How The West Was Won (Again)

“Fuck Charlottenburg,” my buddy exclaimed at a dinner party up in Wedding last week. We had been conversing with some friends who were looking for a new apartment in Berlin and were naturally suggesting they look in artist-filled neighborhoods like Kreuzberg or Neukölln. At one point, however, someone mentioned they should try Charlottenburg. We rolled our eyes in response, thinking who could afford to go live so far west?

A while ago I wrote about how Kreuzberg, one of Berlin’s most famous districts, rose to popularity as an artistic haven. In it I detail how cheap rents and former government funding led artists to flock to the most eastern area of West Berlin like moths to a flame. As someone who has lived in this welcoming neighborhood before, I of course suggested it to my apartment-hunting comrads. Yet, following some post-dinner research I found that the farther west you look, the cheaper rents can actually become. This surprise, coupled with the fact that over half of the openings I’ve been visiting have been in Schöneberg, made me second guess my recommendation. In reality it seems that Berliners are once again looking to the West not only for inexpensive real estate but also as a potential home for a new art gallery or studio. So was the suggestion of checking out Charlottenburg actually a brilliant idea?

A New Home in the West?

How different is the West from the East here in Berlin? Many will tell you the difference is night and day. Out east near Warschauer is an artistic playground covered in graffiti and trash. In the west, meanwhile, you can find amazing fashion boutiques, large malls and a zoo. Maybe you can live off of €15 a week in the East, but that would only last you a day in Schöneberg. While many consider the West an appropriate place to start a family, starving artist find the east appealing.

Although I’ve personally written a lot about East Berlin in the past, BAPs has done its fair share of covering the West. Tours of this area have filled the pages of our online magazine before, so it shouldn’t have been such a surprise for me to learn how promising the western districts are. In fact, a recent article by Der Spiegel argues that although the price of real estate has risen in all of Berlin in the last decade, the cost of rent in East Berlin has increased 90%! As wealthy foreigners have been capitalizing on this area's competitive housing costs, thus raising its value, there has been an exodus of Berlin’s creatives into new neighborhoods. Other than south Neukölln and Wedding, what part of Berlin is attracting artists? They are heading back out west!

This migration to the West is nothing new. Back in the 70s you could go to Dschungel, a hit club on Nümberger Strasse in Schöneberg, and find Nick Cave, David Bowie and Iggy Pop hanging out. Or perhaps you’d want to enjoy some fine dining, in which case you would head over to the posh district of Charlottenburg, where famed artist Martin Kippenberger donated the majority of his artwork to adorn Paris Bar’s interior. After the wall fell, this part of the city was deserted for the expanding districts in the east. Yet now galleries like Supportico Lopez and Plan B have taken advantage of comparatively reasonable rent and are bringing the artists back.

Where Should I Look?

If you’re thinking about moving out to this area I highly recommend something off of Kurfürstenstraße. With galleries like Sommer & Kohl and more in the neighborhood, you’ll always be in walking distance to great art openings. If you’re not convinced yet, perhaps try going a little bit up north to Johann König or take a detour to Import Projects. These spaces are just the tip of the iceberg with respect to what the West has to offer. When you’re planning out your weekend, head over to this historic part of Berlin before it’s prices catch up with the times!  

 Article by James Shaeffer