It certainly seems sad to choose “loss” as part of a glossary of Urban Praxis. But the truth is that very many of the sites where I was involved in urban action no longer exist.
Die Mission was a self-administered meeting place for homeless persons, founded in Hamburg in 1997 in collaboration with artists, that was pushed to the point of collapse because neighboring shop owners felt harassed. The Kaispeicher A, in which we and the group ready2capture operated an alternative information center for Hamburg’s HafenCity during the summer of 2002, is now home to the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. The vacant land used for the temporary Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum in Kreuzberg, along the former course of the Berlin Wall, was built over in 2012 by the Fellini Residences and other construction. Berlin’s Schlossplatz has, once again, become a square occupied by a palace.
Loss was reflected in many of the projects in which I was involved, but also in the biographies of those who took part. The loss of housing, loss of work, and the resulting loss of opportunities to participate in society. The loss of identity-shaping points of reference as a consequence of transformation processes or migration.
Urban Practice, as I understand it, aims, among other things, for the cooperative design of places or actions in which many of these losses become legible as an outcome of capitalist practice, but also where, by working together, alternative options for action can be practiced, at least temporarily. This distinguishes my notion of the concept of loss from a reactionary use of the term—in which, for example, the reconstruction of a royal palace is justified as “closing a wound in the cityscape,” in which the pursued goal is to reinstate an alleged status quo of a city or community.
I want to introduce the concept of loss into this glossary because I think that it clearly illustrates the burdens one has to reckon with when engaging in Urban Practice. And because I want even more to make it clear that I consider one of the greatest merits of successful Urban Practice to be the creation of collaborations and places where one is not left alone with losses. To me, this seems indispensable in a public realm determined by profit-focused mindsets and aesthetics.
Jelka Plate studied fine arts and stage design at HfbK Hamburg. Her work is based largely on interviews and research. One example, A Very Merry Unarchitecture to You originated in Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum in conversation with local residents and those involved in a job-creation project. For Reconstruction of the Berlin Palace Square According to Plans from 5,000 Years Before Our Time, she spoke to a vegetation historian and many passers-by at the palace construction site.