Machines for living

Much as I love Tacheles and the like, the idealist in me is always faintly disappointed by how rarely what’s inside really uses the building.

I’m a true believer in the idea that the buildings around us shape our emotions and our behaviour. So I fantasize that the folks involved in our social centres, housing projects and squats – often impressively creative and energetic people – might manage to shape the buildings around their dreams.

They might achieve something similar to the sensation when you are inside the Jewish Museum, or how a church or a supermarket concentrates your attention on a single purpose. Except this would be made on the cheap, from papier-mache and offcuts of wood and old beer-bottles – all somehow contributing to make the atmosphere non-hierarchical, or queer-friendly, or revolutionary, or whatever.

Overblown as that may sound, I’ve no doubt that somewhere in Berlin, somebody is doing something along these lines. I just don’t know where; do you?

To keep this from being entirely speculative, let me mention Karmanoia as one place decorated with uninhibited creativity. Most obviously impressive is the labyrinth, two floors filled with twisty passages, all different in their colours and textures and atmosphere. The rest of the building – used as a cafe, as a space for music and theatre, and doubtless for much else – has reconfigured and redecorated itself almost every time I visit. Presumably there was human intervention along the way, but it feels as though the building simply has a life of its own.

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