Friday, September 28, 2012

Louise Chérie

New round my corner, a café names Louise Chérie. At the door, a French flag, so I guessed there was something to do with my country. Again? Yes, again. French are taking Friedrichshain over, I tell you. The 2 French lead the dance with love and taste every day, except Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. From France come directly the pate en croute (let’s say approximately pate in pie) but they are very strong with breakfast (salty and sugar, 5, €) and cakes (from 3,-€) they bake themselves.  Not to mention the coffee, one of the best in town. Don’t feel in a rush if you go there, you need to take your time and you will be let having it. And you will enjoy the feeling, maybe just enough to have another slice of another cake (I can’t get enough of the chocolate tarte but a friend of mine told me the lemon cake is also amazing).  I guess the rumor works well because I hear a lot of French speaking at the tables so It’s a good sign. Here the details of Louise Chérie Café.

Friday, September 21, 2012

New Berlin

Berlin misunderstood, Berlin rebel, Berlin manhandled, never stops to fascinate me. Do not go to Berlin with the idea of picturesque surroundings of an old European capital with its pretty cobbled streets and covered market of the nineteenth century. In Berlin, all, or almost, was destroyed by World War II. And the little that remained was then destroyed by the Communists. If your steps make noise on the streets, it means that you are probably in one of those neighborhoods rebuilt from scratch and aims to restore a semblance of the old in the new city. Like Nikolaiviertel, close to Alexanderplatz, with its low houses full of charm and let hardly suppose that all was built a few decades ago, on the occasion of the jubilee of the city while celebrating its 750 years on both sides of the Wall. Berlin, dear friends, is a chameleon city. Where unfolds today a huge empty space stood 20 years ago the largest House of Culture of East Germany, the Palace of the Republic, and there is less than 100 years the royal residence of the Prussian empire, more commonly known Stadtschloss. The baroque building was dynamited in 1951 by the young German Democratic Republic and the People's Palace dismantled by the new Federal Republic in 2008. Prussian and communist past are superimposed in the center of the city, in a quasi-general indifference, reflects the vast wasteland in front of the old cathedral. Today, it is question of rebuilding the castle disappeared, or at least its facade, to give the Museuminseln the neoclassical prestige imagined by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the nineteenth century. 

Built and razed, bombed and rebuilt, the Berlin architecture reflects its (not quiet) history. Capital of a republic, open to European avant-garde movements in the 20s, and field of deployment of the Nazi excesses in the decade that followed, city then cut into four sectors as the cake of victory after 1945 then split in two in 1961 by a "wall of shame" that only fall 28 years later, what remains of it this history in a city that is said to never be condemned and become eternal (Karl Scheffler Ein Stadtschicksal, 1910)? Potsdamer Platz, before place of rendezvous Expressionist artists and Dadaists, today is a huge postmodern place crossed by cars and taxis in a hurry. It is only once a year at the Berlinale, the German international movie festival, that it finds back its role as a mediator between the living creation and the audience. A few kilometers south-east of the city, the airport of Tempelhof, named "tallest building in the world" at its inauguration by Hitler in 1941 is now closed to the public and opened sporadically during major fairs international. The Fashion Addicts have forgotten that where willowy models parade and pose for the photographers, has been written here, more than a half-century ago, an essential page of world history, the Berlin Airlift? And who of the today’s young generation can still imagine that the city's most spectacular East Berlin street, Karl-Marx-Allee, was still in the 80's the place for military parades and organizations for youth masterfully staged by the East German regime? Today, Berlin is said as the "most creative" city of Europe and as expatriate, I'm wondering. What will be reminded of the recent past of the city within a few years? Entered in the school history books, the city has a new look for the twenty-first century, smoother and acceptable. Certainly, the experience of daily Berlin might suggest that the city takes its rank with Paris or London. Cultural metropolis, it attracts thousands of tourists who queuing in front of 170 museums. But appearances can be deceiving, and if you move away from the center to the periphery, the traces of the wall are still visible: flea markets on supermarket car parks, chip stalls a bit dirty, dusty storefronts and outdated, the time seems to have stopped in the former East Berlin. But to have the chance to enjoy this show, you must leave the beaten track of the city, facing its long avenues and endless monotony of the long rows of prefabricated housing. For how long now will this transitional phase, where the past, if begins to disappear, still is visible for those who’s looking for it? Work began last spring on the Castle Square (Schlossplatz), also known as Marx-Engels-Platz in the early 90s. And the unthinkable might yet happen: the residence of the Kings of Prussia will rise from the ashes in a baroque jewel designed by an architect of the twenty-first century. Let’s hope this second birth does not come only to appease Berlin memories but also allows the debate of the possible manipulation of history by the architecture.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The garden of the princess

As many places throughout the city, and it is a shame, last example would be the Tacheless which closed last week, Berlin is selling its emblematic places and so its soul to property funds, I guess to make more money. The actual  subject this week would the wonderful fairy Prinzessinnengarten at Moritzplatz. I guess if we don't succeed with enough signatures for the senat, the garden will die. I give you the text in English and a link to sign if you wish to participate.
To: The Berlin Senate

Establish A Sustainable Future For The Prinzessinnengarten

The future of the Prinzessinnengarten is uncertain. The Property Fund plans to sell the city-owned plot at Moritzplatz. The Property Fund has been commissioned to sell the plot on behalf of the Berlin Senate. This could mean the imminent end of the garden.

Open spaces offer opportunities for social engagement and new forms of urban life. They are part of the creative, beautiful and wild Berlin that is so fervently espoused by politicians. Moritzplatz exemplifies the threat to such spaces, but also the opportunities that arise from them. It could become a model for forward-looking property policies that takes into account the value of places such as the Prinzessinnengarten and that include citizens on an equal footing and from an early stage.
In order to establish a sustainable future for the Prinzessinnengarten and to appropriately involve the neighborhood around Moritzplatz in the development of their living environment, we demand the following:

- the extension of the Prinzessinnengarten lease for 5 years.

- forward-looking civic participation that appropriately takes into account the diversity and different needs of residents.

- secure planning prospects for urban garden projects and other forms of social participation that do justice to the value – also recognized by the Senate – that such places and projects have for the city.
Why is this important?
Since 2009, well over a thousand supporters have helped the site to grow "from an ugly vacant lot to a paradise" (Die Zeit). 50,000 visitors come to Moritzplatz each year to see this "biotope and sociotope with a model character"  (Tagesspiegel), this "utopia in miniature" (Berliner Zeitung), this "laboratory for the sustainable city of the future" (Wirtschaftswoche).
But the future of the Prinzessinnengarten is uncertain. The Property Fund has been commissioned to sell the plot on behalf of the Berlin Senate. A query submitted by the House of Representatives has revealed that negotiations with investors on the imminent sale of the property have already taken place. This could mean the impending end the Prinzessinnengarten. The lack of reliable planning horizons is not only an economic threat to the self-sustaining Prinzessinnengarten. 13 full-time positions threatened, as is the result of 30,000 hours of volunteer work per season: a place of social exchange and learning. We work with numerous schools, kindergartens, community associations and universities and have helped build up 16 offshoot gardens at the most varied of facilities.
We have long been drawing attention to the precarious situation and the lack of certainty in planning. In order to establish sustainable future perspectives for the garden we need an open discussion and a commitment from political leaders to preserve places like the Prinzessinnengarten for the long term. The value for the city of Berlin that comes from the Prinzessinnengarten and similar projects is undisputed, even by official sources. It does important work in a neighborhood that is one of the most densely developed and socially most vulnerable in the city. Experts see it as a laboratory for socially and ecologically sustainable forms of urban development. Internationally, whether at the EXPO in Shanghai or in the New York Times, the Prinzessinnengarten exemplifies a Berlin of open spaces for social and cultural engagement. The Senate has announced the promotion of urban gardening as part of a sustainable urban policy. The Property Fund writes that the Prinzessinnengarten is among projects "that make up Berlin in it's entirety, without which Berlin would be poorer many times over."

Citizen Participation On An Equal Footing
Little is known about the plans for Moritzplatz. The response of the Senate Department for Urban Development to the official query suggests that investors from the creative industries in coordination with the Property Fund are planning construction, within which the garden could also integrated. How this might look remains a matter of conjecture. Urban gardens, however, are more than just sophisticated backyard greenery. They provide incentives for sustainable and neighborhood-oriented urban development. They give people room to actively shape their environment. Taking this potential seriously, in our view, must mean including the neighborhood around Moritzplatz and its diverse actors in the discussion of the future of the neighborhood – on an equal footing and from an early stage. Last year, in conjunction with other local actors and with the support of the District Mayor, we submitted a concept for appropriate public participation procedures to the Property Fund.

Moritzplatz: A Model For Forward-Looking and Neighborhood-Oriented City Policies
The issue of Moritzplatz is not only about a few years more or less for the Prinzessinnengarten. The situation offers an excellent opportunity to take on far-reaching and urgent urban issues. Questions regarding appropriate opportunities for participation, the preservation of open spaces and diversity, the value of social engagement, the balance between economic interests and the protection from the displacement of existing social structures. This is consistent with the Senate's position of promoting participatory strategies, of enabling space for urban gardeners, of improving conditions for civic engagement, of preserving diverse and socially mixed neighborhoods. But above all, Moritzplatz offers the chance for the realignment of property policy as announced by the Senate. It is not only short-term financial interests that should count when dealing with public land, but the value of social, cultural and environmental engagement must also be adequately addressed. Only in this way can free spaces be preserved or created. They help to make Berlin the beautiful and wild city that Klaus Wowereit so fervently espouses in his policy statement.