During the Cold War, Berlin’s divided status made it possible for the already expansive city to become a haven for ways of living that more conventional cities made difficult. In the wake of the counterculture, this isolated, divided metropolis became a proving ground for turning theory into practice.
Although there were squats in London, Paris and New York, they always seemed like an improbable exception to the rule, permitted to survive only so long as the authorities had their sights trained on other social problems. In some Berlin neighborhoods, by contrast, they became the norm, deeply important for the community as a whole.
With the fall of the wall in 1989, the gentrification of West Berlin that had been picking up steam in the previous decade was offset by access to abandoned buildings in the former East. Even as other parts of the city started to lose their special character, these new territories provided a refuge for alternative lifestyles.
Predictably, though, despite the abundance of real estate in Berlin — few cities its size, even in the New World, have as much living space per capita — the lure of redevelopment opportunities was too powerful to keep the heterotopias of anti-capitalist squat culture safe from danger.
Last year, one of the most famous and impressive, the Linienhof Workshop, a loosely structured collective where people could come to do everything from fixing a car to exhibiting art — and learn, thanks to the free flow of advice, how to do it better the next time — was evicted from its home of nearly two decades.
This was a real tragedy for Berlin’s anarchistic do-it-yourself scene, not to mention people around the world who looked to the city for political and social inspiration. As the flyer here demonstrates, however, activists weren’t willing to give up without a fight and have since done everything in their power to keep the spirit of Linienhof alive.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a workshop, playground, unrenovated habitation, green space, corner pub, fallow land, micro-garden, or the bank of the River Spree:
To be continued. . .
We won’t let ourselves be driven out!!!
Hand-painted on the sign on the left side of the photograph “behind” the text:
For 19 years this space has been communally taken care of through screwing, tinkering, laughing, working, living, playing, building, drinking, dancing, repairing, painting, inventing, getting strange ideas, and discussing (and plenty more which has been forgotten) .
And that’s a good thing!
Therefore this living art space is an ex-object of speculation, torn free from the logic of valuation.
Hand-painted on the sign on the right side of the photograph “behind” the text:
Build your house somewhere else!
Linienhof lives on!
Introduction and translation by Charlie Bertsch. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.