Estonian Urbanists´ Review U
Brln U


More Berlin




Who is an urbanist?



Case study


REGINA VILJASAAR, urbanist, Linnalabor, Tallinn & JÖRN FRENZEL, strategic designer/architect, Vatnavinir, Berlin





FUN TIME WITH BAD MONEY. A tool-kit for changing a neighbourhood?

– Interview with Rebecca Solfrian from Coopolis in Berlin

Urban wanderings



Urban photography



Let us introduce




FOCUS ON OUTER BERLIN Think Berl!n's Radikal Radial: Reshaping Berlin’s radial streets


Field notes



In Academy



Reading list




More Berlin

A wealthy poor city, the Mecca of capitalism and anarchists, the field of grassroots activism and high-end developments – even two decades after the fall of the Berlin wall the city is charged with the electricity of confrontations. In Berlin, the division of Europe into East and West is clearly visible. The contrasts of Berliners' lifestyles remind us, outside observers, that nothing in urban space should be taken for granted. Urbanists are left to recognise that the pioneers come from Berlin. Indeed, a city mauled by two waves of gentrification is closely linked with themes also close to our hearts – temporary uses, participatory planning and urban activism. The Berlin special, Brln U, speaks of resistance and doing things differently – inside and outside the system.

We open with a look at how Berlin became the city we know today, by the Ph.D. candidate at Estonia University of Life Sciences Jekaterina Balicka. Katja draws our attention to the fact that the roots of the contemporary trendy aura of the city can be traced back to the decades following the Second World War. The story of resistance against large developments on the riverbanks of Spree, is told coherently by a Tallinn urbanist from Linnalabor, Regina Viljasaar and strategic designer/architect Jörn Frenzel from Berlin. We also had an opportunity to interview Rebecca Solfrian from Coopolis, and organisation that looked for a spot in the system, but ended up being part in defining the identity of a whole Neukölln neighbourhood. Building a bridge between urban and transport planning on the radial streets of Berlin is a topic for another project rebelling within the system – Think Berl!n's 'Radikal Radial', here introduced by NGO's member Cordelia Polinna. An exceptionally interesting story of looking at one’s own place/home which describes the feelings of East Berliners after the fall of the wall has been written by Linda Rezvan, a PhD student from the University of Belfast. A wandering Estonian urbanist in Berlin, Triin Pitsi, writes about resistance outside the system and squatted houses – which is relevant here given the heated discussions about shutting down the only squat in Estonia, in Tartu. Actual rebellion, in the form of left-wing street demonstrations, are here documented in a series called 'reflesh' by Ivar Veermäe, an Estonian artist and photographer residing in Berlin.

There are not many urbanists who use a transportable open mic called 'The People's Mic'. Alan Prohm, a Berlin resident and appreciated lecturer in Estonia, answers the question 'Who is an urbanist?'. His answer is definitely worth a read – it is a thoughtful expression of resistance, and an invitation to act. Even though Alan usually comes to Estonia in the spring the urban studies programme takes place around the year. In U13 we try to blow life into a column 'In Academia' that introduces student projects, texts, and ambitions. This time we are happy to present an urban studies studio project from Estonian Academy of Arts called 'Northern Tallinn – between 'Potential' and the everyday'. The spring semester began with a great workshop preparing for the 2013 architecture biennial TAB. Details of the pre-event project and the workshop can be found from Anna-Liisa Unt's overview.

U13 is, as before, conveniently accessible online. You are also welcome to print it out from the PDF. It is also possible to print each article separately. Please print less, but share and spread more! Let us know what you think.

Keiti ja Kaija-Luisa, toimetus@linnalabor.ee


Vegetable garden near the Brandenburg Gate, 1947. Postcard



The past decade has been characterized by a boom of urbanism. Buzzwords, such as ‘grass-root urban initiatives’, ‘participation’ and ‘creative districts’ have become hip, actual and important. Berlin is still often cited as an example of being cool, creative and livable  as if Berlin was implementing the heritage of Jane Jacobs directly in its urban development strategies. The city profits from its low-budget coolness – the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit (2001–), has stated, that   ́Berlin is poor, but sexy', attracting people from different parts of Germany and other parts of the world, for both short stays or longterm living. The object of touristic interest over the past decade was not only its architecture and museums, but its quality of life: its freedom, its uncertainty. There remains an idea of Berlin being cool, an example of which could be eating a kebab under a scaffold, with people passing by just next to you; or watching a Karaoke event at Mauerpark after some flea market shopping; or taking a picture in a retro photo booth next to the S-Bahn station Warschauer Straße; or standing in the long queue to get through the facecontrol at the legendary Berghain club, or any other scenes of the easyJet influenced touristic Berlin-idyll of the years 20062010.

Life in Berlin is celebrated because it fits to the Zeitgeist of the recent time. Things often associated with Berlin are squatters, the lo-fi artscene, clubs and temporary use projects – Zwischennutzung. Philipp Oswald in his book ’Berlin – Stadt ohne Form: Strategien einer anderen Architektur’ describes the city as the ‘urban research laboratory of the residual’. This describes very well the nature of Berlin with about 3,5 million inhabitants and its very different districts - Kiez, where the ‘coolness’ has been changing in time – Charlottenburg being hip in the late 60's, Schöneberg in the 70's, high-lighted by David Bowie, Kreuzberg, starting with the squatting in the 80's; Prenzlauer Berg from the early 90's until beginning of 2000s; then Kreuzberg again and Friedrichshain; and recently Neukölln. Inhabitants of Berlin chose their home district, according to rent they could afford and their individual view on the quality of life and lifestyle.



The development of Berlin as we know it ‘started’ after WWII had destroyed a significant part of the built-up areas and perforated the urban structure. After the division of the city in 1945, many industries were moved to the south of Western Germany and the deindustrialisation of West Berlin started. When the capital of the new-founded FRG was established in Bonn, West Berlin became an enclave, surrounded by the wall. East Berlin in contrast became the representative capital of the GDR for 40 years.

The excess of vacant space, which over-exceeded the demand, was the reason for the relatively low rents and catalysed the development of subcultures. Due to the ‘inward periphery‘ – empty, unused areas within the city, its specific perforated structure – Berlin was the It-location for ‘creative districts‘ for many decades, starting in the late 60s. The creative boom migrated from one district to the next, depending on the economic, political and cultural circumstances of the decade. In that sense, development of districts can be compared to the process of natural succession, starting with the first habitants, who detect the undiscovered opportunities of the vacant space, but are also the only ones, who are able to survive and ’profit’ in rough conditions. This phase is followed by the arrival of other ‘species’, able to settle only on already prepared ground. This is the moment, when the area becomes cool, the soil becomes more fertile, that in terms of urban studies the gentrification process starts.

Temporary uses emerge from the same premises as other cultural movements in Berlin mentioned above. Contrary to common oppinion, it is also not a concept originating from the last two decades – an axiomatic example of temporary use in Berlin is the establishment of the allotment gardens during the late 40's in the Tiergarten Park, which was destroyed in WWII (see picture above). There were two reasons to establish vegetable gardens on the grounds of the ruined park. First, an economic one – to provide home-grown products in the post-war years, and second, it was very important to construct a new identity for the city by reusing the destroyed areas.

After the Mauerfall – the fall of the Berlin Wall – the rediscovery of East Berlin started. The rents in East were significantly lower than in the West. There was a new wave of squatting, as many students moved to East Berlin's districts such as Prenzlauer Berg. The character of united Berlin changed drastically: from the alternative in the West and the declining capital of the East to a new metropolis. This first wave of gentrification in the 90s was followed by the international ‘Berlin-boom’, celebrating Berlin and its lifestyle, leading to the second gentrification wave.

The late 2000s glorified all the multi-layered properties of the city that had developed during the post-war decades. But simultaneously the Berlin-boom endangered the fragile system, which facilitated all the stated qualities of the city. The following public resistance to the gentrification and urban development plans in some districts is no less interesting.

‘Berlin doesn’t love you’ – DIY anti-tourists posters in Kreuzberg. From tvberlin video



During and after the boom in the late 2000s, some voices of protest started to rise: e.g. Kreuzberg communities’ demonstrations against party-tourists11. goo.gl/Qlw5U or posters in Prenzlauer Berg district against gentrifiers from Swabia.

The most illustrative example of the community resistance against recent development trends is the action of the group ‘Mediaspree versenken’ (Sink the Mediaspree), acting against the development strategy on the riverbank of Spree. Long after the deindustrialization, the areas along the river in the districts Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain were occupied by a chain of different clubs. These clubs became an important hotspot for the development of the alternative music scene. Due to the riverside development strategy, most of the land use contracts were temporary. ‘Mediaspree’ started to formalise in 2002 and was planned to be implemented in the late 2000s in order to increase investments into the area. The strategy included development with a focus on mass-entertainment and the media industry, which would potentially attract further developments including businesses and high-class housing. Local activist groups initiated several demonstrations against the ‘Mediaspree’ and were massively supported by the voters, mostly inhabitants of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, on a referendum.2 2. read in more deatail from Regina Viljasaar's and Jörn Frenzel's text – ed.

'Berlin calling' (2008), film scenes picturing Bar25

‘Mediaspree versenken’ claimed that the development strategy would only provide cultural services for a very limited group of people. Simultaneously, according to the activists, new development would push aside current people producing cultural values. People who demonstrated against the development plan also organised a party on the streets, bringing the values they were protecting into public space with loud music and dance. For a short time the streets were converted into temporary event venues.

It is important to note that in the aforementioned examples the gentrifiers of the first wave resisted the second wave of gentrification, which was actually only a consequent phase to the processes started by the first wave. Local inhabitants protected the values and character of the district they felt like they had created and voted against the capitalization of Berlin.

 ́MediaSpree versenken ́ party-demo, 2008. By flickr.com user tranZland



In the case of Mediaspree, the public authorities partly supported the results of the referendum, yet there is no mutual understanding when it comes to the development plans.

Another example of political will is the case of the former Tempelhof airport. Tempelhof airport was situated between the districts of Neukölln and Tempelhof, quite in the heart of Berlin. The airport was closed in 2008 due to the plans to create one joint airport outside the city borders. In the summer of 2009 few thousands of activists planned to squat the area protesting against the privatisation and capitalisation of the urban space, but the action was stopped by the police. In May 2010 the area of the airport was opened for the public just as it was and named the Tempelhof Park. The new park, using the inherent airport infrastructure of about 300 hecta-acres had possibilities for various activities: cycling, skating, kiting, picnics, grilling, sunbathing, watching birds and insects, inventing and trying new sports, enjoying the sunset and sunrise. Tempelhof Park was planned, though, as temporary: the future development strategy included converting the area into a part of the IGA 2017 (International Garden Exhibition) area to be followed by and following a conversion into the area of mixed recreation and living functions. In 2011 the activist group ‘100% Tempehofer Feld’ was created, fighting against the further development plans. The plans for development of Tempelhof Park were, to a great extent, abandoned in the summer of 2012.

Tempelhof Park in summer 2010



The Berlin of 2010s seems not to be the same as the cool and friendly ever- partying Berlin of 2000s. Few social and spatial layers of contemporary creative Berlin have proven to be too fragile to stand against the boom and its consequences. Die Gentrifizierung frisst ihre Kinder.3 3. Gentrification eats its children

However the strength of Berlin is not only its vacant space, and lies not only in the special lifestyle which has developed because of the spatial structure. The strong community of the city, which has not only created contemporary Berlin – one of the most pleasant urban environments in Europe, in my opinion – was also able to stand against the changes, which logically followed the first gentrification wave. I can claim that Berlin doesn’t like Master plans and high-end solutions. The cases of MediaSpree and Tempelhof Park illustrate how local initiatives forced the political representatives to include the interests of the inhabitants and flexible development plans into the long-term development strategies. This is what we can learn from Berlin.


Who is an urbanist?

What is a city? What isn’t? (Lefebvre*) 

So, Who isn’t? That’s my first answer.

Who isn’t? Show up everybody; shape where you live.

* Lefebvre in The Urban Revolution wrote that the process defining the urban phenomenon is not bound to geographic or population limits. The growth of this phenomenon, where it meets limits to extension, continues on the same principles, and at increasing speed, intensively. Thus by mid-20th Century the countryside is already urbanized, and by the start of the 21st also the oceans, the human nervous system, plant biology, and of course the web.

Who shapes that?

Urbanization in Lefebvre’s sense is industrialization, a principle of extractive/accumulative/accelerative action on space/time, matter, life, value and power. It spreads, even if not another building is built, as an expanding/invading network of wealth-extraction pathways. City is the ongoing industrialization of life everywhere. And, increasingly, of your life, personalized, networked and tracked.

Urbanists do not exist. That’s my second answer. There are only industrialists, and either the ideologues who argue the process works, or the ideologues who prove the process is rigged. Do what you want to the city, you will not change life beyond the limits pre-set by the financial dictatorship. Unless you change the limits set by the financial dictatorship.

You are allowed to play in the labyrinth these days – but the labyrinth is data-mined, media-targeted and rigorously indexed to the market – so go ahead, be their guests. Even if you do get to move the walls around a bit, what you’re changing is survival, not life.

Unless you’re changing life.

City is not something there to shape – it is something being waged against us.

Crisis is in chronic outbreak on all parts of the planet, but it is in cities that the system becomes the great brutal paranoid defense-of-status-quo industry we call home, today in the security & surveillance state. Urbanism is war, to paraphrase Misselwitz and Weizman (see S. Graham, Cities Under Siege, p16). If you say you are an urbanist, at best you are a partisan.

Build a body. Disentangle. Thrive/Love. Together.

Case study

'Fuck Off Mediaspree' and new developments. Photo: Regina Viljasaar

The seed of this article was planted in November 2012 when on a Monday morning we visited the KaterHolzig club in Berlin with a small group of curious urbanists. While the last hazy-eyed clubbers were occupying the courtyard and a muffled techno beat reached the headquarters, people behind the club explained to us their concept of a cooperatively-run, fully sustainable live-work-play hub, an experiment that in this scale is probably unheard of. Our desire to understand the project became the starting point for a colourful excursion through the shifts and changes that have taken place in Berlin over the last decades.


The site that soon might become a testing ground of new cooperative and economic models was ten years ago ’part of a larger stretch of land along the river Spree owned by Berlin's sanitation service (BSR); they had been having trouble finding tenants for the space, so they were happy to rent a smaller parcel out’11. Luis-Manuel Garcia. 'Showdown in Spreepark'. Nov 26, 2010. That was in 2004 and soon the location became known as Bar25, the embodiment of Berlin's legendary night life.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the new Berlin club scene had been very improvised and spontaneous. Fueled by techno music and its many derivatives, the actors eagerly occupied vacant space, then still ample in East Berlin. The clubbing scene and associated social projects22. For example Jamaican cultural headquarters YAAM soon moved into the abandoned industrial sites and vacant lots along the River Spree, found mainly in the Schillingbrücke and Ostbahnhof areas. At the beginning, this all stayed fairly underground, but soon, with Berlin increasingly becoming the It-location in the second half of the 90s and early 2000s, this scene became well known on a worldwide level. This is the time when Bar25 opened.

One of the founders of the club, ’[Christoph] Klenzendorf moved onto the property with a trailer and his friends in August of 2004, and a six-week-long, non-stop party ensued. Over the winter, they started with plans to create a bar, hostel, and restaurant on the location, which opened in the spring of 2005 as Bar25. [...] The six-week party that started it all set the tone for Bar25's events. The place soon became famous for its "anything goes" hedonism and drugged-out messiness. The club would open on Friday and stay open non-stop until Monday afternoon or evening, and so on Sundays it became a favourite spot for people to collapse or keep going at the end of a gruelling party weekend. Everyone has a story of excessive drug use, sexual adventure and/or lost items.’3 3. Luis-Manuel Garcia. 'Showdown in Spreepark'. Nov 26, 2010

During the 90s, the neighbourhoods of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain (where Bar25 was located) had become the ‘cool districts’: new cultural experiments and old East Berlin social structures happily co-existed and gentrification was not yet a widespread term. But a decade later, ’property values were rising along the river Spree in Friedrichshain as the gentrification of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg was pushing eastward and the urban development plan, ’Mediaspree was accelerating.’4 4. Ibid.

The growing fame of Berlin as an ‘alternative city’ and the subsequent exposure to ‘global capital interests’ kicked off the same merry-go-round of gentrification as everywhere else in the Western world. This development put increasing pressure on places such as Bar25, whose relationship with the landlords had never been friendly, eventually forcing them to find alternative locations – although sometimes still nearby.


One of the pictures circling online that depicts the volume of Mediaspree development. 


’As far back as the early 1990s, city planners began discussing ways to utilize and develop the left and right banks of the Spree River in the former East Berlin in an area that was once divided by the Berlin Wall. They prepared draft plans and a land-utilization scenario, which succeeded in attracting the interest of real-estate developers. With almost €60 billion in debt, Berlin needed money. At a certain point, the city, landowners and investors formed an organization to market the riverbanks. They called their group 'Mediaspree'.5 5. Christoph Scheuermann. 'Building Spree: Developers and Dreamers Battle Over Berlin Identity'. – Der Spiegel. Sept 11, 2008

6. Jennifer Gardner. 'Berlin Mediaspree'  – Cargocollective. June 2010

’In short, ’Mediaspree’ is the branded vision created by a coalition of property owners, developers and investors, intended to promote the development of the Spree’s upland areas in the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshein neighbourhoods of Berlin as Germany’s newest media center.’6. The plans were based on earlier predictions of immense population growth of Post-Wall-Berlin, thought to soar from 3.5 million to 6 million, beyond even pre-Second World War dimensions! Such a growth allegedly required an appropriate supply of office and living spaces. In reality, this never happened and the population of Berlin is still around 3.5 million, with a mild upswing of 100.000 to 200.000 in the coming years.

Due to Berlin ́s dire financial situation, the Mediaspree plans – drafted in the 90's – have been only partly implemented. It has been using the tactics of ’nice regeneration’: reusing old industrial buildings, bringing in creative industry and opening culture institutions such as galleries, restaurants, and event spaces. But the main characteristic of the place is defined by the completed super-modern glossy monoliths: headquarters of MTV Networks Germany, Universal and VIVA, accompanied by other out-of-scale scale developments like the 17.000-seat O2 Arena.’7 7. Ibid.

Next to the new buildings there can still be found a protected but neglected historic industrial compound, an established anarchist squatter community, [...] residences of a primarily German-Turkish population’.88. Ibid.


The Mediaspree area: green – existing buildings; red – planned new buildings; hatch – 50 metres wide area along the riverbank


Mediaspree development turned out to be the one common denominator that united most urban groups – urban activists, clubbers, green politicians, members of the underground, neighbourhood associations, anarchists etc. ’The entire project is perceived as an investment in the high-end sector, primarily about profitable river front development with a privatized view of the river Spree, while the social realm is neglected. It is feared that the planned ‘valorization’ of the area will lead to rising rents, anti-social urban development, and cultural extinction.’9 9. WikipediaAnd ’with the program Mediaspree, some of the most popular free spaces along the Spree’s riverside are condemned. These alternative bars, beach areas and parks are so much part of their air and Berlin’s soul.’1010. Urbalize article, based on www.ms-versenken.org Due to those fears, protests increased, culminating with large demonstrations by the initiative ’MediaSpree versenken!’ (Sink MediaSpree!), active since 2007.

Investorenbejubeln (Investors' Celebration), a demonstration on the river Spree in which protesters used rubber dinghies and paddle boats to follow a boat-cruise of Mediaspree investors, which was then broken off prematurely (Wikipedia)

After gathering several thousand people in the course of different protests, under the common slogan ’Spreeufer für alle!’ (Spree riverbanks for all!), the core members of the resistance movement launched a petition for a referendum. Their goal was to publicly decide on the following aspects of the Mediaspree development:

–  A 50 meter buffer zone of free space along the river banks (instead of proposed 10 meters)

–  Keeping the standard Berlin 22 meter height restriction applicable to new buildings

–  A new bridge built only for cyclists and pedestrians, not cars

The necessary supporting signatures were collected quickly and on 13th of July 2008 the referendum took place. 87% of voters – roughly 30,000 people – supported the proposals of Sink Mediaspree. According to the organization Mehr Demokratie (More Democracy), this was the most successful Berlin citizens movement to date.1111. Wikipedia The results were not binding, however, and city officials expressed different views whether the public opinion would be taken into account. For 15 months The Special Committee Spree, formed of different stakeholders, deliberated. By then the protesters had announced the following: 

’The achieved alterations to the designs (see info brochure), however, did not indict a real breakthrough or change in direction. Demands of the referendum for a minimum 50 metre gap between the river front and new developments, the renouncement of high rises and car traffic bridges were still not met! Hence, we continue to fight for an alternative, social and ecological urban development that is open to the involvement of many, not just of a few building speculators. One first step has got to be a stop to the sell-out of the last remaining publicly owned land. We demand: (Re)municipalisation now!’12 12. ”Sink Mediaspree” homepage


'By chance the ‘Bar25's location was right in the middle of the Mediaspree project's development area, and the owners (Berlin Sanitation Service) had plans to capitalize on it. The lease period was going to end in the winter of 2008, so Bar25 held a big closing party in September 2007.’13 13. Luis-Manuel Garcia. 'Showdown in Spreepark'. Nov 26, 2010They moved out only in 2010, though, after an eviction notice, illegal squatting of the place during the summer and a temporary settlement with the landlord.

‘What's curious about this is that Klenzendorf had made a big deal about the impermanence of Bar25. In several interviews, Klenzendorf insisted that much of the specialness of the place came from the fact that it will soon close, that he'd rather end it before it got stale. In Tobias Rapp's ’Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno, and the Easyjet Set’, for example, Klenzendorf is quoted giving his opinion on the inevitable closing of Bar25, saying: 'At some point, it'll all be over. But it's also beautiful that it's so transitory[...]. A fantastic time. A closed chapter. That's how it'll be, and I think that's great.'

But by the summer of 2010, the philosophy had shifted. Bar25's management was considering re-opening in a new location; a website dedicated to 'saving' Bar25 from closing came online; and Bar25 and a group of filmmakers have been collecting money online to create a documentary about the place. Suddenly, Bar25 went from having a Zen-like acceptance of its finality to running in three directions: preserve the magic on film, prevent the closing altogether or start afresh in a new place.’14 14. Luis-Manuel Garcia. “Showdown in Spreepark”. Nov 26, 2010


During Sink Mediaspree protests (YouTube

A still from the ‘Bar25 - Tage außerhalb der Zeit’ movie by Britta Mischer & Nana Yuriko 2012. ’Worlds away from society's conventions and norms, Bar25 became the melting pot from which a truly Berlin culture emerged. The film follows the creators of Bar25, four young individuals whose free-wheeling way of life, of music, individuality and never ending energy transforms a riverside wasteland into a fantasy land by the river Spree. But if the community's life appears fulfilling from the outside, living it day after day isn't easy. With this rhythmic and colorful film we aim to show viewers the diversity, internationality and creativity of Berlin and what it takes to create a seemingly utopian world.’ (IMDB)

As a result, a new place, KaterHolzig , was opened just across the river, on a plot of an old soap factory. Also with a short lease, KaterHolzig is by now as legendary as its predecessor. Besides the (now year-round) club there ́s a daytime bar, restaurant and ’hand-built adventure playground’15 15. Tobias Rapp. 'Showdown on the Spree: Cult-Bar Site Symbolizes Battle over Berlin's Future'. – Der Spiegel, June 13, 2012

16. Skrufff. 'Berlin’s Christoph Klenzendorf - Beyond Bar 25 & Katerholzig (an Interview)'. Nov 26, 2012
. As Klezendorf explains: ’My partner is a really good chef and we did this high class kitchen which also attracted really different people. So all the ravers came but also people who could afford to spend 30 EUR each on a steak. And they all mixed up together and everyone enjoyed it. Which was why so many different types of people started coming.’16


KaterHolzig will close in the autumn of 2013, but in the meantime their ideas have reached new heights. ’We want to develop (the idea that started with) Bar25 to the next level. It’s never going to be the place it was before, it will never be a full-on hedonistic party temple, but we want to bring the spirit of Bar25 and the network of people who developed that idea and develop the site involving them.’1717. Ibid. In the summer of 2012 (and ‘conveniently coinciding with the release of the documentary’ 1818. Luis-Manuel Garcia. 'Another Post-Bar 25 Update'. June 22, 2012) KaterHolzig organisers announced the opening of two parallel projects that they hoped to build on the old Bar25 premises: Holzmarkt and Mörchenpark.

Holzmarkt is built around the concept of a live-in community: a hotel, an IT-centre, a student dormitory with 400 apartments, a 18.000 sq m village of artist studios (most of which will have rolling three-month leases to keep things fresh), a restaurant and a 24-hour day care centre with space for 30 kids.

Mörchenpark will be a child-friendly public park that uses German fairy-tale themes while also providing wholesome, nature-oriented activities for children.

The concept is that ‘we combine nature, economy and culture in our thoughts and considerations. [...] Where the scar between East and West is still visible, a vibrant neighbourhood that connects Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg is to be created.’1919. holzmarkteg.de/seite/?/en Or to put it another way – ’the clubbers want nothing less than the future of life. Ecology, global food security, alternative energy, mobility... It will be an experiment of subculture, labour and urban development’.20 20. Karin Schmidl. 'Das Dorf der Zukunft'. – Berliner Zeitung, October 19, 2012



Fundraising begins for both projects, jointly called the Holzmarkt, via an upcoming public auction for the old Bar25 location.

Berlin's government is ’notoriously cash-strapped, and has been for years’2121. Dan Hill. 'Journal: A walk in Schöneberg, Berlin: energy policy, gentrification, protest, and the humble joys of communal flower beds'. May 07, 2012

22. Tobias Rapp. 'Showdown on the Spree: Cult-Bar Site Symbolizes Battle over Berlin's Future'. – Der Spiegel, June 13, 2012
, so the selling of public land has been an important source of income. Yet in the last 10 years, Berlin has almost always sold its properties to the highest bidder. This situation has created mounting criticism – ‘many fear that without the necessary open space, Berlin could soon say goodbye to the only major success story of recent years: its booming cultural scene’22

In the case of Holzmarkt their ‘grass-roots-style, anti-commercial, communal, and Mediaspree-critical approach has caught the attention of much of the media. They’ve rather cleverly put a lot of public pressure on the city by making their building proposal the moral favorite for the public, even if it’s not the economic favorite.’2323. Luis-Manuel Garcia. 'Another Post-Bar 25 Update', June 22, 2012

24. Tobias Rapp. 'Showdown on the Spree: Cult-Bar Site Symbolizes Battle over Berlin's Future'. – Der Spiegel, June 13, 2012 
But the public support alone won’t be enough to win a bid for 18,672 square meters (about 4.6 acres) of prime real estate, which is about the size of three football fields24.

Luckily, Berlin didn’t have to weigh the value of the culture industry – thanks to Swiss legislation, the Holzmarkt people ended up placing the highest bid.

In Switzerland ’since 1985, all residents are required to make provisions for old age. 2500 pension funds manage the savings of individuals or groups of companies, which pay for employees.’ One of the founders of Stiftung Abendrot (the Eclipse Foundation), who became the owner of the former Bar25 property, explains: 'We prefer to buy brownfields and then support ecological and culturally significant projects. That can be sheltered workshops or spaces for artists and craftspeople. Two months ago, Eclipse has acquired an old subway station in Wedding. It has been developed into the 'Cultural and historical centre of Christiania'25.25. Karin Schmidl. 'Das Dorf der Zukunft'. – Berliner Zeitung, October 19, 2012 

26. Ibid. The purchase price must be earned back but he adds: 'The constant race for profit destroys society. The agreed rent is moderate enough for us.'26 

The location has been contractually passed on to clubbers in order to bring the Holzmarkt idea to life. Christoph Klezendorf explains that ’by planning in a huge hotel that made it possible for us to bid the high amount for the land we needed to. The building is going to be a 32,000 square metre building that’s 30 metres high and it will be behind the railway tracks [...]; it’s 6,000 square metres that faces the street. There will be student accommodation and also a business/research centre for start-ups2727. Skrufff. 'Berlin’s Christoph Klenzendorf - Beyond Bar 25 & Katerholzig (an Interview)'. Nov 26, 2012

28. Ibid.
, all forming a self-sustaining part of Holzmarkt. The whole idea is that it will be a research centre with people living and working under the same roof, researching into the future, on how to optimise our society and how we stop wasting resources.28

This will also help to sustain the other cultural events taking place. ’The goal is that the cultural elements of the club can be sustained easily without needing too much money. Whenever you put a lot of financial pressure on a cultural project the creativity is reduced and we hope to remove that pressure.29 29. Ibid.

View of KaterHolzig from Holzmark site. Photos: Regina Viljasaar
Spree river: on the left bank in haze KaterHolzig, on the right bank Holzmarkt's site
Example of Mediaspree reconstructed and new buildings


Holzmarkt has begun a new strategy for realising their visions while also compensating the Foundation Abendrot for their investment. An estimated €50 million is needed to make the entire project happen.3030. Tobias Rapp. ’Showdown on the Spree: Cult-Bar Site Symbolizes Battle over Ber- lin's Future’. – Der Spiegel, June 13, 2012 To reach that goal, a cooperative has been formed - Genossenschaft für Urbane Kreativität (GuKeg) - where anybody can take part in creating both economic and public value, providing a generous amount of money is invested. The management of this project has been crafted following open and participatory values; a ’corporate structure (see pdf) to separate the power of money from the power of the voice’3131. Ibid. has been worked out.

At this moment the cooperative is busy with finding new members and investors. According to their latest news the money hasn’t been flowing in as quickly as required3232. 'Holzmarkt-Projekt droht zu scheitern'. Berliner Zeitung, January 28, 2013 

33. Karin Schmidl. 'Genossen dringend gesucht'. – Berliner Zeitung, January 28, 2013
, but ‘clubbers who turned real-estate and culture managers’ promise that work will begin on the site in the spring33.

The plan is to start by:

’building up a temporary container city to use when we’re still constructing the site, for the restaurant, theatre and party events. The idea is to start with temporary buildings, which become permanent [...] gradually. We have a time period of 99 years to develop the project [...] – longer than we will be around for, so that’s also the nice thing about the project. We can develop it for our eternity. That’s the main difference to all of our earlier projects because we always knew we had to tear everything down that we’d built up. [...] We anticipate it will be partly finished within two to three years. And when I say ‘partly’ it’s because we never envisage it being totally finished, we’ll never stop developing. There should always be new rooms, ideas.’34 34. Skrufff. 'Berlin’s Christoph Klenzendorf - Beyond Bar 25 & Katerholzig (an Interview)'. Nov 26, 2012 

The story of a club that keeps jumping over river and growing in its ambition is not an easy one to understand. A foreign pension fund investing in culture is not a completely uncommon thing even Telliskivi Creative Campus, where one of the authors of this overview spends her working hours, started like that. But the symbiosis of completely different activities and running models in a ongoing large-scale development is what makes this project most interesting.



A building in Prenzlauer Berg, not yet renovated, that is surrounded by renovated buildings. It has been left like this most likely because it hasn't been possible to find its lawful owner or their beneficiaries. The writing on the building: Capitalism - standardizes, destroys and kills.

Who of us doesn’t have an emotional reaction when hearing the name Berlin? Oh, Berlin – the historic, tortured, but powerful city which today is one of the biggest magnets of culture in Europe, comparable to Paris, London or New York. Berlin not only attracts tourists, but also Germans from all parts of Germany. They might be moving to the city because in 1991, Berlin became the capital of the officially united Germany11. Häusermann, Hartmut, Schulz zur Wiesch, Lena. 2006. Report on the bi-lateral research project: Planning the contested City. Policy-Analysis and Implications of Reunification in Jerusalem and Berlin 2002-2006. The Berlin Case. GIF Final Report. 2006. Not published

2. I have consciously written ’that some looked at as repressive'  because the interviews I made for my PhD made it clear that not all East Berliners felt repressed. Some just lived their lives and accepted the limitations without particular disapproval; others travelled around the Soviet Union and enjoyed their freedom in that way. This freedom was of course only possible because they themselves or their parents belong to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. Of course there ere many people who felt repressed and for some this stress was expressed in physical complaints. However, some of my interviewees miss the life before the fall of the wall, because they have lost the societal status that they had in East Germany.

3. Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. 
Author's explication: Having experienced challanges related to rejoinging of two Germanies that were to a great extent connected to the language barrier a discussion evolved, if East and West Germans have developed into two different nations that also define themselves through different states.

4. Falk, Susanne. 2000. Wege in und aus Arbeitslosigkeit - Sackmann, R., Weymann, A., Wingens, M. Die Generation der Wende. Berufs- und Lebensverläufe im sozialen Wandel. Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag. pp. 57-88.
, or they might be attracted to the creative atmosphere that has surrounded the city since the 1980s. In the beginning of the next decade a large number of East Berliners decided to leave their hometown to look for better life in West German states. Many of them already left some months before the fall of the Berlin wall to demonstratively express a separation from Soviet politics that some look at as repressive2As a result of this mobility, Berlin’s population in 2009 had changed 50% compared to the 1980s.

Though united Berlin is famous for it's flamboyant art scene, the challenging rejoining process of the city, especially for those Berliners who lived there before the fall of the wall, deserves attention. Here I want to focus on East Berliners whose lives have gone through dramatic changes since unification. This change is only slightly comparable with the transition period that was experienced by people from the Eastern Bloc. For example, unlike the Baltics, the territory of East Germany was included into the already existing Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) essentially overnight.

For East Germans and East Berliners the end of the wall required a redefinition of their people and national identity3, an adjustment of the already developed structures of West Germany, and a coping with the loss of personal and family values. Additionally, a new world was opened to them not only structurally, but also in terms of space – Europe, West Germany and the other side of their home town that grew twice after the wall. Therefore the memories of East Berliners from the early 1990s are often described with the phrase ‘for the first time’: ’the first time I went to West Berlin; the first time I went to a western grocery store; the first time I ate a kebab; the first time I had a job in West Berlin; the first time I could walk on my home street without being faced with a wall’. The transformation of the city directly influenced movement in space and changes in social environments. Both are tied to the changes of the governmental structures as reflected by changing employment. In the territory that was East Germany, unemployment rocketed from 0% in 1989 to 14% in the beginning of 1992.4 Those East Berliners who managed to keep their former positions still felt the structural change. For example, kindergarden teachers had to change from socialist methods and principles to western approaches. East Berliners had to find their place in a very unstable environment – in terms of space as well as structure – and finding the path was personal for everyone.

Sabine is a woman in her 40s who has studied agriculture in East Germany, but after the Wende (in German ‘the change’, ‘a turning point’) she started to study history. After graduating Sabine has shortly worked on different positions, but hasn't found a specialised job, now she has been unemployed for quite a while. She lives in Prenzlauer Berg that has in the last 20 years been completely transformed from a deteriorating soviet district into a high class residential area where a large population consists of former West Germans. The only reason why Sabine can afford to rent flat there is an over 20 years old contract that, according to the law, can't be changed.

For Sabine, her lack of success on the labour market is not caused by her East German origin, but by a principal disagreement between her, The Federal Republic of Germany and West Germans:

‘During my studies I worked on an art market on Straße des 17. Juni (West Berlin) and I was the only East German who worked there. Whenever I dared to say that I'm from the East – and that didn't happen only there, but often when I met West Berliners or citizens of FRG, they all said to me (she mimics in high pitched voice): ‘I didn't make that you are from the East!’. And they were always thinking that it is some kind of a compliment. Like they had said something really nice and actually it is a horrible disease and horrid in general. Why did they think that? Why do they say such things? And yes, somehow it has created a situation that I don't feel like home any more (in Prenzlauer Berg) and many others feel the same...’

Sabine's words are full of emotion, be it dissatisfaction, sadness, bitterness or disappointment. She doesn't feel at home in her neighbourhood nor does she in the whole FRG, because for her the people, their characteristics and the state are closely linked. Sabine's quote speaks of the change of social environment and the feeling that she has been displaced55. Cooper, Cindy. T., Mele, Christopher. 2002. Urban Redevelopment as Contingent Process: Implicating Everyday Practices in Berlin’s Renewal – City and Community. Vol.1, Nr 3, pg 291-311., without physically changing the location. For Sabine, finding her ’own place’ in rejoined Berlin has been difficult because of different reasons and attachment to her home has turned into bitterness that she directs towards the FRG and West Germans avoiding going to the West Berlin, when possible.

View to the Bridge that Anne speaks of. The Berlin wall was situated in front of this bridge

A different example is Anne who worked as a carer in a youth home in East Berlin and right before the fall of the wall got a job in West Berlin through contacts, in a home with mentally disabled people, where she also works now. Anne also lives in Prenzlauer Berg, though on a less popular street. For Anne, as well, a new world with new challenges opened with the fall of the wall that necessarily didn't match her expectations for what East German citizens fought for in the end of 1980s. Namely, many of them demonstrated in the autumn of 1989 for reforming the East Germany not necessarily for rejoining two Germanies. Now, it is hard to say if the vision of reformed East Germany was formed before rejoining or only when it had already taken place and it was clear that the whole process is absolutely unequal and only took place on the terms of West Germany. Despite of that, Anne has supported the changes in her environment completely:

’Indeed, I have a favourite spot in Berlin and this became my favourite after the Wende... namely there is a bridge on my way to work that connects the East and the West. The border was in front of it. I cycle over that bridge almost every day when I go to work. And whenever I am on the bridge a square opens before me, that is not a common characteristic for this city – there is a lot of sky and space... And I go to from Prenzlauer Berg (former East Berlin) to Wedding (former West Berlin) across the bridge. And... every time I think ‘I can cycle here!?!’ Because I lived on that street and exactly on that street there was the border and I had to show my identification every time I walked, even when I wanted to get into my own house... and I could never have guests because the had to be preregistered. This is also the reason why I moved... And now this is so special that I can cycle over that bridge... and I would love to move back there.’ (Says with tears in her eyes.)

For Anne, the place that she connected with control and repression before the fall of the wall, gained a new meaning – crossing the bridge every day is accompanied with an emotion that is felt by those who understand it's symbolic. Similarly to Sabine, Anne speaks of her past and present. The wall has been replaced with freedom that she loves and appreciates. Also in West Berlin she has found districts that she really like and to where she would happily move to.

Berlin is therefore a very interesting example of how the lives of the citizens are strongly connected to the historic processes taken place in urban space. The stories of East Berliners that characterize Berlin are often connected to ’starting a new life’ or ’finding one's place’ in a rejoined and changed Berlin and Germany. Though ’finding that place’ has for some East Berliners reached a point where they don't feel at home in Berlin any more, for others Berlin has developed into a special kind of home that they didn't know to imagine ever before.


FUN TIME WITH BAD MONEY. A tool-kit for changing a neighbourhood?

Photos: Rebecca Solfrian

Linnalabor gathered its forces and made a trip to Berlin to see what's behind and beyond the tales of that mysterious city. Staying at a former squat on Kreutzigerstraße (see also Triin Pitsi's text) U happened to meet Rebecca Solfrian from Coopolis, an organisation that started from the idea of supporting temporary uses in houses that are empty and ended up being one of the triggers in changing then derelict Neukölln neighbourhood into a vibrant area with active community life that it is now.

U asked Rebecca how it was done, and this is what she said.


U: What is Coopolis, how did it start, and how does it work?

Rebecca Solfrian: It is a small office in Neukölln, consisting of a group of architects, city planners, geographers and people from related disciplines. It was started in 2006 by two women inspired by the idea that there are so many creative people in the city and that there is so much empty space in Neukölln and that these two potentials linked together would give a fantastic benefit to everybody. The people would have a space to create in, the landlords would not have decay, and the people in the neighbourhood would have a lively street with new interesting neighbours. The idea of temporary use was behind this idea of neighbourhood development. 

They didn't want to be employed somewhere from 9-5 and started a start-up. The idea behind it is participation and bottom-up development of the city. It started from the idea of interim uses, but the idea to change the name was quite quick (initially it was called Zwischennutzungsagentur 'Interim use agency'), because it was clear that people don't want to be there in-between. This is why it is called Coopolis now – cooperation and polis (the city). It was clear after a while that we are not about being there for a short time.

We applied for funding in the area of neighbourhood management association (Quartiersmanagement), which is a support program financed by the EU, the city of Berlin and the borough Neukölln in neighbourhoods that have a low number on the social index. Neukölln has eleven neighbourhoods with a neighbourhood management association, which is the highest number of all the boroughs in Berlin. The first neighbourhood was Reuterkiez1 which had a lot of empty shops on ground floors. 1. www.quartiersmanagement-berlin.de

I met the people from Zwischennutzungsagentur the year it started. At that time I looked for a room for myself. And it was so easy in the north of Neukölln... where now everything is so gentrified and cool. I think it was in 2005 or 2006 when I walked through the neighbourhood and everything was empty. We just looked at the vacant shops in the south side. You could be very picky. We, me and a guy I had just met, didn't have much money. He was a builder and I did body work – Yoga and the Grinberg Method2. 2. www.grinbergmethod.com

So we walked around the neighbourhood and we picked one ... and asked the neighbours. They told us who the owners were and we called them saying that we would like to rent their ground floor.

This all happened in the neighbourhood where Coopolis – at that time still Zwischennutzungsagentur also worked. I got to know them from being in the neighbourhood, and also being a spatial planner. Somehow I started working there.


So what do you do?

I can say what we did in the area of Neukölln. There are three areas of neighbourhood management association. The first thing is that you walk around and you make a documentation of all the empty spaces, you write them down, you make a map. Then you look at the area and think where you could start to bring people in. You look at the plan. The next thing is that you call the landlord. There were actually two types of communication: with the landlord or with the housing management. We had to present them the area, show that it is under managed, that numbers are bad and people here don't have the money to rent a shop, and that we would have people interested in this space and would do guided tours for about 20-30 people. All of these people were registered in our office and we knew them and what they wanted to do. We didn't check their business plan, but we wanted to have a sense of if they really wanted to start something or were more in the idea phase. We asked the landlords how big is the property, how many rooms, what kind of heating etc. and collected that data. And then we asked how much rent do they want. So we would have an overview of what they thought. On the other side we had an open door for four hours on Wednesdays and Fridays for people who were looking for space. We never had to advertise.

Sounds almost like a real-estate agency, but without the owner looking for anyone.

But we looked at it from the idea of development of the neighbourhood. We wouldn't recommend two bars next to each other for example. We looked at what could go well together. There were people who make hats, and people who make shoes and there would be an area where they could meet. On the tour it was also very clear that some people had theoretically good ideas, but we could also see if the chemistry is working.

The tours were an opportunity for the two sides to meet. Why it worked for the landlord side was that it was surprising which kind of people came. It questioned the idea of who runs a business – everybody. It’s a big expression, but it seems that some landlords had a shift in perception. One lady in the beginning was against having people from abroad, she was completely racist and everything and we were even questioning if we would work at all with her. But it was kind of clear that she was just afraid of everybody. She would have liked to have a single man that works during the day and isn't home – an attitude of 'don't live in my house'. It took me half a year to get her to respond to my letters. I just rang at the door, because we wanted to have it – it was a really cool space. Now there are three galleries and one person living there.

It seems like these landlords are obviously interested that people use those spaces.

No, its not that obvious actually. That's just pure theory. They have lived in the area, they have had the house in the area for years. The people asking to use the space before were brothels or casinos, maybe. The landlords were afraid of having criminals on the ground floor.


Were these businesses opened then on a temporary basis?

Yes, because temporary was less dangerous for the landlords and also less dangerous for the people to try something out. This neighbourhood wasn't good, people didn't really want to be there, not like they do right now. It was grey and empty and people were depressed, in the evening it was empty. You didn't have bars or businesses ...

When I lived there, there was no place I could get food during the day. There was one falafel shop that was OK. You could feel somehow that the popularity was coming, though. So for both sides it was a nice concept to try out, but it was not meant to last forever.

So temporary use is a good strategy for bringing the place to life, but at some point permanent use will have to take over?

It's mostly the same people that are the permanent users now. But I wouldn't bring it to such a theoretical level. Of the people that started going there and being the in-between users, 90% of them wanted to stay. So it started with the idea that it is maybe temporary, but this wasn't the reality.


But what about Coopolis? You connect the landlords and the people, but how do you survive?

Our income comes from the government. This is why we worked in a neighbourhood that had a neighbourhood management association – they had funding for projects. And we applied for funding with this idea – they had a jury of people from the neighbourhood. It was free for everyone – for the landlords and for the people. It was important that we were independent. The project was meant to last for three years.

In one neighbourhood we followed up with a project that was made for the landlords, in a way. In the first year it was about creating a network of local landlords and of the ’creative industries’ that were new in the area. We had lectures and kind of a get together so that they would get to know each other on a bigger scale. In this first year we brought the landlords and all the new businesses together. After that year there were three projects of network development. One for the landlords in Reuterkiez3 3. www.eigentuemer-netzwerk-reuterkiez.de, one for the creative industries (KreativNetzNeukölln) that were accompanied by Coopolis, and one network for fashion that was accompanied by another office. So now we also have a network of fashion businesses, and also of people who sew or knit and do design.

And there is also a network called Creative Network Neukölln that we started. We invited all the people in the creative industries and organised things for them for the last few years and now they are a self-running network. 

When you see all of it in a timeline then at first there was our thing, then there were more people.

Sounds like something from the Bible :)

Yeah. Then people came there, they settled there, and built their own churches (laughter). We did it together with the local municipality – these municipalities in Berlin function as cities on their own. Sometimes they have a different political regime and they always fight with each other. People came there to support these initiatives. We organized workshops, for example about health insurance, retirement funding, and cheques, which were very helpful, because it brought together about 50 people who avoid these subjects, but somehow have to deal with them. These were all people working in the creative field, mini-businesses, like one man, two people, three people. The aim was to give them support in creating their base a bit better. Because when you work maybe you don't have time to think who is a good tax person and then in December you get a letter that you had to do your taxes in May and then you are under total stress. We tried to help them to be a bit more relaxed, to think of it in an organised meeting that lasted for four hours. This is also why they continue with the network. For example last week, someone needed to do a presentation with live drawing, someone needed their web page done etc., and it is easy through the network. Coopolis was behind finding the funding.

Are there other 'Coopolises' in other boroughs in Berlin as well?

Maybe yes, I don't know. There might be, but I don't know them, because most of the developments that do city development have their own drive, their own ideas. Also, the reason why we don't have that much discussion is that it is so much work. We knew what we wanted to reach or what we wanted to do and because it involves so many people you can really spend a lot of time on that. While working there that was enough for me – I didn't want to meet all the other offices in all the other areas. I was a body worker, and I had friends and I wanted to do other stuff. For me that was enough of this context in my life. At that time I also met all these people who opened their spaces and they had parties and they had exhibitions and it is such a rich world that you are in and you could spend so much more time than you have.

So in Berlin there is not much empty space left over?

No, there is not. And you can feel it in the city; it has changed so dramatically, It is crazy to think that 7 or even 6 years ago Neukölln was empty. You can not imagine that any more. The prices for housing have gone through the roof. It is ridiculous when you see the poverty index that we have – 20% of people in Berlin live below the poverty line, but at the same time prices for housing and the business spaces went up maybe 50% in Neukölln.

So you helped to gentrify the neighbourhood?

We are much too small for that. This would have happened also without our project, because of the mechanisms from the international market.

They buy the houses and make them much more expensive - it's the economic approach to the city which started in 2007, maybe. Somehow Berlin was too boring before, I guess, that it didn't happen earlier. It was kept so cheap, but now... if you look at it from outside, then of course you can say that our project was just another one that helped to gentrify the neighbourhood. But I don't see it like that because what is more important is that we now have a network of local landlords that still really own their own house. It was really important to see that these people who really still own their house and live there, or live somewhere else in Berlin, have a totally different attitude – the house is not purely for economic gain, they know their tenants, they want the neighbourhood to be nice. What we did wasn't just gentrifying, but bringing people together who really are in the neighbourhood. It was a neighbourhood development project. But of course gentrification happened as well.

What was also an important point for us was that we made the prices more realistic. Because at the beginning the landlords were more like 'Ok, I want 8 Euros per square meter'. And we said 'you want 8 euros, but your shop has been empty for 2 years. Of course a brothel or a casino will give it to you, but if you want a group of people who have their office space or their gallery or a studio or a bar then maybe it is 2 euros. At the beginning they were shocked, but then they met the people and realized that their interests are not purely economic as well. So either you take them and the 2 Euros, or you don't. That really made a price shift in the neighbourhood. It also made a shift in negotiating prices for houses. For me as well, I thought initially that if the landlord asked a price then it was because that is what she needs, but then I realized it is like every price in the world – it has just been made up. It makes you understand that housing is also a market and you can negotiate and you can say no, you can also say 'that's what I have, you can give me the space or not'.

This makes sense for people, but it doesn't make sense for investment funds for whom a house is just a number in a chart; they are totally disconnected from reality. You can't approach them with natural logic. Sometimes it might be cheaper for them to not do anything.

I must say it was a very interesting time; I really enjoyed having contact with all these landlords and finding out the stories of the houses and why they are empty.


Maybe the personal stories are not talked about enough?

True, this is what you find out also when you bring people together – there are so many other reasons that bring people together. One of my colleagues, Mareike, she is still doing it, and we call it the business space management (Gewerbeleerstandsmanagement, vacant business space management), basically managing vacant spaces that could be businesses. She really loves this game of bringing people together – knowing things like this landlord is quite old already, or there is this cool bathroom from the 70s in there and it would be so cool if people could see this. This is her motivation.

What we have is a really good database. At first it was very basic – just address and contact information, but it became bigger, organised into categories. I think theory should always only be added in the review. If someone would have told me do the project that way, I would have not done it. But we did it, and while we did it, we had no idea if it would work. At first we were sceptical ourselves. For example, about the housing network – will people come?

One thing I would be worried about is that all these uses are creative uses. Isn't there a lack of mix?

Yes, but how many shoemakers do you know, for example? That's the problem. People in this city do these things. They are in the creative industries. 60% of the people were from the neighbourhood or from locals, so it was not big enough that people would actually move to Neukölln because of the project. Of course there is also a mixture, but it was inviting for mostly more educated people from everywhere.

How could it be different?

That was always a question for the neighbourhood management association. Like, OK, you have to make more for the locals, to bring them together. Participation always depends on the people. For example, some people from the creative industries are not interested in having all this community blah. It is totally based on the people, because it is work.

This year we are doing a project in Kreuzberg, and I notice that I don't know the area, and it is so much more difficult to do that. In Neukölln, we live there and nobody can pay you for that. If we would have had that in paid hours, it's impossible. In Kreuzberg, I am there at my working hours; it takes your life to get to know a place.

Your experience could be a tool-kit for neighbourhoods?

The structure of our database could be used. I guess the owner of Coopolis would sell it now to people. For real city development projects, what we did there was such an uninteresting project financially, with so much work. You really can do it when you want to do ’something’, and live there and make it nicer... because the money is really bad ... but it was a lot of fun.


Urban wanderings

1. The topic is more complicated that than can be explained in one article. The term squat is far from being clear. In my interpretation squatting is taking over a property without legal right and paying. If the building is taken over with the owners agreement and/or paying rent it is not squatting. Academic literature defines squating in a similar manner.

2. After Germany was re-united in 1990 most of the state owned property was returned to their legitimate owners. 
The history of squatting1 in Berlin is long and famous especially given that the number of houses that have been taken over has been phenomenal, and resistance against closing them has been relatively vigorous. Squats are definitely part of this city's nature and something that can be called urban culture. I tried, while visiting the city, to figure out what has become of the movement today.

We should begin with the fact that in contemporary Berlin there are no 'real' squats; officially they are all known as ’house-projects’. This means that no one is really living anywhere without paying rent, and generally the rent, which is considerably lower than the market prices, is paid to the new owners2. There are also houses that have shared ownership – squatters have bought them out. But according to the definition this means that they are no longer so-called 'real' squats.

I happened to visit two houses in Berlin whose present is very different, yet their history is comparable. At a time they used to be so-called ‘real’ squats that had been taken over by youth who believed in anarchy. Fierce battles were held on the streets of Berlin for these houses. This was at the time of the vacuum-like situation in their society which followed the fall of the wall, when everything seemed possible.

Kreutzigerstraße. Photo: Kaija-Luisa Kurik
Photo: Kaija-Luisa Kurik
Photo: Kaija-Luisa Kurik
Photo: Kaija-Luisa Kurik
The entrance of Kreutziger. Photo: Triin Pitsi
The food of the BIG ’family’. Photo: Triin Pitsi

The house on Kreutzigerstraße is everything but something that one would refer to as a squat. The house is spacious and decently renovated and includes all contemporary comforts. I had to admit that in an Estonian context it would be considered relatively luxurious. There are also younger people in the house, but most of the inhabitants are already middle-aged and have small children. Many of the inhabitants had illegally taken over the house after the wall and stayed. In the 90s the house, which was relatively uninhabitable, was renovated with their own means, but in 2000s these improvements were funded by the government. The opportunity to buy the house in co-ownership was added.

Even though the whole house gives a cosy and family-orientated impression, the life in the squat on Kreutzigerstraße is quite regulated. Moving in there also means obligations, both in front of the house as well as community projects: there are traditional events held in the house and in addition a yearly street festival. The new inhabitants are chosen through acquaintances and every newcomer has to go through a three month trial period. They definitely avoid people who are only looking for a cheap place to live. In addition to the rent and community commitments there are other financial obligations, for example a monthly input into the shared funds, which usually means buying food within a certain budget.

If the typical vision of squatters is an image of hippie lifestyles, a refusal to work, and vegetarians who are extremist in ecological politics, then in neither of the squats that I visited in Berlin were typical. The inhabitants of Kreutzigerstraße generally have regular jobs – there are social workers, construction workers, musicians, pharmacists, lecturers etc. Also the children, contrary to the general opinion, study in regular schools. Although they consume ecological products and recycle, there are no extreme views regarding that. Many of them are vegetarians or vegans, but eating meat is not looked upon condescendingly. 

There is also a public cinema and a bar in the house. The cinema shows films every day, 365 days a year. In addition to that it might be the only cinema in Berlin where you are allowed to smoke. The bar holds an event called VoKü three times a week. VoKü or also Volxküche, literally the people's kitchen, is a type of catering that is common in most house-projects where healthy food with reasonable prices is offered. VoKü is often also visited by people who normally don't go to squats.

In addition to that there is also an information centre for people with psycho- logical problems, in the squat. The bar, cinema, VoKü and the support- and information centre have been created to enable the project to survive with less money. This is an important aspect in trying to reduce the effects of gentrification in Berlin, which has forced people to move further out from the centre.

The protest of Köpi in big and red. Photo: Triin Pitsi
The folks of Köpi spending time on their balcony. Photo: Triin Pitsi

Köpenicker Straße 137, or Köpi for short, is one of the most famous squats of Berlin. At first sight I was anguished by the signs forbidding photography and the abundance of unfriendly dogs. At the same time I was impressed by the massive size and alternative look of the house. Köpi looks more like a well defended fortress and differs a lot from Kreutzigerstraße's house with a homely milieu. There are a countless number of people living on five floors and house itself is rather tainted and feels like a ghostly castle. The first thing I found out was that for a long time there was also someone from Estonia living in Köpi. Somehow I'm not surprised – if there’s an Estonian in every harbour, why not in Köpi?

Since 90s, Köpi has been offered on auctions, and there have been several owners. The inhabitants of Köpi have organised hundreds of protests and meetings for the support of their home and this has scared off the potential developers. There have been tens of interventions organised in support of Köpi, not only in Berlin, but all over Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Despite of all of this the building found a buyer a few years ago. The members of the squat won in court and the new owner made a 30-year contract with them, which guarantees that the rent will stay the same during this period. The rent plus utilities are around 70 euros combined right now. And we shouldn't forget that it is the city centre of Berlin (Mitte).

Köpi has also had an effect on the surrounding plots. There are a number of empty buildings in close proximity. The funniest story relates to the house on the next plot where a retirement home was planned about five years ago. The owners of the plot had no idea about the neighbourhood. By the time they went to meet the neighbours, half of the building was already constructed. It’s not known if it was because of an unexpected bankruptcy or something else, but the construction was stopped. The half-built walls of the building are great for practising graffiti.

Köpi has been divided into apartments and every household decides amongst themselves about taking in new inhabitants. Every Sunday there is a general house meeting, where they discuss their problems. Many inhabitants have been raised in Köpi. Today the people are on the younger side and there are almost no families with children. There are practically no rules. The maintenance of the house takes place on voluntary basis.

Köpi, with its bar and concert venue, is also well known for organising alternative events. In the bigger concerts there has even been around three thousand people. The money gathered is used for necessary repair works and paying for the legal advice.3 3. Although the residents of Köpi have the willpower and spirit of protest, sometimes legal advice is also needed.

Köpi is generally always opened to tourists and allegedly to everyone who shares their values. And the former squatters are popular amongst tourists, because people sense what an important part of Berlin's urban culture this is.

Considering all this it unfortunately feels that there is just as much left of this once ’squatters Mecca’ as there is of the Berlin wall. Taking over new houses is looked at in pessimistic tones by the squatters themselves. They are bothered by the negative stance of the society and the media image of a squatter as a criminal. I tried to find out from the inhabitants of the two squats the reason behind not having any so called ‘real’ squats in Berlin any more. I was also interested in what has happened to the 300-400 squats that emerged in the 90s, the high-time of squatting. It came out that about twenty of them have been bought by former squatters, but many of them just pay rent to the new owner. What speaks against shared-ownership is the fact that most squatters do not have enough funds, because being a landlord also brings big expenses. The emergence of new squats is also held back by the fact that the local governments and the police are well prepared to stop any attempts to take over a house and they know how to get rid of the squatters quickly and profitably.

The community life in such house-projects is easy to criticise, but also to overly idealise. As in every society, the micro-societies of squats consist of different people. Not all of them think the same or are radically against the state or the justice system. Yet it is important that they think a little bit differently than the general mass and at least question if living in the so-called mainstream is the best option one has.

Urban photography

reflesh is based on the documentation of different demonstrations taking place in Berlin. Demonstrations in a wealthy society often fight against quite abstract enemies, such as capitalism. Also, the goals that demonstrations wish to achieve often remain on a general level. The general aim of the demonstrators can be seen to be taking part of the meeting as an event and to encourage fellow citizens and especially the audience to think similarly.

Left-wing activists and groups organise larger demonstrations in Berlin. Demonstrations gather different interested parties, for example Antifa (a movement against fascism), the Linke Party (a left wing party), trade unions, etc. Participants use differering tactics. For example one part of Antifa can be considered to be the ’Black Block’ - people who are generally dressed in black, seeking confrontation with the police. Some demonstrations take place in the form of a street carnival or party.

On a personal level, taking part in a demonstration can be very emotional. Demonstrators form some sort of joint body or joint space in which rules apply that are different from the everyday, neutralised use of urban space. A demonstration can also be seen as re-activating your own body.



Let us introduce

Tallinn Olympic Yachting Centre. Photo: Raina Lillepõld
ABC shopping centre. Photo: Martin Siplane
The house of Designers. Photo: Laura Linsi
Is declaring the Republic of Estonia to be 95 years old something to be proud of or an unfair miscalculation? What moment can be considered the start of history? Is Hotel Olümpia an honest part of Estonia's cultural heritage? Or a barn dwelling with a chimney?

This year's Tallinn Architecture biennalle (TAB) curatorial competition was won by a young architecture bureau, B210. Their successful idea, to discuss socialist space and architecture, did not impress me straight away. Again! Perky fancy dress parties and the TV series 'ENSV', countless research papers, special programmes and summer schools have long overused and analyzed the narrative.

But meeting with the curators was more convincing. The initiative that falls into the Cultural Ministry's programme of cultural heritage is the only chance our generation has to fixate one state of transition. People aged 25-35 today live on the border of two histories – a decade there and the rest of it here. There is an experience of the Soviet Union, but it is not disturbing. This makes it possible to write it out in a more neutral manner. I felt that I have been personally touched, connecting a feeling of us. A mission emerged to unite, help and declare.

Foreign Office. Photo: private collection


The history and heritage of Estonia is now and has always been stirred by someone else's hand, sometimes even dictated and written down by someone else.1 1. Read for example: Marek Tamm ‘Monumentaalne ajalugu. Esseid Eesti ajalookultuurist’, Loomingu Raamatukogu 28-30/2012.The fact that Baltic-German heritage is not any better that Soviet heritage is more difficult to understand for my parents than for me – for me that time is not an absurd foolishness. Absurd foolishness was a queue for ice cream that lasted for hours or rather, the lack of such a queue. The kiosk was only open for ten days (in my life). There is nothing else repressive that I can remember from the late 80s. The rest of it was like it was. Tickets for public transportation were cheap, and coarse, wooden cultural centres smelled of slippers. When we took a trip to Saaremaa to visit my mother's friend in the summer, the militia checked our faces and the trunk of the car. This crowned the travel fever of the summer.

According to Halbwachsthe, collective memory is expressed through the support of the surrounding space.2 2. Maurice Halbwachs ‘On Collective Memory’, 1980 [1950].Therefore the urban space and architecture has a responsibility to shape attitudes and emotions. Changes are reflected in space very slowly, as houses and streets stand against history. If the first reforms after gaining independence were applied within months and economic and institutional changes maybe in a year, then the changes in urban space occurred much more slowly. The socialist heritage reminds those who experienced it of an irrational and unjust system. Decaying buildings, urban voids and places that have been filled with inconsiderate new functionality express the rush, after regaining independence, to abandon everything recent, delete or westernise.

For today's decision makers (and the number of people who have no experience with the regime grows proportionally every day) the Soviet space is just a space, albeit maybe of poorer construction quality. Earlier heritage destruction tactics have been replaced with more considerate attitudes that arouse our enthusiasm to adapt new functions and needs into the old forms, rather than destroying them.3 3. Taken from the notes of the lecture by Mart Kalm during the selective course in EKA ’TAB 2013 RECYCLING SOCIALISM’.



TAB, with three central and countless satellite events, culminates on the first week of September. In the international symposium the thematic framework (‘Recycling Socialist Space’ / ‘Taaskasutades nõukogude ruumipärandit’) of the biennale will be discussed by historians as well as space and form specialists. There is also an opportunity to get acquainted with the results of the vision competition that will be announced in March. The main event of the biennale is a curatorial exhibition that represents noteworthy objects from Soviet times in recycled form.

The intensity of space as well as use are factors that change in time – for example 'modernist mini-utopias' that were created to carry an ideology or hold large number of workers44. Curator's comment for Eesti Päevaleht, 20.11.2012. can be, in the context of today's economic interests, wiped clean of the former content (eg. H&M's fast fashion in the Postimaja). Without changing the content, life would abandon the houses and they would collapse on their own (eg. Linnahall). The curators of the biennale invite us to see these changes not as vice, but as virtue. They offer misunderstood stars, which today function poorly and have undeservedly been forgotten or mistreated, for architecture bureaus to recycle.

Modernist space is an internationally known space, thus a guest arriving from almost any part of the world should develop some kind of a personal relation with objects from Tallinn. The depiction of history given by the institutionalised culture sphere55. Read texts by Marek Tamm. is not relevant here, as we wish to see subjective history instead of reflection in the recycled objects. Maybe that choice of field, opening and redefining the socialist architectural heritage and 'democratisation of Estonian's collective memory, is somewhat like what Marek Tamm calls one of the central assignments of Estonia's memory politics in his book. Rather than looking at things as black (red) and white (blue-black), meaningful discussion is created by this remix, which surpasses interdisciplinary, generational, and state-led opinions. The curatorial exhbition is a brief attempt to place things from the former times into a contemporary framework.

Train Shelter for short distance trains on Baltic Station. Visual for the project from 1961: The Archive of Planning Department of Tallinn


In the beginning of January, students interested in cooperation met. In ac- cordance with the direction of the curators, portrait folders of chosen objects for presenting to the guests were developed. Old, current and future plans, photos, interviews with authors and users and fieldwork notes from heritage collectors were gathered. The general picture presented should give a similar starting platform for all the participants, according to which recycling could be started.

Architecture in Tallinn awaits regeneration. The Radiohouse, Flower Pavilion, numerous H-shaped school buildings, Kosmos cinema, the waiting pavilion of the Baltic Station and the foreign ministry are ready to be broken down, drawn over, defaced, or cleared up.

What would you do?

Biennale's webpage: www.tab.ee


Let us introduce
FOCUS ON OUTER BERLIN Think Berl!n's Radikal Radial: Reshaping Berlin’s radial streets

Berlin’s large radial streets organise the city region. But many of Berlin’s radial streets have been fighting against a loss of utility and attractiveness in the past decades. Local shops have had to compete with shopping malls, and busy traffic often makes the street an uninviting place. Many large buildings are abandoned, especially those dating from the 1960s and 1970s such as department stores, indoor markets, and some rather unattractive office buildings.

One of the most important projects of Think Berl!n so far has been developing an alternative concept for an International Building Exhibition (IBA) to be held in Berlin in 2020. Think Berl!n has proposed the concept ‘Radikal Radial’ together with Harald Bodenschatz and the planning consultancy Machleidt&Partner to reshape Berlin’s radial streets according to the challenges of sustainable mobility and the adaptation of existing urban structures to the needs of climate change. This process will only succeed when integrated approaches are being taken and when transport planning, the design of public spaces or the regeneration of local town centres are being looked at with concerted efforts.

Projects along Karl-Marx-Straße


Regarding the fact that the IBA has limited funds, it can only work through exemplary projects. Thus we suggest that two radial streets should be picked out – Chausseestraße towards the north and Karl-Marx-Straße towards the south. Many of the forementioned challenges, as well as urban design issues Berlin will have to deal with in the next decade, are concentrated along these two streets. The restructuring of Berlin’s airports – the closure of Tegel and Tempelhof and the expansion of BER (Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt) as a new single airport – will create economic dynamics along these two radial streets which the IBA could help to steer and balance in terms of urban design, sustainability and social implications.

Pilot projects along the two streets will promote sustainable mobility in a post-fossil fuel era and improve the connectivity between pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. The intermodal hubs need to be improved in order to make more people choose public transport, cycling or walking instead of driving. Their full potential can be realized by making public spaces more attractive and by concentrating on other important facilities, such as libraries, located close to these ‘knots’. Public spaces and parks should be upgraded and connected with other green and blue links. New ideas have to be tested, such as how to adapt some of the icons of the car-orientated era.

The tower-restaurant ‘Bierpinsel’

A good example of a place that needs new ideas is the tower-restaurant ‘Bierpinsel’ which was built as a landmark at an inner city elevated highway.

The IBA can furthermore implement these types of model projects which demonstrate how local centres can be established through small interventions that strengthen the local economy. The exhibition will also have to develop ideas for restructuring large-scale retail in order to make it attractive and accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, and add more small-scale uses.

The biggest challenges will lie in defining urban design concepts for the areas outside the inner city, where peripheral structures of an ‘in-between’ nature begin. The experimental character of our proposal for an IBA project will propose new ideas to fill in and intensify the uses for areas made up of large scale retail units, drive-in restaurants and suburban housing developments.

The details of how this can be achieved are still open for debate as yet only a limited number of concepts of how to deal with traffic-dominated main streets exist – in Berlin, Europe and worldwide. Our proposal for the IBA will help to unite spatial design with transport planning. And it would focus on Outer Berlin, an important and a large part of the city, which has for a long time been neglected – not only in Berlin – but which is key in creating a sustainable city region. Our initiative Think Berl!n will keep on promoting ‘Radikal Radial’ amongst other projects in order for Berlin to once again become a centre for cutting-edge urban design. With or without the IBA the challenges at hand for enhancing our city’s walkability, cycle-friendliness and other means for ensuring liveable and prosperous streets – especially in the outer city – remain one of the most pressing topics for cities today and require a solution.


We founded Think Berl!n in 2009 as a non-profit initiative of Berlin-based urban researchers, spatial designers and architects Cordelia Polinna, Jana Richter, Johanna Schlaack and Aljoscha Hofmann. It is our aim to bring forward the discussion on spatial planning and design quality in Berlin and connect academia with urban politics, different municipal levels and the civil society. In the past two years we have organised numerous events, have contributed to various publications and have come up with strategic ideas for an urban development programme.

See our website: www.think-berlin.de



Field notes

Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Photo: www.blog.urbact.eu

The 21st century is a century of cities. Cities are engines of economic development and sources of innovation. Bigger metropolises are developing towards being more powerful than many national states. Yet the biggest potential for finding answers to environmental challenges lies also in cities. What should be the role of states in supporting urban development and solving these central issues? In Germany, people are convinced that developing a national urban policy in cooperation with city-boroughs, states and several organisations is essential, because the success of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland is dependant of the welfare of the cities. It is especially important to make the problems of urban development public and to foster discussion. To work towards this goal, a series of urban policy conferences have been held in Berlin since 2007.

While the first meetings were more general in their approach, the conference held in Berlin in November 2012 focused on the subjects of environment and saving energy, as the issue of an economy based on lower CO2 consumption is seen to be one of the most influential processes in urban development. Of course these questions can't be answered in isolation, thus it is important to connect the sustainability discussion with other issues in the social and economic sphere, which need to be solved in order to develop wholly integrated strategies of urban development. The title of the conference, ‘Urban Energies’ (Städtische Energien), referred to the debate surrounding energy consumption through different, often catalysing energies in urban development. For example, the social energy that comes from communication or the innovative, fresh energy of youth are alternate ways of seeing energy.

The ambition to influence urban policies in the whole Europe is not hidden from national policy development Germany. Accordingly, the conference this year was exceptionally international and included audience and speakers from several continents. The stage was taken by the true superstars of urbanism.

Saskia Sassen, professor at Columbia University, spoke about the need to open and discover the potential of cities, which comes from the connection of people with space. According to Sassen, it is important that people have the opportunity to form a relationship with space and to own it. Sometimes gath- ering is needed to manifest our presence in space. At other times, individual actions are enough to create shared benefits – for example when you walk in a dangerous park with your dog the park will become safer for everyone.

Jaimie Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, presented about how his city became one of the success stories of urban development. This was a truly engaging and humorous one man show that drew parallels between a mother-in-law an a car, both of which will rule your life once they have settled in with you. The fact is that for today, the 'on land metro' has spread into more than 120 cities across the world.

Former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, who since 2009 also belongs to the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York, tied questions of mobility with issues of social justice. He emphasised that finding solutions to traffic problems is not a technical, but a political question. We just need to understand that one bus with 100 people has a 100 times bigger right for the street space than one car, and a person on a 30 dollar bike is an equal to the person in a 30 000 dollar car. For this reason, Bogotá started invested into roads starting from bicycle lanes and pedestrian access.

The conference took place in the House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in the Tiergarten district that was noteworthy in the context of the topic becasue there is no parking around the building. All participants were encouraged to use public transport to get there.


In Academy

In recent years, Northern Tallinn has become something of a ’patchwork’ landscape, with changing urban policies and renewal plans, realized and failed projects, forgotten visions and recent tactical interventions in public space. While described as having a ’big development potential’ by the city officials and real estate resellers, the district itself is a lived space (as defined by Henri Lefebvre) of the everyday for the inhabitants.

During the autumn semester, in studio 2012 of Urban Studies program at the Estonian Academy of Arts, we studied the processes of urban transformation shaping Northern Tallinn over the last two decades. Beginning from the scale of the district we tried to pin down the most interesting social and spatial changes and tensions within the time period. We proceeded by selecting four areas for more detailed case studies. We analysed the formation of every site, observed the present states of development, interviewed residents, assessed their participation in planning processes (e.g. how inclusive these processes are and whose interests prevail) and highlighted future threats and opportunities. This provided us with a base for sketching future scenarios, and exploring the future urbanisation of Northern Tallinn under a changing economic climate.

We started analysing recent changes in the district by following three main currents that have become increasingly influential: the dynamics of gentrification, the effects of the real estate crisis on urban development, and the relations between development and conservation practice. We found that the four chosen sites manifest different forms of transformations.


is a publicly administrated residential development without a developer. Instead of integrating this neighbourhood with the rest of the city and enhancing the living conditions of the residents, the city’s strategy is to replace the population profile (low-income replaced with high-income) and sell off the area as a new exclusive waterfront housing estate. Is it a beginning of a gated community?


is a place with no development plan, just vague future visions. ’Nobody dares to deal with this area’, responded an official from city planning department to our inquiry. Up until now the garage users have not been involved in any decision-making about the site’s future prospects. Could the site be recognized as a socially and culturally significant place to preserve?

Garaažilinnak in boom
Garaažilinnak in boom
Garaažilinnak - business as usual
Garaažilinnak - business as usual
Garaažilinnak in recession


































is a postponed upmarket residential development that aims to include the highest tower in the city. Any development on the factory’s ground, including the approved Sitsi tower project, depends on the private initiative of the owner. With the current socio-economic circumstances of the neighbourhood, the developer has little interest in activation of the approved detailed plan. Will this radical plan be ever fully realized or is it just an instrument to raise the land value?


is an example of how factories are reused by ’creative industries’. An area that seems to be supporting a bottom-up process, by generating loose mixed-use functions, is legally in hands of a single owner. Currently there is no detailed plan for the site, thus there is a possibility for anything to happen. Could it be that these are only temporary functions and the more permanent solid functions have not yet appeared on the ground?


Following three abstract economic shifts, departing from the current state of affairs, we derived three scenarios for each of our study sites, as well as drew them together via spatial relations in the future landscape of Northern Tallinn. We called them boom, business-as-usual and recession. Our scenarios attempt to portray Northern Tallinn under the condition of the extrapolation of today’s development lines into the future. Through this, we suggest alternative ways of thinking about how the district may look in 20 years time. Last, but not least, these scenarios are a statement of a critical observation of the processes already in place.


Northern Tallinn has been developing into an increasingly heterogeneous area. In our examples we framed some of the multi-scalar processes reshaping the district. Increased cross-disciplinary research between urbanists, architects and social scientists is necessary for new insights into social possibilities and the long-run implications of these developments.


Reading list


Raumlabor – A New Approach to Urbanity

Raumlabor has worked with issues of contemporary urbanism and architecture since 1999 and has been very good at it!

Urban Catalyst

Urban Catalyst (UC) is an interdisciplinary platform for research, projects, public interventions, conferences, exhibitions and publications. Urban Catalyst developed from a European research project of the same name, which explored strategies for temporary use in residual urban areas (2001-2003). It was founded in 2003 by Philipp Misselwitz, Philipp Oswalt and Klaus Overmeyer.

Initiative Stadt Neudenken

Initiative deals with property development—specifically how the governance of municipalities could be improved by increased civil participation by citizens.

Institute for Creative Sustainability 

Institute for Creative Sustainability is a non-profit, civil society-based organisation supporting cultures of sustainable urban development and innovative housing.

The U-Lab

The "Urban Research and Design Laboratory" was initiated in 2010 at the Technical University of Berlin. Based on the model of dialogue formats it encourages exchanges between teaching, research and practice, responding to demands of interdisciplinary project work as well as case study-based and activity-oriented functioning in the education of future city planners, urban designers and architects.

German Urban Institute/Deutches Institut für Urbanistik

The German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) is the largest urban research institute in the German-speaking area for research, further training and information for cities, municipalities, administrative districts, municipal associations and planning departments. Difu deals with all the topics which municipalities have to deal with now and in the future: whether in urban and regional development, municipal commerce, urban construction, social issues, environment, transport, culture, law, administrative subjects or municipal finances

Think Berl!n

Read more in a U13 article by Cordelia Polinna.

The National Urban Development Policy

provides an opportunity for all stakeholders from government, the public authorities, the planning professions, industry and the scientific community to have their say on topics such as cities, living together in cities, urban qualities and good governance.


Office for cooperative urban planning. 
Read more from the U13 interview with Rebecca Solfrian.




ExRotaprint is a creative campus in Wedding, comparable to Tallinn’s Telliskivi, which was founded in 2007 with the objective to take over the former Rotaprint site. The organisation behind ExRotaprint, a non-profit GmbH (Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mit Beschränkter Haftung) disrupts the speculation-spiral of the real estate market and owns the buildings through a heritable building right. It is responsible for all aspects of project development, the financing, renting of spaces, and renovating the ExRotaprint site. Their non-profit status dispels the conflict over partial ownership and allows for planning unencumbered by individual interests. ExRotaprint gGmbH partners do not profit from the income generated by the property and cannot realize any increase in value from a sale of their stake in the partnership. Thus a long-term and stable location is created that can be developed on its own terms. This is the profit of ExRotaprint.ExRotaprint on loomelinnak Weddingi linnosas, natuke sarnane meie Telliskivi Loomelinnakule. 

Center for Art and Urbanism

A new, innovative venue opened in August 2012 offering artistic and research residencies of 2–8 months duration for art production at the interface of urban research. They are situated in the district of Moabit in Berlin-Mitte, on the edges of Berlin‘s largest inland port. 

Institute for International Urban Research (InUrban) (FU Berlin)

InUrban is a non-profit  research organization founded by scientists from the Department of Urban Studies (TEAS) at the Freie Universität of Berlin. 


Read more in U13 case study written by Regina Viljasaar and Jörn Frenzel. 

Also check: Architecture, Urban Space, City Research, Town Planning, Urban Development




A Network of Urban Cultures


Urban Exploring Berlin 

Architecture in Berlin


Finding Berlin

A visual magazine dedicated to Berlin and its cultural diversity

Pieces of Berlin

A Photo blog about Berlin and Berliners


blog about strolling through Berlin

Abandoned Berlin

Urban Exploration in Berlin


This blog summarizes announcements to various discussions, symposia, scientific meetings and conferences, launches new publications, articles, comments from the press and science and has its own ideas about the pressing issues of urban development for discussion.


A blog excavating urban networks setting them in relationship to each other.

Stadt aspecte

A magazine about everyday life of a city. 

Gentrification blog


A new digital magazine for architecture and beyond.


Magazine for a Next Society

An Architektur

The journal An Architektur was founded at the beginning of 2002 to continue the work of the architecture collective freies fach – a group that had sought, since the mid 1990s, to critically assess the restrictive reconstruction of Berlin and the relevant political and economical conditions through actions, exhibitions, and small publications.

Berlin: Critical Reconstruction

A magazine seeking to provide a forum for debate on the history of architecture and urbanism in the 20th century, by means of a critical reflection on the mythical urban experience of Berlin.



Pushing the Urban Frontier: Temporary Uses of Space, City Marketing, and the Creative City Discourse in 2000s Berlin

The Mobile University of Berlin: Urban-Planning Education at Eye Level 

Ene-Reet Soovik: Destruction and Reconstruction in Berlin: Ian McEwan’s Temporal Topography 




25th - 27th July, 2013

SURE World Conference in Berlin

(Society of Urban Ecology)
Proposed theme: Progress in urban ecology and ecological challenges in urban development. 

29th - 31th August, 2013

RC21 CONFERENCE “Resourceful cities”



Centre for Metropolitan Studies

The Urban Management Program of the Berlin University of Technology

Global urban Studies Insitute. Berlin Free University

Department of Urban and Regional Planning (ISR), School of Planning Building Environment,Technical University of Berlin





Urban Art Core is a fresh, independent street art, urbanism, graffiti and urban exploring magazine.

BMW Guggenheim Lab

A mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban design and new ways of thinking about urban life. 


an open, independent, and non-profit film platform acting within the fields of architecture and urban culture.


Spatial Intelligence Unit

Spatial Intelligence is about human abilities to comprehend, analyse and conceive spatial structures. A collaboration between academics and practitioners, the SPIN Unit studies urban form and spatial configurations across scales. The Unit is based in Tallinn, Estonia, but its collaborative structure facilitates research and consultancy relatively independent of place.

Tallinna ideed


6th–19th March, 2013

Exhibition "Linnastsenaariumid" (Urban Scenarios)

The exhibition "Urban Scenarios" aims to present main task of Urban Studies students in the Estonian Academy of Arts. Already for nine years students have made suggestions to change urban environments and to create scenarios for cities and citizens. We are often approached with a question: "What are urbanists doing and what are you going to do when you graduate?" Designing scenarios and creating programs are the most popular tasks in the Urban Studies curriculum. Starting from visions for larger regions down to detail plans for plots and physical interventions in the city. During the exhibition in the Estonian Academy of Arts Gallery (Tallinn, Estonia pst 7) from 6th to 19th March an open discussions will be held that focuses on the future of Urban Studies program.




Keiti Kljavin, Kaija-Luisa Kurik


Kaija-Luisa Kurik, Keiti Kljavin, Kristel Vimberg, Andra Aaloe.




Jekaterina Balicka, Alan Prohm, Regina Viljasaar, Jörn Frenzel, Linda Rezvan, Rebecca Solfrian, Triin Pitsi, Ivari Veermäe, Anna-Liisa Unt, Cordelia Polinna, Liis Palumets, Karlis Ratnieks, Katharina Elme, Rebecca Kontus.


Regina Viljasaar, Teele Pehk, Kreutzigerstraße squat, Martina Schwab