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Tatjana Kaube of Kulturraum Berlin: I have a Room

Tatjana Kaube of Kulturraum Berlin: I have a Room
Photo: © privat

In Berlin, spaces for creative artists are under threat. Kulturraum Berlin GmbH wants to change that. But how?

INTERVIEW   Jens Thomas


CCB Magazine:Tatjana, you are part of the Kulturraum Berlin GmbH. Your goal is to secure spaces in Berlin for people working in the arts and culture. Rents in Berlin have risen by around 44 percent in the last five years. Spaces for creative artists are more threatened than ever. Aren't you not overstraining yourselves with your project?

Tatjana Kaube: Not at all, we simply accept the challenge! We can't do anything about the rent explosion for the time being, that's clear. But we are working on very pragmatic solutions, such as implementing the workspace program. We are acquiring new spaces for this.

CCB Magazine:Meaning?

Tatjana Kaube:We rent spaces, furnish them as needed, and rent them to artists at subsidized conditions - and we develop concepts and strategies for the further development of the spatial infrastructure for the city's artists beyond the workspace program. In addition, we participate in urban development policy processes. We develop utilization concepts for cultural locations and help private initiatives that are threatened by a loss of space. In other words, we do a whole lot.

Berlin needs affordable production and presentation spaces. That, too, has something to do with sustainability. That's what we care about

CCB Magazine:Can you describe how you go about it? What does a working day look like for you?

Tatjana Kaube:Very different. We network, bundle and mediate, and do so anew every day. To do this, we bring all the necessary forces to the negotiating table. You have to know: For about 30 years, the state of Berlin has had a workspace program, which used to be called the studio rental program. Even then, artists could not afford the rents for a studio. This situation has worsened dramatically in recent years. In the past, the cultural administration and the studio office at the bbk berlin's kulturwerk ran the program themselves; later, the GSE Gesellschaft für Stadtentwicklung gGmbH was brought on board as a real estate partner. Today, Berliner Immobiliengesellschaft GmbH (BIM) is involved in the program for the state-owned properties and Bündnis Freie Szene Berlin e. V. for the music, performing arts, dance, literature and project spaces. Our task is to coordinate all these forces with the goal of ultimately preserving spaces for the independent scene and creating new ones.

CCB Magazine:Can you give us a practical example? When, where and for whom did you secure rooms?

Tatjana Kaube:Two examples come to mind right away. We are currently securing a space for dance rehearsals that was on the verge of being displaced. We have included the room in the program. Another example is a music rehearsal house that was recently on the verge of being eliminated. We have rented it and it is currently being refurbished.

CCB Magazine:Do the artists have to apply to you?

Tatjana Kaube:Yes, because most of the rooms are subsidized. Certain criteria have to be met. For example, you have to be professionally trained as an artist, and a sector-specific advisory board decides who gets a space. Of course, we don't do all this on our own, but in cooperation with partners and other organizations. 

The team of Kulturraum Berlin GmbH: Photo © Kulturraum Berlin GmbH

CCB Magazine:You also support the Senate Department for Culture and Europe in various diverse site developments, from conceptual design to building and cultural assessments and the involvement of interest groups to public relations work. What exactly does this cooperation look like?

Tatjana Kaube:For Kultur Räume Berlin, we work across a broad spectrum, from real estate development and rental issues to addressing artistic needs. In all our processes, we therefore often act as mediators between the different sectors or between artists and real estate companies. Our expertise in all these areas, including stakeholder management, is therefore often called upon elsewhere. For example, we have only recently become involved in the development of the catering building at the former Tegel Airport into a cultural location.

CCB Magazine:But isn't your work just a drop in the bucket? The problems are much bigger; it's about the general shortage and increase in the price of housing. Do you think that an institution like yours can change the situation for artists in the city in the long term?

Tatjana Kaube:On a small scale, yes, and gradually, of course. Everyone knows that Berlin is not Berlin without culture. And that the real estate market has taken on a rapid pace and the art scene is threatened as well. City policy decisions are indeed needed here. But we see that the art scene has become more differentiated and the processes for developing properties more participatory, while at the same time the legal framework has become more comprehensive. This not only overstrains private initiatives. The cultural administration was no longer able to cope with all of this and therefore decided to outsource the implementation of the workspace program.

CCB Magazine:Why are you a limited liability company (GmbH)?

Tatjana Kaube:In order to be able to act flexibly. This gives us completely different options than an administration. We can act at short notice and step in as a general tenant - and take completely new paths to do so. But since we are publicly funded and a subsidiary of a foundation under public law, we do not act like a for-profit limited liability company, but in the interests of the state of Berlin. From 2023, we will also be a non-profit organization.

CCB Magazine:You operate at the interface with the real estate industry. Was there any resistance to your work?

Tatjana Kaube:That, too. The combination of art, culture and the real estate industry is not to everyone's taste. Some are unsettled by changes and new processes. Others because they are fundamentally skeptical of government funding or don't understand why we use public money to participate in the private real estate market. The subject is complex, as you can see. That makes communication all the more important.

CCB Magazine:Until now, Berlin's funding landscape has been divided into non-profit artist funding and business-oriented creative industries funding. For years, the Department of Urban Planning/Development has never been on board. Do you want to fill this gap?

Tatjana Kaube:In a way, yes. But there have already been projects where there has been cooperation, for example on studio apartments or on individual projects where the urban development administration has provided funding. But it's definitely desirable to cooperate even more closely in this area. And we have high hopes of finding new starting points for close cooperation with the new legislative period.

CCB Magazine:You say you work with an interdisciplinary team "at the interface between administration, the independent scene and the real estate industry for the common good". What exactly is meant by a real estate industry oriented toward the common good?

Tatjana Kaube:First of all, this refers to the two real estate service providers: BIM as a state-owned GmbH, which is working on this project on our behalf, and GSE, which is a non-profit institution and trustee for the state of Berlin. And even beyond that, we take care that our actions in the private real estate market do not themselves become price drivers. The common good must always be in view.

CCB Magazine:Our new magazine is about sustainability for culture. On your homepage, you talk about "sustainable and scene-oriented spatial concepts for cultural use in Berlin". What does sustainability mean to you?

Tatjana Kaube:For us, sustainability in relation to our work stands for the long term. On the one hand, we try to secure the locations for as long as possible, but also to develop them so flexibly that their use can be changed without great effort depending on demand. And we also want to equip the spaces in the workspace program more sustainably in the very traditional sense, from green electricity to bicycle racks instead of parking spaces.

CCB Magazine:Finally, a look into the future: What will Berlin look like - ideally - in 2030?

Tatjana Kaube:In ten years, Berlin will have to think bigger than it does now - not just inside or outside the S-Bahn ring. As a result, society will once again become more mixed in its diversity. We understand art and culture holistically and want to create art spaces in the districts. And those who produce it will play an essential role - they are the pioneers of this city.

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