After 20 years of working as an architect in New York, Dan Borden came to Berlin in 2000 to focus on filmmaking. In 2008, he co-curated Exberliner’s Save Berlin, a four-day festival of urban planning at Stattbad Wedding, and has penned the mag’s Save Berlin column as a follow-up since 2009.
I first got involved with Exberliner in 2008 when I wrote a piece about my experience of having my film screened at the Berlinale. At the time, I felt there wasn’t enough talk about city planning in Berlin, especially within the English-language community. Things like the Volkspalast or Ostkreuz station, which I used to use all the time, show that there’s no effort to say that this East German culture is worth saving, that it has value or history. If it’s in the way, it’s gone.
You used to walk under this track and suddenly feel like you were in East Germany, stepping back in time. I remember coming off the S-Bahn one day and seeing this group of East Germans watching as a ball smashed the last pieces of brick. You could feel the sadness of those people. That loss is so intense. It’s just being wiped away.
So I suggested to Nadja that we do an issue on the future of Berlin. Being Nadja she said, “That’s a great idea – we’ll do an issue and we’ll do a big party and we’ll do lectures and screenings and an art exhibition…” It got bigger and bigger and evolved into Save Berlin. For four full days, it was packed. “I want to light a fire under the ass of Berlin’s creative community,” that was my quote. And I think we did.
I was so exhausted by the whole thing though, that it took about a year and a half before I wrote to Nadja and said, “Why don’t we do a monthly column?” It seemed such an obvious thing. I went to two editorial meetings and said never again. They go on forever, nothing seems to be resolved. I remember thinking, “How does anything ever get done here?” But it does. Now I send my column and the rest just happens.