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BMW and Guggenheim scared off Berlin project

Published: 20 Mar 2012 13:48 GMT+01:00

The BMW Guggenheim Lab, which is on a tour of cities around the globe, had been scheduled to arrive on a vacant lot in the German capital in May for a two-month stint before continuing to Mumbai.

But organisers pulled the plug on the project in the Kreuzberg district, a BMW spokesman said, after several threats attributed to residents who are angry that it could contribute to rent increases in the area.

"We're not leaving Kreuzberg because of protests but because of the high threat level determined by the police, the threat of violence" the spokesman, Thomas Girst, said.

The Guggenheim added in a statement: "The Foundation regrets having to make this decision, as the purpose of the BMW Guggenheim Lab is to create a space for public discussion, open to the widest possible range of views.

"While we welcome vigorous debate, we cannot risk the possibility of violence, as raised by a small minority."

Girst said it was not immediately clear whether the Lab would move to another district or have to cancel the Berlin leg of the tour entirely.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab, which calls itself a forum to discuss urban architecture, technology and sustainability, plans to visit nine cities in six years.

Its opening in New York last August also met with anti-gentrification protests.

Kreuzberg, one of the capital's central districts, has traditionally been home to a lively German scene of left-leaning political activists and artists alongside a large Turkish and Arab population.

After years of hype around areas in the former communist east, Kreuzberg has seen a revival in recent years and in 2011 saw the biggest increase in average apartment rental prices in the city, according to local statistics.

Opponents of the project said in a statement online that they feared the development of the lot on the banks of the Spree river would drive the gentrification of the area.

"The so-called 'Lab' is a rotten image project by the conservative corporation BMW and will mean increasingly rising rents in the neighbourhood as well as the de facto privatisation of the property and was of course planned without any participation of the residents," they said.

The investors who own the prime slab of real estate have said they later plan to erect office buildings and hotels there.

Berlin ranks as one of Europe's most affordable cities but has seen a sharp rise in rents since the Wall fell in 1989.

AFP/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:40 March 20, 2012 by vonSchwerin
Why even bother with Kreuzberg? It seems that the residents there -- at least the loudest and most visible among them -- want to live in a run-down, dirty, graffiti-ridden, but cheap urban neighborhood where no one is allowed to talk about gentrification, modern urban renewal, or capitalist economics.
16:00 March 20, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Would be better placed in Mitte or Prenzlauerberg where Gentrification has taken place and people are happy to have it. Let the left-wing losers to themselves until they eventually fall through the rotten wooden floors of their apartments.
16:18 March 20, 2012 by derExDeutsche
Don't be too hopeful, Berlin fuer! When they fall through, they'll blame you, and you and make you pay for the new floors. The Greens will make sure of that. and Sustainably harvested Hardwoods only, please. Just don't get mad or they'll wonder; ' Where is your compassion?' and call you some names. Oh. fun!
17:39 March 20, 2012 by OkieinBerlin
yes, it's a terrible thing when people -- that is, "the loudest and most visible," defend their property from money-grubbing opportunists.
17:53 March 20, 2012 by wires
The previous three commentators haven't much of an idea about the "run-down, dirty, graffiti-ridden, but cheap urban neighborhood" that has been attracting record numbers of tourists, who enjoy the neighborhoods made attractive by the older and newer inhabitants. There are many long-year organizations already here who "talk about gentrification, modern urban renewal, or capitalist economics". Just last summer, there were a series of open discussions with the district mayor, that led to no results. The non-binding majority vote in regard to the use of the Spree River banks is being cast aside little by little by private interests and weak politicians.

The "Lab" had no intention of offering anything new, much less, serve as a forum developed from a grassroots level. I've been living in Wrangelkiez more than 20 years and know first hand that the "Lab" won't take place not because of a few "radicals", but for the fact that the organizers could find no enthusiastic support even among moderate groups.
17:59 March 20, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
@Wires. This previous commentator has been living in Prenzlauerberg since 1996 and knows far more about the subject that you give credit for. Having lived in a run down coal-oven heated apartment and had to walk up and down a negligently dangerous staircase long before the words gentrification were even understood in Berlin, I am now very happy to live in a modernised safe building even if it does cost more. I notice far more tourists now also since things have been brightened up and renovated.
18:37 March 20, 2012 by wires
@Berlin für alles: Beyond latching on to "who's lived where longer" in my comment, the main title of the "Lab" is "Confronting Comfort", an interesting topic, anyone or group w/o corporate management oversight can deal with by him/ herself.
02:03 March 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche
'an interesting topic, anyone or group w/o corporate management oversight can deal with by him/ herself. '

but no w/o Government assistance?
07:19 March 21, 2012 by wires
Government assistance: wikipedia,for starters...

"Dabei wird unter anderem auf die Subventionen in Millionenhöhe hingewiesen, mit denen zugezogene Unternehmen, wie zum Beispiel MTV und Universal Music, vom Berliner Senat unterstützt wurden. Zudem wird es als unlogisch empfunden, dass der Senat den Bau der O₂ World begrüßte und finanziell unterstützte, obwohl in Berlin kein Mangel an Veranstaltungshallen bestand. Nachdem der Basketballverein Alba Berlin seine Heimspiele in die O2 World verlegte, muss die mangelnde Auslastung seiner ehemaligen Heimspielstätte, der Max-Schmeling-Halle in Prenzlauer Berg, nun wiederum durch öffentliche Subventionen ausgeglichen werden."
08:30 March 21, 2012 by Michael R
Kreuzberg is chalk full of leftist loonies and credit card communists, that cant seem to wait to give you their oh so trendy opinions.

Gentrification is a natural process in most cities across the developed world.
12:06 March 21, 2012 by Navigator_B
Gentrification is great for people who can work in luxurious offices and can afford to live in expensive appartments. It's not so great people who have lived all their lives in places like Kreuzberg but who are forced by higher rents to move out to Soviet era high-rise appartment blocks in places like Lichtenberg.  
14:59 March 21, 2012 by frankiep
Sounds like basically the lefties are upset because they are afraid of rents getting higher and not have the money and/or jobs to afford it, so they have decided that the best way to deal with this is by continuing to live in dilapidated and decaying buildings and chasing away any potential investors which would bring more money and possibilities to their neighborhoods. Brilliant!

These are most likely the same sort of people who complain about the "1 percent" keeping them down without even realizing that the "1 percent" are the ones here who want to invest in their neighborhoods.
15:39 March 21, 2012 by vonSchwerin
@wires

I have plenty of idea about Kreuzberg. I have lived for several years in Schöneberg, including on the Rote Insel, which is immediately adjacent to your workers' and artists' paradise. There are plenty of times when I go to Kreuzberg for work or to visit friends, and I am glad that I don't live there.
17:23 March 21, 2012 by Navigator_B
There's nothing wrong with refurfishment in itself. Apart from creating employment, it should actually drive rents down by increasing the supply of good accomodation. 

The reason that rents go up in some areas is not just because of refurfishment but because of "location, location, location" when an area that becomes trendy. The fact that other people have lived there all their lives doesn't count for anything against the financial power of rich people and corporations who want to move in.
21:46 March 21, 2012 by frankiep
Contrary to increasingly popular belief, a person is not rich simply because he has more money than someone else. In this case these "rich" people moving in are the same ones who will be spending more money and directly or indirectly increasing the overall wealth of the neighborhood.

Social conservatives are (rightfully) mocked and ridiculed for wanted everything to remain the way it was in the 1950s. Well, the same logic applies here.
07:12 March 22, 2012 by Barnel
In a democracy nobody should be afraid from threats. That's why we have police and security

Good articles on www.ariespost.com
11:49 March 22, 2012 by AlexR
Talking about a storm in a teacup. Even the worst house/flat in Kreuzberg or Berlin is an average or even good house/flat in London or Paris. Not to mention that in London or Paris you will pay up to 5 times more rent for the same quality/space/facilities.
21:40 March 22, 2012 by Sayer
Beware Berlin....there be dragons!
22:37 March 24, 2012 by AxelSchultze
While very sad on the surface, it may be one of the key experiences for the project.

The experience is threefold:

1) The fear for a serious socioeconomic shift is very real and clearly expressed.

2) Methods of communication TO and audience may not resonate WITH the audience

3) A project FOR the population should be done WITH the population

I hope the incident has a real learning effect and is not ignored or even arrogantly pushed aside like some of the comments here
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