Kreuzberg is changing again.
Thirty years ago, the area was a dead-end zone along the western side the Berlin wall, slated for large-scale demolition to make way for an inexplicable new motorway plan. Its blocks were in a semi-ruinous state, occupied only by squatters and those too poor to move elsewhere.
In the 1980s the IBA intervention halted this decline and rejuvenated communities, rebuilding blocks and interweaving new schools and amenities into their cores. Of course, the ironic but inevitable long term result was that people like me (middle class people) decided it was the place to move to (“it’s so vibrant darling, so fashionably down at heel…”).
So as a person undermining the established local community, it would be totally hypocritical of me to criticise the next wave of invaders. But here goes…
Around the corner from me is a building still under construction called ‘Carloft’, the idea being that you can keep your car in your apartment with you. This involves giving a lot of floorspace over to carlift machinery, but the flats look pretty big to begin with.
Most existing Kreuzberg residents don’t have cars, and when they do, I’m not sure they’d feel the need to spend a fortune on keeping them in their apartments. But maybe ‘apartment-car’ people are the future.
Website here, if you fancy one (an apartment, not a car).
Anyway, onwards to the point.
This weekend (13th July), a local referendum will ask residents of east Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain whether they support or oppose the MediaSpree; the expansion of the media/office zone along the banks of the river Spree to the east of the centre. There was a protest march today (one thing you can rely on in Berlin is that protests will have really good sound systems) which appropriately passed by Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse block. (The banner hanging from the window reads as my header.)
The referendum choices are complex, but seem to boil down to a vote against further large scale development on the banks of the Spree, or continued development with some cycle paths and walking routes.
I feel for Berlin’s government here; it has aspirations to be something other than ‘poor but sexy’ (in the words of our mayor) and I guess that the Mediaspree plans are one way this will happen. But whichever way the vote goes, I can’t see eastern Berlin’s world of party beaches and squats lasting indefinitely. It will be a great loss, even if they’re able to move on elsewhere. A still greater loss would be if the long standing communities north and south of the Spree were also forced to migrate.