured stars were chosen by a jury of prominent people from the world of German cinema and television.
Most ‘Walks of Fame’ comprise a sequence of memento-like objects that are connected with the featured stars. Art+Com and GRAFT went a step further and transformed the boulevard into a kind of stage. The street installation is a public tribute to the filmmakers on the red carpet. The interactive scenario is defined by four elements: the red carpet, the stars, the cameras and the spotlights.
The base of the boulevard is a walkway of red asphalt stretching along the central reservation between the roadways of the Potsdamer Straße. A strip spills over onto the pavement on either side of the road to draw attention to it, broadening at the entrances to selected buildings like the swell of film music. At the ends it is ‘turned over’ revealing the ‘label’ with information about the installation, the stars, important buildings, and so on. At selected points, the carpet curls over to become a bench for passing pedestrians. The red carpet signifies a thread running through film history.
The movie stars are denoted through the familiar star-shaped plaques, made of polished brass, embedded in the carpet. Each star is engraved with the name, career, dates and signature of the star with the star’s career annotated in German and English. Visitors are invited to make a rubbing of the star’s signature with pencil and paper.
Abstract cameras are placed at selected points along the boulevard and ‘bring to the stars to life’. The ‘cameras’ use a trick known as ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ that John Pepper devised in the 19th century and is still used today. Using reflective glass an image is projected into the view of the observer looking through the ‘camera’ so that it appears that star floats above its respective bronze star. Each of these abstract ‘cameras’ can depict between one and five stars.
Small spotlights attached to the existing masts illuminate the stars from dusk until dawn and are networked so that they can be controlled individually or programmatically. This is used on the one hand to create a flurry of movement rippling along the boulevard and on the other to highlight specific events such the birthdays or anniversaries of death of the stars. The lights are choreographed so that long periods of subtle lighting are interspersed with short bursts of active movement. The lights use LEDs which have low energy consumption and a long lifetime of 10-15 years.
In addition to these four elements, Art+Com and GRAFT designed a screen-based information system that borrows the same device of ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ used in the abstract cameras to provide information about places and events along the boulevard.
The combination of the red carpet, stars, cameras and spotlights creates a holistic experience that evokes the spirit of a movie premiere and invites the visitor to become part of the momentary happening. As a vibrant, growing memorial, it transforms the Potsdamer Straße into an interactive experience and allows Berlin to sparkle as the movie capital it is famous for being.