Wastelands to gardens
At the Moritzplatz in Berlin, a busy roundabout in the center of bustling Kreuzberg, well over a thousand supporters have helped the site to grow „from an ugly vacant lot to a paradise” (Die Zeit).. Without specific expertise, with little money and armed with the idea of communally used garden in the center of the city, inspired by a trip to Cuba, we began in summer 2009 to send down the first roots of a flourishing garden between cement and rubble. By now, about 500 different types of herbs and vegetables are growing here. A diversity of plants is growing here as well as a diversity of social relations. People of different origins and of different ages meet and exchange their knowledge and their experience. The Prinzessinnengarten is open for all. It reflects the variety of its neighborhood.
Urban gardens as locus of community and learning
The Prinzessinnengarten is a communal project, our vegetable beds are shared without any one claiming their own. Over the course of three years, well over a thousand supporters have dirtied their hands in order to help the idea of a social and ecological urban agriculture become real. This social and ecological engagement takes place in a neighborhood that is one of the most densely developed and socially most vulnerable in the city.. Here a garden evolved that can sustain itself financially and that grew into a locus of social exchange and mutual learning. In countless workshops and open gardening days, knowledge and experience is shared about heritage vegetables, organic agriculture, climate adaptation, healthy eating, bee keeping, composting or seasonal cooking. In kindergartens and schools we build offshoot gardens, where children learn that soil does not equal dirt and that carrots neither grow in a bundle nor on the shelves of a supermarket.
How to live in our cities in the future?
In cooperation with local institutions, with universities and international partners, the Prinzessinnengarten became a laboratory for socially and ecologically sustainable forms of urban development. In a pragmatic manner we ask questions on how to deal with urging issues such as climate change, dwindling resources and the loss of biodiversity. “How do we envision our future life within cities?” is the question that moves us.
Urban gardening and city farming: a global movement
The idea of the Prinzessinnengarten is cross-fertilizing: in many other places in Berlin, in cities like Hamburg, Leipzig or Cologne and also internationally, people have started to build urban gardens in their neighborhood, inspired by the Prinzessinnengarten. Prinzessinnengarten is at the same time part of a global movement of old and new forms of urban gardens that heighten the quality of peoples’ lives and allow them access to fresh vegetables, knowledge, and community. Communl care for plants enables people a new understanding of food. They experience themselves as part of a community that creatively builds and redefines their own living environment. Supporting the Prinzessinnengarten means standing up for the right to garden in our cities. This garden is one of many that are threatened by short-term interest in profits. Urban gardens inspire a sustainable and locally grounded urban development.
Free space for ecological and social engagement vs. short-sighted profit-oriented investement
Although celebrated as a pioneering pilot project, the future of Prinzessinnengarten is under threat. The Berlin Property Fund has been commissioned to sell the plot on behalf of the Berlin Senate. In November 2013, our contract of lease runs out. Not only at the Moritzplatz but also in many other places around Berlin and other cities, a short-sighted, profit-oriented policy eliminates free space that catalyze engagement in social and ecological issue. Your support for the Let Grow campaign not only helps to make the Prinzessinnengarten survive. It also helps to grow awareness for the significance and value of self organized spaces like this. In this way we may not only succeed to save the garden at Moritzplatz but also to enable the rooting of many such projects in diverse locations.
You can find background information regarding our engagement for a new real estate policy of the Senate of Berlin: http://prinzessinnengarten.net/let-it-grow/
More information about the garden: http://prinzessinnengarten.net
Twitter: [email protected]
A future for the garden with participation from the community
The Prinzessinnengarten is a pilot project for new forms of urban gardening. Although it became a brand mark of Berlin our current contract of lease only runs for another year. What is a threat today could become an opportunity with your support. With ‘Let Grow!’ we set up a campaign that found support by almost 30,000 people within a few weeks’ time. We need to make use of this backing to enable a sustainable future of Prinzessinnengarten and to enable a participatory engagement of the neighborhood at Moritzplatz.
Continuation and further intensification of our Let Grow! Campaign
Through further events, workshops and publicity we aim to use the chance of halting the sale of the Moritzplatz plot and to catalyze a participatory and sustainable development instead.
At least another 5 years for the Prinzessinnengarten
5 years are the minimum planning horizon that we, as a self-financed social project, need in order to work effectively at financing our education and participation endeavors. To negotiate this goal successfully we need a lot of staying power as well as your support.
Participation of the neighborhood
The neighborhood at Moritzplatz is one of the most exciting as well as socially vulnerable areas of the city. With diverse workshops and innovative forms of participation we aim to lay the foundation for a forward looking type of participation that embraces the diversity of the people in the Garden’s neighborhood.
Sustain this garden, let new gardens flourish!
If we now act together for the conservation of Prinzessinnengarten we run a good chance that history takes a different course at this plot. That engagement, unlike many times passed, does not have to make place for the highest bidder. The Prinzessinnengarten is a widely visible expression of a new urban gardening movement. The pioneering project at Moritzplatz has inspired the establishment of many other gardens. If we sustain its future, other initiatives can benefit from such decision. Such places of exchange and learning show alternative ways of creating cities in a participatory and neighborhood orientated way. They don’t necessarily have to consist of anonymity, ignorance, glass and cement. With your support the voice of Prinzessinengarten and other places alike will be audible to politics and decision makers.
Support for a successful campaign and innovative forms of communal participation
Well-financed campaigns are something we know from the political world. In order to be also publicly visible and audible, a bottom up initiative like Prinzessinnengartens needs the material support from the crowd. With our campaign we have already changed the course of things, the original plan of a prompt sale of the plot to an investor. To do so we have among other things organized a public debate with neighbors, politicians and experts as well as 300 guests about the future of the garden and the Moritzplatz. Besides the valuable support and the thousands of hours of voluntary engagement, a successful campaign is hard to run without money. We need it for example for the participating artists, event technicians, posters, flyers or for public relation work.
Material support is especially essential for the initiation of participatory process. In the past we have started a well-respected participation project with over 100 youth from the neighborhood, called ‘city safari’. With backing from the district we suggest a similar process for the Moritzplatz. We aim to show that participation can be more than displaying premade working plans for the public to agree to. In workshops and idea factories we would like to develop ideas on how to live within cities together with the people that live around us. We plan to design practical approaches such as a communal composting system, a collective bicycle repair shop or a public library.
As an example for the costs: an idea factory would costs us around 6500 €, a further public debate 3500 €, a celebration in next spring to open the season about 2000 €, the production of a movie 3000 €, a street art intervention 2000 €, the photo booth for supporters 3000 €, info boxes 500 €, posters, post cards, buttons and stickers 1000 € and last but not least, legal advice is an essential but pricey part of a successful campaign.
A garden of many and for all
Behind the ‘Let grow’-campaign, there is the team of Prinzessinnengarten and an approximate 30,000 people that have signed our petition for a conservation of this garden so far. The Prinzessinnengarten itself can exist through the engagement of hundreds of volunteers. By driving a social entrepreneurial type of garden, we achieve financial self-sustenance. Our income derives from our garden café, the build-up and maintenance of other gardens or the consultation of communities or other people that are interested to start up urban agricultural projects. Our profits go right back into the educational and participatory offers within the garden which are generally for free. We receive no direct financial support. We do pay a monthly rent to the city, the owner of the plot, in addition to property tax and city cleaning fees.