Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.

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Prinzessinnengarten-Nachbarschaftsakademie

Socio-Ecological Transformation

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

The overall vision and challenge behind Prinzessinnengarten and the Nachbarschaftsakademie is to promote socio-ecological transformation through common practice and knowledge sharing at a local level while fostering the discourse as part of a global garden movement.

Community and intercultural gardens within the movement view themselves as public spaces that invite to practice and discuss wider societal issues such as the alternative use of urban land, self-sufficiency, community work, biodiversity, healthy eating, recycling, environmental justice, climate change and food sovereignty.

Urban gardens practically demonstrate an ecologically and socially different approach to urban spaces and their inhabitants, enable the social empowerment of marginalized communities, and are places where opportunities for local micro-economies and other economic models are being tested. They raise the question of how we want to live in our cities in the future.

All this while their own existence is constantly endangered by precarious temporary lease contracts and potential eviction.

What has changed?

The perceptible impact of community gardens like the Prinzessinnengarten is usually a local one – a broad recognition and improvement of the global problems on the agenda is a long-term process the outcomes of which require time.

The most obvious change brought on by the initiative is the transformation of a plot of waste land into a thriving and self-organised public green space that functions as a social hub for the neighbourhood but also attracts international guests. Its attractiveness comes at a price though: its popularity has been an incubator for the revaluation of the plot and for the gentrification of its surroundings at Moritzplatz, formerly a transit area more or less out of public attention.

Thus, community gardens, just as other cultural or social projects with temporary lease contracts, very often contribute to their own displacement. A solution – the end of precarious lease conditions – has made its way into the coalition agreement of the current Berlin government, but has not been implemented yet.

How did it happen?

In 2009, the non-profit association Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green) leased a lot of the size of a soccer field at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, a transit space and waste land for over half a century. Along with friends, activists, neighbours and other volunteers, they cleared the lot from rubbish and built mobile vegetable plots. Unlike other community gardens, Prinzessinnengarten does not provide individual plots to their users, but the garden is developed and maintained with a collective voluntary action. Besides gardening, people can contribute and participate in garden-related activities like open workshops, the garden café and a variety of cultural events.

The involuntary contribution to the gentrification of their neighbourhood has affected the Prinzessinnengarten itself: in 2012, the Federal State of Berlin wanted to sell the lot to an investor at the price of the highest bid, which would have lead to the evacuation of the space. As a reaction, the broad public campaign Wachsen lassen! (Let it grow!) was initiated and it collected more than 30,000 signatures in support of the continued existence of the garden. The outcome was a temporary success: it was the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that bought the lot instead of the investor, and continues to lease it to the initiative – but so far only until 2019.

The precariousness of temporary lease situations is a major challenge for many community gardens and was therefore one of the topics addressed in the Urban Gardening Manifesto, an initiative held in 2014 by activists of Prinzessinnengarten and other gardens and organisations all over Germany.

In 2018, the Berliner Untersuchungsausschuss: Gemeingut Grün (Berlin Fact-Finding Committee: Green Commons) was convened in cooperation with Z/KU (Center for Art and Urbanistics). It includes the draft of a Berliner Dauergartenvertrag (Tenure Treaty For Berlin Gardens) that claims none less than the protection and further extension of the currently 113 non-commercial community and intercultural gardens in Berlin.

Another campaign has been launched in 2018 in order to secure the existence and maintenance of the Prinzessinengarten beyond 2019 when the lease contract with the district ends. #Gewachsen, um zu bleiben! (#Grown to stay!) claims a contract for permanent use to end the precarious concept of temporary interim use for urban gardens, and to ensure a long-term commitment towards use of the space as a freely accessible common good. An envisaged concept is a leasehold e.g. through the community land trust (CLT) model. The district parliament of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has already expressed its support for the idea of a long-term maintenance of Prinzessinnengarten.

In 2018, Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green) handed the operation of Prinzessinnengarten over to the equally non-profit association Common Grounds that is already responsible for running the Nachbarschaftsakademie. Common Grounds currently collects ideas for the use of the space as a common good within the coming 99 years. Neighbours, users and interested people can contribute to the “Wunschproduktion - Prinzessinnengarten als Gemeingut” (Wish production – Princess Gardens as common good) that takes place with evening classes in a school once a week.

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