Authors: Stille Straße 10, Assemble, Wilma Renfordt
Available at bookstores, the shop at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and online at Spector Books.
In “Stille Straße 10” in the Pankow district of Berlin, a group of elderly people saved their meeting house from closure. The members of the group occupied the building for 112 days and took the initiative to organise and run it themselves. The fate of the place is still unresolved. The London-based architecture collective Assemble set up a dialogue with the group about community building, active citizenship, and housing for the elderly and have developed a housing model for Wohnungsfrage based on spaces for shared activities.
In 2012, a group of pensioners squatted a Pankow senior center after the local government decided to sell the property. After a 112-day occupation, the Pankow Bezirk relented. Since the squatting, Stille Straße has been running the house as a self-organized collective that offers activities for over 200 members, while they continue their struggle with the authorities to avoid eviction.
Wohnungsfrage teamed the Stille Straße collective with the British architectural firm Assemble to discuss problems senior citizens face in today’s rapidly gentrifying Berlin. Assemble have developed a practice that places dialogue with users and communities at the center of their design methodology, emphasizing responsiveness and collaboration in meeting clients’ needs. Their conversation with Stille Straße focused on the limitations inherent in conventional approaches to senior housing, especially in light of the corrosive effect Berlin’s escalating property values and public spending cuts have had on community cohesion, marginalizing not only seniors with limited financial resources. The workshops revealed the Stille Straße members’ desire to remain both autonomous and integrated into their local community, and to have access to both private and communal space.
In response to the workshops and insights from various self-organized spaces explored together with Stille Straße on their excursion to London, Assemble developed an apartment complex model founded on notions of solidarity and self-governance, where occupants might be provided with a degree of flexibility in adjusting their unit to suit specific individual needs. The combination between privately-owned and rented spaces in each apartment unit enables a high degree of flexibility in responding to the changing financial and spatial needs corresponding to the specific life stage of each occupant. It thus presents a radical alternative to segregative geriatric housing, offering communal and self-determined housing across age groups.