Tacheles’ Staircase

by jonnywhitlam

Looking up to the top of Tacheles.

Tacheles is a kind of odd place in Berlin. It essentially started out in 1990, in the new Berlin that had finally emerged from the fallout of WWII that lead to the physical division of the city with the Berlin wall. So this new city had essentially opened up, with one half no longer trapped under the Iron Curtain, and the other no longer a strange political enclave of the West people could get back to enjoying themselves.

The East German government had made a lot of plans for the city, though, before reunification ever looked like a possibility. This meant that in many cases, especially in Mitte, demolition had been planned. Due to this many buildings stood empty, completely abandoned. Many abandoned buildings have come and gone over the last 21 years, and it absolutely fascinates me how they are put to use in so many different ways. Tacheles started out as a squat, however it has evolved over the years. The upper section of the building is an art gallery of sorts, where people are welcome to come and watch the artists work (and buy their stuff, of course). Until April 5 of this year the lower section housed two bars, Studio 54 and Zapata.

As you may know, or might have gathered, Tacheles is a kind of ‘alternative’ spot, it’s where the weird and the wonderful come together to enjoy one another’s company surrounded by a strong smell of urine. It’s full of artists and graffiti, the entire building feels like a celebration of art. Given that it’s such a unique building then, many people are scared that something like this could disappear. This is a process not limited to Berlin called ‘gentrification’. Now, the way I see it is that gentrification can be a good thing – failing or unsafe areas are renovated for the betterment of the people. In Berlin though, gentrification is hugely unpopular. This is because people in Berlin enjoy their lives as they are; I am 100% behind this. Tacheles works, people enjoy it, for many people I know it’s a highlight of their trips here. Put simply, the people don’t want it to go, but the land it occupies is worth a lot of money.

I took this photo to hopefully show something of Tacheles, to encourage people to visit it if they can or find out about it. It may not be the kind of place for you, but it’s great to put yourself in that position where you can find out about these things, appreciate them for what they are, or appreciate that people have freedoms and that can mean the freedom to do things you don’t like or understand. With this I hope it shows another side of Berlin that I love, that it’s an unpretentious place, people can do what they like, and most people rarely get upset about it.

So, with the bars sold up already, who knows how long the head of the beast can survive?

If you would like to visit the exhibition it is on at Speakeasy Sprachzeug language school, 116 Boxhagener Str. Berlin (Nearest U-Bahn is Frankfurter Tor.) from June 24 until August 24. If you would like to buy a print of this or any other photo please feel free to send me an email (see contact).