Distinctive architecture attracts distinctive people. In this, Strausberger Platz is no different from Shanghai’s French Quarter or New York’s Meatpacking District. Authors, filmmakers, architects – as well as regular folk who don’t want to live somewhere regular – populate these hot spots.
image courtesy of kallejipp / photocase.de
I moved to Strausberger Platz more than ten years ago. What were my alternatives in Berlin? None. And how did my friends react? “The traffic!” “There’s nothing going on in that part of town!” And now? The words Strausberger Platz barely have to leave my mouth before the eyes around me begin to roll – in amazement! And everyone, and I do mean everyone, insists that they will simply have to see my apartment. Strausberger Platz has gone from “not” to “hot” in less than a decade! Before the fall of the Berlin Wall things were not much different. The street was built with rubble left behind in the wake of World War II. Everyone working double shifts won the right to take part in a lottery for one of the apartments. Rumors that it only “big shots” were allowed to live at Strausberger Platz are wide of the mark.
image courtesy of jock+scott / photocase.de
One of the first tenants, Mrs. Weißbrot, who sadly passed away a few years ago, admitted in a frank interview, “My husband and I didn’t think we could afford the two hundred Mark rent for a 110 square meter apartment.” She ended up spending more than 50 years living here, moving numerous times within the same building. They were, and still are, the residents: hairdressers, mid-ranking civil servants – the so-called “regular folk”. But there were, and still are, more famous residents. Professor Walter Heynowsky, for example. One of the GDR’s most highly acclaimed filmmakers, he caused a stir in the West with sensational documentary films, including “The Laughing Man – Confessions of a Murderer” about a mercenary in the Congo in the 1960s. Lutz Rathenow is another. Living behind the Iron Curtain, this poet was only permitted to write children’s books, anything else was taboo. Today there are documentaries detailing his life – he was a driving force behind the movement that toppled the system – as a civil rights activist and (underground) writer. What has his main occupation since the fall of the wall been? He’s Saxony’s State Commissioner for the Stasi Archives, the authority that investigates and reappraises the dictatorship.
image courtesy of doesnotcare / photocase.de
Retail staff and intellectuals share the same corridors – a healthy, normal mix that hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s just that today it is the Der Spiegel magazine columnist who shares a corridor with the hair stylist. Or it’s the architect that lives next door to a psychology student in an apartment that used to be her parents. Or even Andreas Bartsch, with more than 80 theater and opera productions at more than 20 national and state theaters to his name, he is one of the most active on the theater scene. And he still finds time to write books and work as a lecturer. Bartsch is best buddies with the Dandy who once ran the Roter Salon club at the Volksbühne Theater on Rosa Luxemburg Platz. They regularly organized joint readings in the house, attended by an illustrious circle of friends. Andreas Bartsch now organizes this salon on his own, proving that there is still life in this Strausberger Platz tradition, a tradition that is constantly being reinvented.
image courtesy of HG Esch
The same can be said for the salon hosted by Ingrid Roosen-Trinks. She is one of the art world’s permanent fixtures, a member of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation and current Director and Curator of the Hamburg Art Week. Ingrid is one of Berlin’s finest hostesses and visiting her home can be compared to visiting an exhibition of the highest class of contemporary art. And she is not the only one contributing to a bohemian revival. Over time a salon culture has developed in which one quality is prized above all else: discretion. You won’t find a single story in any of the city’s tabloids reporting on it. Isn’t that simply wonderful? Strausberger Platz may be one of Berlin’s most prominent places, but only insiders know what truly goes on behind the buildings’ facades. Invitations are highly coveted and not one of the guests goes home less than deeply impressed. At Strausberger Platz, glamor is more than just superficial.