Monday, 1 September 2014

I've Been Looking for Freedom

Schöneweide, an area in southeast Berlin, in the borough of Treptow-Köpenick. After the wall came down, around 25,000 people lost their jobs here in the industrial complex belonging to energy suppliers AEG, which was no longer viable after reunification.  

The mural says: 'Give space to art, then the beauty of its soul will unfurl in freedom.' Many artists have recently moved into studios in industrial buildings which belonged to AEG, vacant for 20 years.
This is the new home of legendary beach club Kiki Blofeld. They had to leave Mitte/Kreuzberg in central Berlin in 2011, because the State of Berlin had sold their land to the highest bidder. They had the status of 'Zwischennützer' which meant that so as long as the land was not marketable, they could use it and pay cheap rent.
New home of Kiki Blofeld, 400 square metre hall for DJs and Bands, 1000 square metre outdoor space
We arrived on an overcast rainy evening so the club was closed as was access to the industrial buildings on Wilhelminenhof strasse, where there had been open studios and an arts festival a few months ago.

The State of Berlin sold part of the AEG factory areal (20,000 square metres) to investor Sven Herrman, an ex Stasi agent, for 432 471 Euro, about the same price for a medium sized flat in Central Berlin. The artist Ai Wei Wei, was prepared to pay nearly 2 million Euros for 4800 Square metres of this. (as reported in Die Welt)
Footloose? No a better soundtrack would be '(Everything I do) I do it for you' by Bryan Adams. Adams stepped in and bought one of the empty factory halls in November 2013 after Ai Wei Wei was arrested in China and was unable to secure the deal to move to Berlin. Adams plans to open a cultural centre there for artist and architect friends.

17 scientific institutions and 1300 companies are based in the traditionally industrial quarter along the river Spree.  Even 20 years after the jobs disappeared, employment is still very high in Schöneweide, people are economically disadvantaged, or as one blog puts it:' on the social atlas Schöneweide lies at the bottom' . Let's hope that if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if and when Schöneweide 'comes up', its for them too.   

Kaisersteg Bridge was rebuilt and reopened in 2007. It provides a shortcut for students of the University to the S-Bahn, just like it did for the workers of the AEG, Berlin's electricity company.
The University of Applied Sciences,  moved to Schöneweide in 2006. 8000 students from 100 different countries study here. Most of them, however still choose to live near the city centre.

Schöneweide had become a Neonazis stronghold up until recently with violent attacks on migrants and left wing people and organisations. This had obviously put many people off from moving or even coming here. 

Now the infamous 'Henker' pub, which had served as a meeting point for rightwing extremists since 2009 was evicted through the courts by its landlord. In April, the regional Chairman of the far right extremist party NPD closed his militaria shop located in the same street in Schöneweide due to lack of custom. DeGeWo, a housing association that owns 350,000 properties, has  included clauses in tenancy agreements than bans any products promoting extreme right ideas being sold in its commercial properties. (as reported on RBB )

Families have now also begun to move here from other areas of Berlin,  pushed out by rising rents in more sought after areas. Kiki Blofeld have leased the land until September 2014 to see if it is viable. They hope that people will make the journey to the club, which, after all is just a short ride by S-Bahn from the city centre. The owner, Gerke Freyschmidt says "They just have to realise that Oberschöneweide also is part of the city".

Other articles (in German)

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