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Social Safari

Part 1 Project 2001
Jeanne Francoise Fischer Birte Müller
Technische Universitat Berlin Berlin Germany
Social safari

The phenomenon of gentrification in Berlin

The project examines the process of gentrification in Berlin, particularly in “Berlin-Mitte”, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Because of unresolved property-disputes many buildings stayed empty offering a precondition for the development of a lively cultural scene.
Coal cellars, empty shops and flats were occupied by cultural ‘pioneers’ cultivating new social rules often considerably diverged from those in more profitable places.

The days of illegal bars, clubs and art galleries however were counted from their start. When becoming too well known and their “scene significance” rather widespread organizers found themselves confronted with either moving places or turning them into legal and more commercial institutions.

Nowadays an overall public interest and a glossy culture of consumerism, has pushed cultural differentiation from Berlin “Mitte” into more underdeveloped quarters.

Berlin Alexanderplatz

During our research we searched for ‘forgotten’ places, located outside the consciousness of people and outside public or financial interest having similar conditions as “Berlin-Mitte” in the nineties.

Regarding this eastern city centre “Alexanderplatz” is of great interest being internationally famous for its skyline with TV-tower and the “Forum Hotel”.

Most of the surrounding buildings however are partly or completely empty. They are waiting for redevelopment, and, apart from those tourist attractions they are hardly perceived by people.


The project’s intention was to think about various methods: How can a place be promoted? How can it develop a new image and identity and how can it return into people’s interests?

To increase interest in public space objects were chosen which seem as usual and common as the surrounding buildings. By providing these ordinary objects with a second function, not corresponding to the original one interest and curiosity rose.

By using the empty buildings as background for advertisement photographs, the making of a music video and having exhibitions and light installations in it, we used different devices to interact with the place.

Jeanne Francoise Fischer Birte Müller

The area of Berlin has, during the 90ties, been a place for extensive investigations regarding future development. Due to the changing definition of the city aims and chances for both, economic and social development have under gone extreme transformations.

Social Safari is a universitary study - launched 2 years ago - that develops urban methods by surveying trends. It concentrates on obvious but unseen urban movements rather outside the official city-planning discussion. These movements though are the factors that have created an image of the city. They spread internationally and influence advertisement, city management and tourism.

The 6-month project by the 2 students approaches these topics by introducing different tools besides urban planning. Their photography and filmwork as a work not done by media companies but from a planning background is exemplary and stimulating. The frank methods for approach in the contemporary city must be understood as another considerable urban tool.

Results of their work have influenced ongoing research projects of the institute’s work and lead to other students’ works that have continued this approach. As 3rd year students Birte and Jeanne showed a curiosity and energy that I consider as important for the dialogue of architecture and urbanism with recent planning strategies.

• Page Hits: 1023         • Entry Date: 19 September 2001         • Last Update: 19 September 2001