The Chor der Statistik was brought to life in 2019 by musician Bernadette La Hengst and experimental architecture collective raumlaborberlin. An open call attracted people who wanted to sing about the challenges of urban development processes. The specific reason for the choir’s initiation is the ongoing transformation of the long-empty Haus der Statistik in Berlin. The jointly developed songs raise questions, address fears, and formulate demands. And so, the choir sings about displacement and the right to the city, it articulates problems around rent increases and the privatization of space. Singing together and public appearances are equally protest and demonstration at the same time. »For a better future,« says the choir director, raising her baton.
Be Heard: The Right to the City
A Refugee Hotel in the Heart of Athens
The City Plaza Hotel in Athens’ Victoria district stood empty for a long time. In April 2016, an initiative, together with stranded refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other places, occupied the building. They transformed the 126-room ex-hotel into a residential complex and managed it themselves. In doing so, the project is a demonstration of the practice of economic and political solidarity with refugees. Thus, it was also a center for the fight against racism, borders, repressive migration policies, and social exclusion. After thirty-six months, the experiment came to an end in 2019. Despite the project’s brevity, this building in central Athens, as well as the activities that unfolded there, represent critically important topics to all of us—and not only in times of crisis.
Technical Assistance for an Informal Settlement
South of Lisbon, in the hinterland of hotels and apartment complexes, is the not yet legalized Terras da Costa quarter. In 2012, the idea of setting up a communal kitchen was born in the neighborhood. Their proposal was tied to hopes that authorities would agree to install a water supply and thereby start the legalization process of the settlement. The architectural office ateliermob and many other groups, initiatives, and individuals supported this ambition in various ways. Some contributed their work directly, others positioned themselves in solidarity, and foundations funded the project. After about two years, water finally flowed to Terras da Costa. But many other aspects remained unresolved or have not been decided politically, so that settlements in similar situations have to continue the fight for their rights to the city.
Financing the Cooperative City
The book and action research project Funding the Cooperative City. Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces describes numerous case studies from across Europe, which tell of how local community finance can be set up. A wide variety of groups that have developed new models for developing and operating non-commercial spaces for their neighborhoods are presented and discussed. None of this is easy, as many interviews and discussion notes reveal. But it is possible: through the formation of solidarity networks, neighborly commitment, a willingness to experiment, and administrative and often financial support from the respective communities.
Thomas Hirschhorn’s works address the challenges of our time. They deal with climate emergency and justice, consumer excess and alienation. Many of the geopolitical discussions raised by the artist, which we can usually hold at a distance, collapse over and upon us. We break in. We become part of the Hirschhornian cosmos, which so clearly says how important it is to take a stance. At first glance, the exhibited collage seems strangely sober, almost alienated. Values and attitudes, not solutions, are at its core. We seek simple answers to the multitude of questions in vain. Rather, the project is about establishing social relationships, acting together, the invention of practices that produce or change spaces.
This Is Our House!
Housing, just like land, must not be a commodity—this is the goal of the Mietshäuser Syndikat in a nutshell. Since its official foundation in Freiburg in 1993, it has developed and promoted self-organized housing projects. The unique feature of the syndicate is that land and buildings are permanently decommodified. This means that the organization, together with the tenants of a house, buys the property and the land, thus dissolving traditional ownership structures or other dependencies. By withdrawing buildings and the land they stand on from the real estate market, the syndicate positions itself explicitly against speculation and profit. Today, around 160 projects in Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria exist under the syndicate’s umbrella, making long-term affordable residential, working, and living spaces a reality.
A Sign for Europe
The work EUROPA was created in the aftermath of Britain’s referendum for withdrawal from the European Union. Europe, according to the architecture and planning office morePlatz, lacks visibility, public presence, and positive feedback. The huge luminous tubes, which have been on display in Berlin and many other locations across Germany and abroad since their first installation in November 2016, were conceptualized to address this articulated lack. But this notion of Europe that these letters and this light fixture are meant to represent is also viewed critically by many for Europe’s external borders are being increasingly sealed off and defended. The promise of an open and solidary Europe remains for many an unattainable goal. Radiant EUROPA does not shine equally for everyone.
A Model Project for Refugee Integration
Former mayor Domenico »Mimmo« Lucano of the southern Italian municipality of Riace was co-founder of the association Città Futura—City of the Future. In collaboration with aid organizations, he took in refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Palestine, and Lebanon. With this came state subsidies that were then also invested in the village’s infrastructure, which—many today believe—would likely have died out without the new residents. And so, together with the locals, abandoned houses were repaired. The newcomers were also introduced to local traditions of glass making, ceramics, and embroidery. But from the beginning, there was resistance to what was seen as an idiosyncratic approach, which finally led to the project’s collapse a few years ago. Lucano was accused of malpractice, abuse of his position, and had to leave Riace. In the meantime, however, he’s back forging new plans.