What better place to explore urban issues than a city that has not ceased to be built for the past 150 years? Berlin has witnessed shifting borders at the geographic, political, social and cultural levels. Transitional regimes, the destruction of war, the division and reunification of the city, new legislative frameworks, the shift from heavy industry to the modern, postindustrial era have all shaped Berlin and have kept it in perpetual flux. The city thereby acquired a specific urban character that has generally been marked by a lack of finance and high levels of improvisation. This has often led to unusual planning processes and a diverse range of informal activity that has resulted in worldwide interest in Berlin as a laboratory for urban issues.
The institutional framework for knowledge production is well established here too: Berlin has 4 universities, 7 colleges, 3 art schools, numerous private institutes and research organizations. The arts and sciences have always been and remain today an important driving force in Berlin. This is reflected by the rich cultural life of the city: Innumerable museums, art galleries, theatres and other cultural institutions next to a diverse range of grass-root activities and a vibrant alternative scene attest to the importance of the arts.
Surrounded on all sides by water, Berlin-Moabit was an enclave populated in the 19th century by Huguenots who had fled from France and gave this area its name. With the advent of industrialization at the beginning of the twentieth century, the district became an important manufacturing area. Goods were transported to and from Berlin via this railway depot and Berlin‘s largest inland port, Westhafen.