Selfmade City

Self-initiated Urban Living in Berlin

Spreefeld Berlin. Image: Archdaily

Selfmade city is a book exploring the advantages of self-initiated urban living and architectural interventions in Berlin. Focussing on projects which are developed from roots in co-housing, co-ops and co-working environments, the examples given are evidence of Berlin’s unique approach to building and the forward thinking design strategies taking place.

Kristien Ring of AA Architecture & cultural journalist Franziska Eidner give strong arguments for the positive effects of participatory led design. They define ten key qualities which these projects can produce which include –

1 Neighborhood and urban interaction
2  Shared space Community and social focus
3  Long term affordability
4 Open and green spaces
5 Reuse and reactivation
6 Hybrid concepts
7 Quality (Re-) Densification
8 Custom fit solutions for every generation
9 Investment in ecological building
10 Future-Orientated solutions and experimental models

Berlin is famous for its rapid and unrestricted housing developments after the fall of the Berlin wall which has raised problems with housing prices and fast-rate gentrification in multiple areas of the city. Selfmade City focusses on positive outcomes including, sustainable approaches which benefit communities. This shows the power of standing against traditional government policy or large investment companies building generic housing developments.

Agile City Selfmade City

Oderberger Strasse 56  Image: UrbanOmnibus

A prominent example is the mixed use housing development of Oderberger Strasse 56 designed by BARArchitekten which takes the approach of giving residents the flexibility to adapt their living spaces to their needs. With large ‘studios’ which can be easily broken up into smaller work spaces, or extra bedrooms according to what is needed.  The architects have successfully created a  local network in one building, a place to work, sleep, shop, ‘experiment’ and socialise with locals.

Agile City Exrotaprint

Exrotaprint Building. Image :

Many of the projects show a redevelopment strategy for existing buildings or neighbourhoods, The Rotaprint Company occupied this historically protected building (pictured above) in Wedding, Berlin since 1904 before going bankrupt in 1989. Subsequently the building lay empty for some time until a group of artists moved into the building in 2005 and started a renters association (gGmbH) with the aim of standing against the soon to be gentrified area. They managed to convince the government to allow them the ownership of the building in 2007. The advantage of the association was to cap rental prices, and to ensure a team of craftsmen and community of creative workers occupy the building whilst profits would be invested back into the renovation of the building. This example provides evidence of how a group ownership can ensure the historical relevance and legacy of a building.

Extra Information


A short pdf of the book – here

RotaPrint building information – here

Interview with Kirstein Ring and AIR(Rotterdam Architecture Association) – here