Mediaspree kommt

Excellent transport connections, up-market riverside locations, office space ranging from commercial lofts to high-tech new constructions at extremely reasonable prices and its proximity to the trendy neighboring districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg make Mediaspree the gateway to the Berlin of the future.

It is too late to speak about Bar25, Yaam, Whitetrash am Strand. The summer is ending. What seems to have escaped attention is that these, admittedly seasonal and modest, businesses generate much in their contribution to the Berliner Luft that makes this city a popular destination for both tourists and exiles.

On the other side of the Spree C-base, on Rungestrasse, provides refuge for games designers, geeks and the digerati in waiting. This otherwise desolate area, in Autumn’s onset, is quiet now. The Yaam is gone. No more dread techno and cheap cocktails on the ‘beach’. The bartender, at White Trash, smiling. A set of perfect white teeth.

It really will be too late soon to speak about Bar 25 where, close to dawn, an impromptu circus played a trombone set and a young woman took photographs of fireflies. The urlaub is over and work commences. The Winter draws on.

It really is too late to speak of these things because these things are soon gone. In the next few years they are threatened with the developer’s bulldozer. The Mediaspree project kommt and perhaps a nice multi-story carpark, international hotel, corporate headquarters and luxury development of flats will begin their slow but inexorable rise from the banks of the Spree. Accessible soon via a beutifull new concrete esplanade. Alles neu gemacht.

When this project is completed, will anything prevent it from becoming the same international, chrome, ghostown that is Potsdamerplatz? So long a wastelend, a wasteland still.

“Redevelop in haste and repent at leisure” might threaten to become the new motto of arm arber sexy Berlin. I remember, just about, the Rich and Sexy eighties and shudder. London’s Docklands was once also a magical place, haunted by performance artists, film makers and dancers. Liminal. Ruined, a breeding ground of both ideas and pleasure. A place in which fertile networks of creativity were founded.

The city in ruins forces its citizenery into modes of autonomous organisation at the micro-political level. In Berlin, specifically, Kiez and Verhein provide the core components of alternate social provision and economy – this development is rooted in the city’s unique (in Europe at least) history as a late 20th century walled state.

Capital constantly seeks to overwrite this history with grand architectural schemes but Berlin has an unfortunate history with such plans. The tendancy to dream of a gleaming new future, a thousand year reich presided over by multinational corporations, is not without precedent. From Lang’s hyperalientaed vision of Metropolis to the utopian modernism of the Bauhaus and the totalitarian kitsch of Speer’s plans for Germania, Hauptweldstadt. Berlin, like many cities, remains obsessed with building its way out of economic crises.

Where these plans have been (partially) realised, the massive redevelopment of Alexanderplatz and Potsdamerplatz for instance, the result has been Disneyfied non-spaces – new business districts, clogged with traffic, closed at night and conducive to neither living nor working.

The Mediaspree project, which proposes the massive redevelopment of ‘unnoccupied’ land between the Oberbaumbr├╝cke and Jannowitzbr├╝cke is another such folie de grandeur, the very scale and economics of which have blinded the developers to fate of the bars and clubs which occupy this stretch of wasteland along the banks of the Spree.

The contingent solutions, quick and dirty, improvised fixes that emerge in this ‘broken’ city seem a more fitting and contemporary response to its economic ills than the grand schema of architectural restructuring.