Guggenheim ‘Lab’ set to swing through Berlin

New York’s Guggenheim Museum is creating travelling “laboratories” that will look at the design of cities. Berlin is believed to be one host city, but a redevelopment dispute is complicating matters.

Guggenheim 'Lab' set to swing through Berlin
Photo: DPA

The project is basically a travelling think tank on what cities ought to be now and in the future. The BMW Guggenheim Lab – a collaboration between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and German carmaker BMW – will travel the world drumming up ideas.

The host cities are still a secret. But various media reports have said Berlin has been chosen as the European host and that a parking lot at the northern end of Kastanienallee in the Prenzlauer Berg district is the planned site – which insiders have confirmed to The Local.

The temporary project is set to begin in the German capital in the spring of 2012.

There will be three BMW Guggenheim Labs, each of which will travel to three major cities. The first Lab will start in North America then move to Europe and finally to Asia. The architect will be Japanese firm Atelier Bow-Wow and the graphic designers will be South Korean duo Sulki & Min.

According to the Guggenheim in New York, each Lab will be an “innovative movable structure that will travel from city to city” and bring together artists, architects and scientists for “research, experimentation, and the sharing of ideas about major issues affecting urban life.”

The still somewhat scruffy Kastanienallee is the favoured site in Berlin. But others are supposedly being considered, including Pfefferberg, a nearby cultural venue at a former brewery, a source said.

The catch with Kastanienallee is that the Guggenheim project has run into a local dispute over plans to dramatically revamp of the popular shopping and café boulevard. While officials hope to improve tram and bike traffic, many residents and business are vehemently opposed to narrowing the street’s trademark wide sidewalks.

According to Severin Höhmann, who is running for a seat in the Berlin parliament for the centre-left Social Democratic Party in the city’s September election, redevelopment work on the street was being rushed to fit the timetable of the Guggenheim project, to the detriment and against the wishes of local business owners.

“In my view there is a misunderstanding. It’s about the future of a city … but Berlin is trying to make itself clean and new,” he said. “Even though (local traders) want the Guggenheim, they don’t want it done this way, with this street renewal. They’re changing the time-frame of the project just for the Guggenheim, which isn’t going to be good for the shops and cafés.”

He said the redevelopment should be done over two or three years with close consultation with residents and business owners.

“It should be done more slowly and they should be talking more to people … Now it’s like (controversial rail project) Stuttgart 21. That’s the way of politics today: ‘We decide to do it and we don’t have time to talk to people.’”

Höhmann stressed the BMW Guggenheim Lab would be a great thing for the city but said a rushed overhaul of Kastanienallee without sufficient consultation went against the entire spirit of the project.

“It would be a terrific thing for Berlin. I absolutely want to welcome Guggenheim here. It’s just that it’s not necessary to clean up the neighbourhood to have it. If I have understood it correctly, one of the points of the Guggenheim project is to talk about how cities change, but you can’t do that if it’s not about the city and its people but about the city and politics. It would be a good chance to talk about Kastanienallee.”

One insider, who did not want to be named, said Kastanienallee might have to dropped in favour of another Berlin site.

For now, officials are tight-lipped about the plans. Jens-Holger Kirchner, a Greens member of the Pankow district council who is responsible for public policy, did not respond to request for comments.

However, he told the daily Tagesspiegel earlier this month that having the Lab would be “a great honour and a greater asset” for the city and that the project would enrich the current debate about the future of Kastanienallee.

Guggenheim director of public relations in New York, Betsy Ennis, declined to comment on the Berlin situation and simply told The Local the museum would hold a press conference on Friday, May 6.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.