Up until a few years ago, this place was a concreted abandoned space, full of rubbish. Today, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, it has become a blooming social garden, a meeting place and a place where the community can learn together.
The ‘Prinzessinnengarten’, a social, ecological landscape in the centre of Berlin, has been at this location since the summer of 2009. Inspired by community-led urban gardens in Cuba, two young men rented the abandoned, concreted area from the city council to develop their own urban garden. With all the building rubble, rubbish and motor oil that once littered the place, who would have thought that it would ever grow into a blooming oasis? In a borough with a high population density and social problems, here is a meeting point and place of community involvement which has developed—thanks to many thousands of hours of community work by volunteers—into a place of reciprocal learning and an experience with nature open to everyone willing to contribute their labour, knowledge and enthusiasm.
“Collective gardening, learning together is our priority.”
The entire garden is mobile: the plants grow in recycled bakers’ crates, rice sacks and Tetra-Paks. Planting is done without any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. The concept of community work and learning is foremost. All bed areas are communal, in which people of varying generations and social and cultural backgrounds may garden together. “Through trying out things together and sharing knowledge and experience, we not only use traditional growing methods but at the same time learn a great deal about biological diversity, urban ecology, climate adjustment, recycling, sustainable consumerism and future forms of urban life”, say the people who, in association with schools and kindergartens, provide environmental training workshops.
When closure was threatened in 2012 due to the planned sale of the area, public support was so great that the Berlin Senate withdrew the sale. In the meantime, further community gardens have been established following the ‘Prinzessinnengarten’ model. Today they are part of an international urban gardening movement for which the garden is not only a political instrument that residents can use to actively shape their own city, but also a place where they can learn how to create a sustainable economy and peaceful coexistence.
Food for thought: How are environmental issues and ecological sustainability related to your understanding of peace?