Geçekondu in Bethaniendamm

This is a short story of a small ramshackle house on a traffic island on Bethaniendamm, Kreuzberg

The story begins in 1983 and takes place on a small plot of land in what technically was no man’s land, on the actual border strip. A small unused piece of land on western side of the wall was at that time a derelict wasteland, unusable territory that due to its legal status as no man’s land was left to decay.

Then one day in 1983, a local neighbor decided to turn this into a vegetable garden. This was unpopular with the GDR officials who were suspicious of any activity in proximity to the wall. The gardener however lived in West Berlin and this made it a sensitive issue. In the end it was left unresolved, even when he eventually built a small house on the site with scrap pieces found in the streets and moved in.

When the wall came down in 1989 the garden ended up on the border between the boroughs of Mitte and Kreuzberg. The Mitte authorities tried to evict the squatter, but as this was still a border issue, albeit a less sensitive one, the matter remained unresolved. In 2004, it was finally settled that the tiny plot of land should belong to the Kreuzberg borough, a traditionally open minded borough that was willing to allow the garden to remain on the site.

I can’t help but love the story of these interstitial settlements, how they pop up and survive for so long, balancing on the borderline. This one starts off on land which is technically unusable and turns it into something useful. What once was the very definition of the outskirts of West Berlin is now in the middle of the re-united city.

Geçekondu-Turkish word for illegal settlement on the outskirts of the city

  1. pinar said:

    i am from an architectural newspaper in istanbul. is it possible that you get in touch with me? if you want to help, i would like to have some more information about that gecekondu.

    hope to hear from you.

  2. lise z lotter said:

    Hi! May I submit your text on the Gececondu Kreuzberg to the website (please don´t be misled by the name – it has nothing to do with “porn”, it features cabins, shacks and treehouses from all over the world and is a lovely site)
    I would include my own photo, since I live very close to the place myself but it would be nice to be allowed to use your text – I would certainly name you as the source.
    Please let me know if you agree or not.

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