"I once told an artist that it seems as if sometimes the city council doesn’t understand how her own city works. ‘Thank the lord for that!’ he answered."

Students from the University of Amsterdam explored a European City and interviewed local City Makers. This summer we will publish these interviews weekly. Maarten Ketelaar  interviewed Vincent Kompier, a formerly Berlin-based journalist and researcher  from the Netherlands. 

Could you tell me something about yourself and your work here in Berlin? 

I have lived in Berlin from 2008 untill 2014. I’ve mainly focused on doing three things here: writing, guiding and research. For instance, I’ve been occupying myself with the question how the concept of ‘temporality’ is developing itself in Berlin. This temporality mainly concerns temporary projects; clubs, cafés, pop-up stores that are there for a certain amount of time, but also disapear after that. The ‘RAW gelände’ is a good example of that kind of temporality in Berlin. The question of how this kind of temporality can make places in Berlin more attractive is important.

Could you name some examples of your previous work in Berlin?
During my stay here I guided a lot of Dutch officials through Berlin, showing them interesting places or projects that were temporarily there. Mostly I tried to either strengthen or steer their ideas about how city planning is taking place here in Berlin. A lot of Dutch policymakers for instance think that these kind of temporary creative areas need managing and good policy to work. The point is that a lot of these initiatives emerge independently, without any interference of the municipality. Berlin has zero officials working on temporary initiatives.

I once told an artist it seemed as if the city council sometimes doesn’t understand how their own city works. ‘Thank the lord for that!’, he answered. For him this was a positive thing. This absence of government attention in the form of rules and complex policies makes Berlin a very attractive place for a lot of creative temporary projects.

Could you give an example of an interesting (bottom-up) case in Berlin?
The case concerning the old airport Tempelhof still is very interesting, especially because it wasn’t executed successfully. Involved citizens and the municipality communicated very badly, which at the same time is very characteristic of Berlin. The airport had been closed since 2008, and plans were being made for building a new resedential area on the airport’s landingstrips. The municipality wrote out a referendum about this decision in a relatively late stage, in which a large majority of the inhabitants voted ‘no’. The municipality and it’s officials didn’t expect this result, and were disappointed by it. From their point of view, they were trying to do something good to the city and especially it’s inhabitants, why didn’t the inhabitants accept their good intentions? This was mainly because both parties were thinking about it in a completely different way. While the decision about future construction plans was still miles away, architecture firms were already drawing up buildings that were to be build there. This of course became public, which created more opposition from the inhabitants. In conclusion, sometimes this misunderstanding between the municipality and the inhabitants of Berlin can work out great (in the case of temporary projects), but sometimes it can also end up in protest or failure.

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