CITIES, poetics of life

How to define a neighbourhood

Schöneberg itself was a genuine delight. Dieter noted how the area was, to some extent, demarcated by "male prostitutes in that direction, female prostitutes in that direction, and transvestites over there", a form of municipal boundary that is exactly how citizens think of cities and exactly not how administrators and politicans do.

via cityofsound: Journal: A walk in Schöneberg, Berlin: energy policy, gentrification, protest, and the humble joys of communal flower beds.

The entire long article, written by one of my favourite thinkers, Dan Hill – a designers (interface designer, perhaps?), but for a long time working in the role of a defacto urbanist, in the UK, Australia, and now Finland, is egregiously worth a read. It deals with the neighbourhood of Schöneberg, and by metonymy all of Berlin, and its many particularities: DIY urbanism, guerrilla occupation of industrial ruins, decaying suburban housing estates, the German energy policy, the Mietskasernen, even David Bowie.

But what I am quoting is what remained, weeks after reading, the most memorable paragraph and the one I found myself quoting most often: the way in which people define their territory. This is precisely what we mean when we say genius loci; the sense of place.

So many people write so much nonsense about Berlin that finding something meaningful and true is always a delight. It seems to be a positional good, the way having an opinion about New York, psychoanalysis, the French banning of hijab, Lars von Trier or Lady Gaga is a must way of separating the social wheat from the social chaff.


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