A Defeat for Berlin’s BMW-Guggenheim Lab?
As long as we’re revisiting topics from last August we can’t ignore last week’s big news that the BMW-Guggenheim Lab won’t be opening this coming May in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Local activists mounted a vigorous campaign to stop the installation, and BMW-Guggenheim feared outbreaks of violence and vandalism. It was originally reported that the public resistance turned on worries that the project would accelerate gentrification of the area, producing higher rents, resident displacements, and new luxury developments. Another explanation links the popular protest to majority ownership of BMW by the Quandt family, which has admitted to using forced labor during World War II and whose current BMW operation is the target of a large trade union campaign.
BMW-Guggenheim Lab organizers are now considering other sites in Berlin, including Prenzlauer Berg. This district was originally identified as the Lab’s location. The area has been undergoing gentrification, however, and that might not send the best message to citizens in Berlin and elsewhere who worry about what corporate-sponsored “pop-ups” portend for their neighborhoods. Alternatively, how about an unused space near Potsdamer Platz? Here, there’s a bit of history (described in this blog last August) for corporate-sponsored temporary building serving the cause of healthy public debate about urban regeneration and development. That history might serve as a useful touchstone for getting “good city” conversations in Berlin off to a better start.
UPDATE, April 7: Prenzlauer Berg gets the nod as the relocation site.
UPDATE, June 14: Much more discussion of this issue is at Guerilla Semiotics.