It still exists, the typical Berlin post-reunification scene. Back then, shortly after the fall of the Wall, colorful troops occupied abandoned or even ruinous former commercial properties in the eastern half of the city and used them for open-air clubs, beer gardens, open-air cinema, band rehearsal rooms, second-hand shops, art galleries and all sorts of bizarre party and leisure activities.
The site of the former Reichsbahn repair shop in Friedrichshain on Warschauer Strasse is one of the few larger areas where such a peculiar biotope with semi-legal status has been preserved and the last one within the S-Bahn ring.
The scene radiates, to the district, to the train station, not to everyone’s delight, because side effects of the hustle and bustle of the fun generation are noise, garbage and drug problems. There is no guarantee that the scene will survive, for which there are plenty of good reasons, from the diversity of urban life to tourism and the international image of the city.
Because the circumstances work against it. The commercial exploitation pressure on the ideally located and developed plots is enormous. There is also social pressure on the scene.
The state is programmed to create and enforce order. But nothing can destroy a free scene more effectively than hygiene regulations, fire protection, escape route regulations, trade supervision, noise protection. This means that the syntropy is stronger than the entropy in this case. Syntropy, creating order, is always dependent on the supply of energy (disorder on the desk is created by itself, tidying up is a feat of strength).
In urban development, capital and the expectation of returns are the driving forces that, from their point of view, cause structures that are out of control, developing entropically, disorderly or self-organizing to be “tidyed up” so that they “function properly” again.
So if you want to preserve a scene like the one on the RAW site and make it fit for the future, for which there seems to be a political will, you cannot leave the area to the usual self-running mechanisms of urban development and property marketing, but you have to get power from politics and administration and use imagination to achieve something positive for urban society.
This is usually, but not always, and inevitably at the expense of the return margins of developers who are not interested in the social commitment of real estate. Because it reduces profits. The added value, on the other hand, lies in the social sphere, and the state should kindly pay for it.
Read at Tagesspiegel Plus: These are the new building visions for the RAW site in Berlin-Friedrichshain
The tools at the disposal of politicians are not all that sharp. In the planning and approval area, usage intentions cannot be easily restricted or controlled. The strongest arrow in the quiver is the development plan, with which it was achieved, for example, that a 100-meter-high office tower in return allows further areas to be kept free. And in which the “Sociocultural L” is identified, an L-shaped area of existing buildings with a 30-year guarantee and low rents.
But also in the new building areas it is about “softer” goals and a “value catalogue” that was agreed with the owners (mostly the Kurth Group in Göttingen): in other words, it’s about persuasion. But when Lauritz Kurth says that the area should be developed organically and remain true to its history, then that remains largely on an interpretive level.
A lot of practical constraints will be used in order to trim the construction project in the direction of yield and there is little to do about it, especially since the official requirements (see above) go in a similar direction.
The often informal uses will therefore disappear, for example the junk dealer who received his customers in the ruined hall, the Suicide Club, the Urban Spree Gallery or the drum trainer for drum fans.
How is this fluid supposed to be preserved when everything is to be cleared away, newly and perfectly planned and set up and then reopened as a commercial operation? “Staying true to the story”, “maintaining the character”, that is simply impossible, these remain empty words of the protagonists, who want to and will use them to dress up their projects and achieve their goals.
The conflict is described in the decision to draw up the development plan: “In addition to public concerns, such as the preservation of socio-culturally used areas and offers, public accessibility of the site and urban greenery, as well as a wide range of leisure and educational offers, private matters must also be taken into account This means that economic development should be made possible for the owner.” In view of the current development in financing and building prices, this does not bode well at all.
After all, an urban planning disaster like the Europacity at the main station is not to be feared. There was a “Dialogwerkstatt” 2018 and a “Werkstatt Masterplan” 2021 with four competing teams, according to which the concept of the office Holzer Kobler Architekturen (Zurich/Berlin) in cooperation with Atelier Loidl Landschaftsarchitekten (Berlin) was unanimously selected as the target concept for the preparation of a master plan (Tsp of April 5, 2022).
The master plan provides for the preservation of a number of listed buildings and the surrounding walls of several historic workshops. The “Der Kegel” climbing park, named after an old cone-shaped bunker with climbing paths, has also been preserved. All around, more climbing and bouldering paths, up to 18 meters high, were added in older parts and halls, a total of 72 routes, plus the necessary infrastructure, shop, equipment rental, café, etc. The whole thing has the charm of the provisional, grown, and is run by people operated in a family atmosphere, who have obviously grown fond of the facility.
The Kulturhaus Astra gets a new event hall. A new market hall is being built within the historic facade of the “Haubentaucher”. In the rear area, an up to seven-storey office ensemble is to be built on a larger contiguous area, which will be called “Berlin Forest” and will be lushly green. Incidentally, the simulation of the entire site on roofs and open spaces promises a lot of greenery. The high-rise in the front area is an eye-catcher with a very differentiated structure. Whether it will adapt to the rest of the site, small-scale and green, is left to the result of an architectural competition. One can only wish the jury greater insight.
Critics expect an obvious break between the conserved uses of the “socio-cultural L” and the higher and denser, extremely commercialized new buildings that oppress the “L”. It is an open-ended game. Will young Berlin tourists continue to come to immerse themselves in the scene here? Or does the higher commercial level let spontaneous activities, lovable makeshift arrangements and nonchalant partying dry up over time?
With the differentiated Holzer Kobler design, there is a chance of a certain continuity. Now it is important that the building authorities remain steadfast and implement it in all essential points. It is important that the eastern part of the site, which has so far been left out, is developed in the same spirit so that the hotspot of the Schalander private brewery lives on as the destination of “RAW-Mainstreet”.
Ultimately, it is down to the good will of the builders to take the idea of the “model project in terms of public welfare orientation” and the preservation of the somewhat rough charm seriously when planning and operating the RAW area with synergetic tenants. So that the RAW as a whole remains effective and preserved as a radiant brand. This is not least in their own interest.