Horizontal & Vertical Mobility

Experts: Ilse Helbrecht (Geography), Enrique Longinotti (Graphic Design), Gerhard Scholtz (Biology/Comparative Zoology), Sandra Schramke (Cultural History and Theory/Architecture) 

Participants: Ricardo Cedeño Montaña (Cultural History and Theory), Anja Sommer (Artist), María del Rosario Restrepo Boada (Architecture), Amina Grunewald (American Studies), Fabian Scholtz (Architecture)


Berlin stretches over 45km from East to West, and over 38 km from North to South – cities are spatial arrangements, which spread out horizontally. Thus, it is inherent to urban life that people and things overcome distances horizontally within and beyond the city. They commute, drive, are driven, ride and walk. Less obvious, however, equally important, is vertical mobility in urban routines: overlapping routes of transportation (eg. streets or cables), subterranean networks, staircases, lifts etc. move vertically.

Research Problem & questions

Mobility is often instantly associated with horizontal movement. However, cities are not mere surfaces but three-dimensional spaces. Within this space, horizontal, vertical, diagonal or other directions of movement are generally possible though very often restricted due to different forms of constraints; for instance material conditions or social boundaries. Thus, the use of non-horizontal mobility solutions in cities is still a field full of undiscovered opportunities. This interdisciplinary research team tried to find new answers regarding horizontal & vertical mobility in metropolis.


Impulse lectures by experts from Geography as well as Cultural History and Theory initiated focussed discussions and helped to develop trajectories on possible interventions. A guided tour through Berlins subway and bunker systems allowed participants and experts to experience vertical and horizontal mobility in Berlin personally and thus, conceive the topic mentally as well as physically.

Furthermore, a talk show taking place at the embassy of Mexico on the »Future of mobility«, including experts with their background in the industries, supported the participants in their research process.

Research Process & results

Combining expertise and backgrounds from diverse disciplines, this interdisciplinary team focussed on the synthesis not only of existing but also of prospective digital, physical, mechanical and virtual conceptions of horizontal as well as vertical mobility in the metropolis.

By experimenting with forms and formats as well as by intervening in urban routines of mobility, the team approached the problem from multiple points of view. The main subjects of discussion were sensuous perception of urban mobility, signs in urban space and distinctions in the in- and outside. Within the course of KOSMOS 2012, the participants produced a video installation called “Diagonal”. It depicts the experimental encounter while being itself – as an installation – a play with horizontal and vertical projections.

Four different recordings were produced; two of them are based on the intervention of a small camera elevator in front of the façade of the Institute of Cultural History and Theory of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The other two recordings show the walk from Friedrichstraße station to the Institute of Cultural History and Theory, where KOSMOS 2012 took place. By using two camera positions, horizontal and vertical, multi-perspectivity is already inherent to the recordings. The final installation then contradicts our usual experience of watching videos on a vertical screen: the screen consists of two diagonally installed canvases showing overlapping video recordings. Therefore, the angle between the visitor and the projection shapes the images you can see. Aiming at deconstructing common sense understandings of what ought to be horizontal or vertical movement in urban space, diagonal as concept opens up our minds to new forms and formats of horizontal, vertical or maybe diagonal mobility.