Building porn: the photography of the wholesale demolition or gutting or remodelling or construction or reconstruction of the architecture of Berlin following the fall of the Wall always fascinated me. The drama and upheaval of colossal sites like the (now depressingly failed) Potsdamer Platz rising out of the mud of the former Death Strip in the 1990s was somehow hopeful and interesting – a sign of transformation, flux, energy, the future.
The building porn above has none of that zeitgeisty Berlin-after-the-Wall patina. It’s just sinister and depressing. Basically, 20 perfectly fine, inhabited flats with very low rents (€4.37/square metre) in Prenzlauer Berg have been vacated and ripped away from the side of a building to make way for a new building that will be stuck on the end of the block and will house around 100 flats, including some amazing penthouses. Forty trees have been cut down from the two courtyards to make way for underground parking. One can easily imagine the rents will be double that of the old 1960s flats, at the very minimum. And one can imagine the new building will resemble the pseudo-Parisian nightmare of Kolle Belle, the posh, relatively new building inhabited by Gazprom executives, seen in the back right of the photo.
I’m not a Marxist. I’m basically just another bourgeois flat owner myself. I’m actually in favour of investors building more, even on the hallowed Tempelhofer Feld, in order to take some pressure off of the rental market – but this kind of thing is really too much. To its credit, the Pankow district council responsible for building permits in the area refused to give the developer the go ahead for years, but the courts ruled in favour of the developer. A scandal, if you ask me. It’s up there with the sociopathic idea of randomly building a residential tower and hotel in the middle of the East Side Gallery.
For the last decade, Klaus Wowereit’s Berlin government has been desperate to create an atmosphere favourable to big real estate money. Now it’s here and it’s wreaking havoc. Developers like this one are the truly destructive Chaoten – not the kids playing war with the police in Kreuzberg on May 1.
And though I don’t think it will change a bloody thing, this kind of thing might be a good reason to join this year’s May Day demonstration.