Publisher: Haus der Kulturen der Welt Author: Wilma Renfordt
ISBN: 9783959050517 Format: Softcover, 104pp, 297x210 mm
In 2012, a group of pensioners squatted a senior centre in Pankow, Berlin after the local government decided to sell the property. After a 112-day occupation, the government relented. Since the squatting, Stille Straße has been running the house as a self-organised collective that offers activities for over 200 members, while they continue their struggle with the authorities to avoid eviction.
The Stille Straße collective teamed up with the British architectural firm Assemble to discuss problems senior citizens face in today’s rapidly gentrifying Berlin. Assemble have developed a practice that places dialogue with users and communities at the centre of their design methodology, emphasising responsiveness and collaboration in meeting clients’ needs. Their conversation with Stille Straße focused on the limitations inherent in conventional approaches to senior housing, especially in light of the corrosive effect Berlin’s escalating property values and public spending cuts have had on community cohesion, marginalising not only seniors with limited financial resources. The workshops revealed the Stille Straße members’ desire to remain both autonomous and integrated into their local community, and to have access to both private and communal space.
In response to the workshops and insights from various self-organised spaces explored together with Stille Straße on their excursion to London, Assemble developed an apartment complex model founded on notions of solidarity and self-governance, where occupants might be provided with a degree of flexibility in adjusting their unit to suit specific individual needs. The combination between privately-owned and rented spaces in each apartment unit enables a high degree of flexibility in responding to the changing financial and spatial needs corresponding to the specific life stage of each occupant. It thus presents a radical alternative to segregative geriatric housing, offering communal and self-determined housing across age groups.