Berlin has long been the city of abundance when it came to empty buildings waiting for a new future. This changed since around 2014 when Berlin became a populair place to live. Private investors took their chance by hunting street after street for real estate bargans. In the mean time Berlin is running low of vacant buildings or area’s. Victims are as usual low income tenants and the alternative cultural scene and artists.
May 20th 2017 a demonstration was organized to support actions to reconvert the ‘Haus of Statistik’ to a place for art, education and social activities.
A short history of the building
The building used to be the House of Statistics of the GDR (East-Germany) and was build around 1969. It did not last for long. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought an end to its function under GDR-rule.
The unified Germany took over the building for the same purpose adding the former STASI-archives.
After almost 20 years in use, in 2008, the two institutions moved elsewhere and left behind a set of empty buildings of 40.000 m2.
The buildings are situated in the former heart of East-Berlin, near Alexanderplatz. Just by its size it cannot be missed standing out as a huge flat without or broken windows, covered with gravity.
A new and different future?
Politics and social engagement are almost always present in Berlin when it comes to redefine abandoned buildings and places. It took 7 years of an empty life of the enormous building before the first thoughts became public of what should happen to the former ‘Haus der Statistik’.
The Berliner ‘Allianz bedrohter Berliner Atelierhäuser (AbBA)’ envisioned a centre for art, culture and social activities. It was a response to a brainstorm workshop organized by the city council.
AbBA: ‘The current politics of refugees, economics, city development and justice, demand new ways to deal with crises and structural problems. The ‘Haus der Statistik’ in the centre of Berlin can become an example to show that with creativity, political will and corporation change is possible.’
Read the vision document (pdf)
Demonstration of hope
Saturday 20th of May 2017 people assembled in front of the building complex. Present were people involved in the transformation plan, politicians from Bezirk Mitte and general public. The message of the gathering was a statement as part of the coalition contract stating:
‘The ‘Haus der Statistik’ will be redeveloped as place for functions such as culture, education, social activities and living. The coalition intents to transfer the building into public ownership. The project must become a model in which new forms of corporation and a broad involvement of the city community is guaranteed.’
The politicians present and addressing the demonstration, emphasized that to get from written words to action it takes constant political pressure.
The dream was put to text, now this has to be put into practice. The area around Alexanderplatz could use some new alternative energy to compensate the visual noise made by the fully commercialized use of this important place in Berlin.
‘Berlinerinnen und Berliner ihr habt es in der Hand’.