An Awkward Dance: Nightlife and Urban Development (Lessons from Berlin)

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Abstract Summary
Berlin exemplifies the relationships between (sub)culture, identity, and the emergent knowledge economy like no other. Unique conditions, including the aftermath of two World Wars, a generation-long separation by the Berlin Wall, and a period of failed investment-led over-speculation, created a testbed for alternative cultures, local creativity, and entrepreneurialism. Today, the city is internationally renowned for its cultural diversity and its vibrant nightlife, both fundamental driving forces behind the city’s journey to becoming Europe’s center for the immaterial economy and new work. The club scene only recently found ways to measure and communicate its social and economic benefits to garner political support. While the city begins to recognize the financial and marketing value of its nightlife, district-level planning administration has been introducing stringent laws, regularly endangering the scene. Despite nightlife’s critical contribution to the cultural geography of the city, the local urban planning establishment often perceives both individual clubs and informal entertainment zones as urban hazards to be restricted and controlled. While a few academic voices call on city planners and policymakers to pay more attention to nightlife and its numerous benefits for the city, actors of the subcultural scene are getting involved in urban development themselves. Armed with resilience and resourcefulness stemming from years of practicing tactile urbanism, subcultural actors begin to become authors of locally sensitive solutions. While these projects quickly garner admiration for their inventiveness and popularity, urban planning administration and bureaucracy presents itself as the biggest hurdle to successful implementation. This presentation shares lessons learned from Berlin’s ambivalent relationship between subculture and urban planning, applicable to major cities around the world in search of strategies to partner with alternative culture to increase attractiveness and livability. It further calls for a less restrictive and more creative planning practice, which is not afraid of learning from different sources such as the nebulous but incredibly productive urban nightlife.
Abstract ID :
ISO456
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