As a Fallen Apartment Building

Text and photographs by Francesca Cirilli

“…because of freedom at a point I realized I could live with less because of the possibility to have a self-determined living space ’cause like that I can work less and have more time for my life because they invited me to live here to question the standardized ways of living just because I like it

because I could stand anymore living in a flat
because I could build my own house
because it’s cheap
because it’s like a big family
because I can also have my personal space
because I can move my truck wherever and whenever I want
because I have been living here since twenty years
because I love living in nature
because I love living in the city
because I can’t go and live in the country, working in the city
because no one asked me to exchange this with a house on the seaside
because I can even have a garden
it was a pragmatic choice
it just happened

when I was a punk we squatted this empty and dead land
to not feel like living in a cage
because this is also a cultural project
for leading a more sustainable way of living
I came as a guest and then I stayed
because I love meeting new people who are always passing by
because we can organize the space according to our needs
for the ecological shape of this place
to contrast the idea that commercial interests can determine how urban space is used
to shape and negotiate the surronding in which we live
because this is a public space open to everybody
because this is our home and our utopia

’cause Utopia is far and this is only a step forward.”

2012.
Just in the middle of Berlin, where once there was a wall, exist several community life projects based on alternative ways of living. Relating with the city and nature, experimenting with political and social aspects, they are questioning the issue of inhabiting.
A community such as a “fallen apartment building”, as someone taking part in the projects said: fallen and transformed. Sort of islands between generic buildings.
As the Berlin wall felt down, an empty and dead strip of land just in the middle of the city, as a wound in the ground, was left open. Many empty houses and wastelands along its former path were squatted. Since then, in some places of the city, people with trucks and trailers arrived to settle down and live, quite permanently, in their mobile homes. In many cases they tryed to set the space to make it nicer and more confortable for them, arranging it and its flexible structure to the changing needs of the inhabitants.
The first time I came across a Wagenplatz, it appeared to me as something quite surreal in the middle of the city: while walking along the canal, it was emerging little by little in front of my eyes from between trees and plants, as a strange garden with strange architectures.
I got inside and got to know the place, then the people living there, and the reasons of their choice.

Both the Wagenburg in which I mostly worked and took pictures of are situated in Kreuzberg, one of the cores of the gentryfing process striking the city in these last years.
Claiming the possibility and the will to live in public space arranging it according to inhabitants needs and not to financial profit is something strongly political, even though most of the people living in the Wagenplatz don’t find in the political issue the main cause of their living choice.
Wagenburg are often not only living spaces, but also social and cultural projects, in which neighbours are involved. In many cases the city council stipulated contratcs or agreements with them for the leading of the land.
Wagenburg (or Wagenplatz) is quite a peculiar reality of Germany; there are many of them in the whole country, and almost ten only in Berlin.
They are proposing an alternative way of life, of use of space and a community life style, even if each of them has different characteristics: some are focused on eco-sustainablility, others on community life or political struggles, some are very opened to the neighbourhood and some others are more self-related, some are small and some are very big, some are in a very urban environment and some others in the outskirts of cities.

Most of these pictures are taken in Wagenplatz Lohmühle in Berlin.