Mehringplatz. City of Culture. Hanka

The design of the plaza of Mehringplatz suggests an open space where people from outside the plaza can come together, or the people living around it can meet and connect. It is not only the plaza suggesting this, but also the routing towards the plaza and within Mehringplatz towards the centre of it.

The flats though, built around the plaza in the ‘70s, are quite closed. The doors to enter and leave the flats are situated on the ‘outside’ of the circle, not towards the centre of the plaza. Although windows and balconies are situated on the side of the inner circle, people cannot enter and leave their houses at that side and therefor will not accidently meet the neighbours. The windows are small, dark, closed and covered with curtains. On the street or in the shops there seems not to be much mingling of the several cultures living in Mehringplatz. The plaza is empty, only used by people crossing the plaza from the one to the other side. Maybe this is temporarily the case due to the construction work going on, but the design of the plaza is not really inviting to gather there.

When you enter Mehringplatz from the Friedrichstrasse, you are surrounded by street art, advertisement and information signs showing the possibilities the plaza could offer. But these are all coming from organisations from outside the plaza. Other, most of them creative, people seem to be inspired by the place and want to intervene by using the place to share their (critical) vision, to educate children in creativity or to foster integration. I found it remarkable that all these efforts to ‘open’ up the place, seem to come from outside, literally trying to enter the plaza, but how far into the inner circle do they reach?

Reading the history of the Plaza, placed on the wall at the entrance from the north side, it comes to mind that the use of this plaza was from the beginning determined by people from outside. It was even built in a time when the inhabitants were not born yet. A plaza to show the greatness of a growing city? And also nowadays, the wish of the inhabitants of the flats to reconstruct the inner plaza to a place where people can meet and interact, is rejected by the government, for reasons of the conservation of cultural heritage (monument and design of the area).

Tex and Images by Hanka Otte