ZK/U Untersuchungsausschuss #01 Gemeingutgrün

Green Commons Berlin ("Gemeingut Grün")

Fact-finding committee investigating organizational forms geared toward the public good for the urban gardens of Berlin. 

Berlin is known as the capital of urban gardens. Many of these gardens, however, are but precarious in-between uses of available space. Over the next three months, the fact-finding committee ("Untersuchungsausschuss") at ZK/U will dissect the plans for intercultural and urban gardens proposed by the governing coalition, seeking to answer the question: Can we secure the green commons from the bottom up and organize them to serve the public good, or will they be bulldozed out of existence?

The Fact-Finding Committee at ZK/U

Armed with a 40-year leasehold contract, ZK/U took over a former train depot in Moabit and turned it into a space for artist residencies, knowledge transfer, and discussions on urban policy. As part of its usage agreement with the district, ZK/U must care for the public park that surrounds it. The "Bürger im Stephankiez e.V." society runs a community garden on the premises.

In the context of its work, the fact-finding committee will tie local discourse to global practices brought to ZK/U by its international artists-in-residence. For this purpose, ZK/U will establish a succession of temporary committees to investigate urban policy issues of interest to the general public. Marco Clausen and Kerstin Meyer will organize this process for fact-finding commission Green Commons, the first of its kind, which will bring together various actors, initiatives, and researchers in identifying organizational possibilities for Berlin's urban greens, guided by public interest. Two artists will develop individual contributions to the topic, and the fact-finding committee will present the results of its inquiry in a committee report at OPENHAUS+ in September of this year.

The Fact-Finding Committee on Green Commons ("Gemeingut Grün")

From July to September 2018, Marco Clausen (Prinzessinnengarten/Nachbarschaftsakademie) and Kerstin Meyer (100% THF, Volksentscheid Retten) will head up a committee on the topic of organizing Berlin's urban greens for the public good.

We welcome one and all to participate in the work of the committee and to take part in committee meetings at regular intervals. If interested, please send an email to: ua-gruen(at)zku-berlin.org.

Insight: Urban Gardens between Hype and Displacement

Over the last two decades, almost 200 intercultural and community gardens have sprung up all over the city. Urban gardens are not just a media favorite; municipal politicians like to refer to them as examples of participatory, social, and ecological development "from the bottom up." They are now widely regarded as essential elements of livable, vibrant, inclusive, and future oriented cities. Their precarious situation, however, has not changed - in 2014, more than 150 initiatives from all over Germany signed the urban gardening manifesto "The City Is Our Garden", which describes the current legal status of many gardens as temporary, their future as uncertain. Nothing has changed for the better in the years since; on the contrary, further densification, privatization, and speculation - the constant buzz of a "build, build, build" mantra - have increased the pressure on urban greens. Garden plots, urban gardens, fallows, and cemeteries continue to cede to bulldozers. The time of interim use solutions looks to have come to an end. Given this dire situation, the urban gardening manifesto called on policy makers and planners to acknowledge the importance of community gardens, to strengthen their position and to write them into construction and planning legislation, leading the way toward a new "garden-friendly" city paradigm. Regardless, greening and gardening projects established through community initiative remain privatization efforts in the eyes of the administration. Instead of recognizing how they contribute to overall community welfare - by fostering participation, open spaces, biodiversity, inclusion, interaction with nature, education, climate adjustments, food sovereignty, and so on - and protecting and nurturing them as part of the natural and social infrastructure of the city, they continue to be understood as items of personal interest. Berliners, however, are greatly attached to their green spaces, a point driven home by the impressive results of the referendum to keep Tempelhofer Feld undeveloped and open. The governing coalition has taken up the issue in its contract, stating its intention to "develop a city-wide concept for urban and cultural gardens in collaboration with actors and activists from the gardening scene."1

Objectives of the Fact-Finding Committee on Green Commons

The Fact-Finding Committee on Green Commons will investigate how a city-wide concept for urban and intercultural gardens can be developed to include organizational formats geared toward the public good, that secure the future of the green commons while strengthening its social and ecological functions and possibilities for democratic participation. For this purpose, we will establish an "idea factory" at ZK/U for a period of three months, conduct interviews, organize tours of exemplary and endangered sites, invite artistic contributions on the topic, and, finally, publish the results of our inquiry. Our motto, echoing the words of Gerda Münnich, "mother of Berlin's urban and intercultural gardens", is simply this: "Ganz Berlin ein Garten!" ("All of Berlin, a garden!").

1 The paragraph reads in full: "Informed by the tenure treaty to protect the Berlin forests - signed over 100 years ago - as well as the current landscaping program for Berlin, the coalition seeks to draw up a municipal contract for the preservation of important green, open, and natural spaces. In areas devoid of such spaces, new green and open spaces are to be established and their conservation secured. The coalition shall appoint a permanent contact person for urban gardening and develop a city-wide concept for urban and cultural gardens in collaboration with actors from the gardening scene. Berlin shall become an "edible city." Shaping Berlin together - in solidarity, sustainably, to be truly cosmopolitan." Coalition contract signed by SPD, DIE LINKE, and BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN for the legislative period of 2016-2021.

(c) Marco Clausen, 2018