10. Jan
to the overview

A stone like no other

Once future and back – the laying of the foundation stone in the Quartier Charlottenbogen is about pride, about the Berlin mix and the people who will soon be living here. 

Actually, the laying of the foundation stone is only a symbolic act. It has no significance for the building itself. It could be left out. But then the symbol would be missing and a ceremony, to which great importance has been attached for centuries to special buildings. Because it stands for something: pride, for example. Pride in the fact that this house is being built. That it is a special house. One that is important to people. The laying of the foundation stone also stands for hope. The hope that the house will stand for a long time and be safe, and that the people who move in will be happy with it. All this hope is contained in the cement with which the stones are joined and in the time capsule which is safely placed in the middle between the stones. It is a cold winter Wednesday, but the sun is already announcing its participation, the noise of work echoes over the site, the ground is muddy.

And in the middle of this construction site tents are erected, a band plays, you can warm your hands on heating mushrooms, and appetizing snacks are served. Minute by minute more people join in. The architects are there, the individual trades are represented, but also people who have already reserved an apartment, who already know that they will move in here in two years. In the end, there are a good 100 people who have gathered around the foundation stone. The construction workers are still working on the scaffolding to the right and left, already weaving the metal for the next wall, for the next ceiling.

Then the foreman raises his arm. The workers stop and it gets quiet. Mr. Heinrich, representative of Degewo, and Bernhard Faber, general manager of AMAG Bauten GmbH, stand at the foundation stone and look invitingly around. Bernhard Faber takes a kind of urn in his hand, silver-coloured, firm and durable. It is the time capsule, which traditionally belongs to the laying of a foundation stone. It contains daily newspapers, coins and wishes for the future. He stands upright, his gaze directed at those present and into the future. He speaks calmly, the microphone carries his voice far above the heads of the people and into the construction site.

When Faber looks at this construction site, he sees a quarter in which singles and families, older and younger people will lay the foundation of their lives: “They are people who create something together and who will shape their future together here. And that in Berlin, the city we love so much, with all its facets, so colorful and different,” he says now.

Bernhard Faber and Mr. Heinrich closing the time capsule.

Even if a bit of pathos creeps into his words now, the content is right. The neighborhood around Charlottenbogen is not an encapsulated luxury neighborhood, but a neighborhood with the good Berlin mixture. People live here to rent, work in offices and workshops, everything from software to cars is available, research into cutting-edge technology is carried out in the surrounding universities and institutes and you can get a good lunch for ten euros in the restaurants. In front of the doors of the new quarter, allotment gardeners grow their vegetables and behind them the Spree flows. Charlottenbogen is right in the middle of the city, between the wild Moabit further ahead, the cozy Charlottenburg further back and the important government quarter a little bit down the river.

And right here in Charlottenbogen there should be what makes this city what it is: the famous Berlin mix. There are the three buildings with the chic and very well equipped condominiums and on the other hand the building with apartments for rent for 6.50 euros per square meter, rent controlled. The partner for this is Berlins Degewo housing association, for which Heinrich is now also taking the floor.

The Berlin mix also includes those who do not have such a successful start in life: young people, for example, who have difficulties in making it into working life. The Berlin-wide association “Neue Chance Berlin e.V.” helps them. Benjamin Siepmuun, one of the social workers, can be happy about the support today: Bernhard Faber presents him with a check for a donation of 2,000 euros.

Benjamin Siepmuun gratefully accepts the donation cheque.

Then Faber and Heinrich solemnly sink the time capsule into the foundation stone and fill the cover plate with the brickwork. The construction workers inspect every move with critical eyes. They will go over it again in a moment, so that it is done right, so that it lasts for eternity, they say and laugh while doing so. Being a general manager is one thing, building is another.

So the official part is done. What now? We have talked about time travel. And Faber is now inviting you to go on one: to 2021, when the apartments are ready for occupancy. In response to this keyword, changing visualizations of the finished houses and some of the living spaces appear on a screen on the scaffolding. One of these is exemplarily set up in the first of the large tents. There, guests can try out the augmented reality app on the dining table and bring Charlottenbogen to life from all angles, have themselves photographed on the sofa or the edge of the gold-filled bathtub in the “coin shower”. Outside, a fortune teller offers her services, and a “wish ladder” where all wishes for the future may be pinned to.

“Tell us your wishes for the future.”

The mood is animated, cheerful, the glow punch dispels the creeping cold – after all, you are standing on the raw concrete ceiling. But before it can get uncomfortable, things get exciting once again: white smoke and music that somehow seems familiar suddenly emerges from the second large tent that was previously closed. The drumming chords are repeated until really everyone has become aware and is curious to see what is coming out behind the tent walls that are now opening. Strobo lights and spotlights, then a shower of silver confetti, and “The Power of Love” now sounds unmistakably – the title song of Huey Lewis & the News from the movie “Back to the Future”. And there it stands, as if it had just landed, the cult object of those bygone days, a relic from the future: a genuine DeLorean DMC-12! Complete, with all the crazy trimmings – including flux compensator. Bernhard Faber reaches in and pulls the time capsule out of the vehicle: “Welcome to the year 2039!” he calls into the music and pushes the capsule into the hand of the next guest: “What happens here in the next 20 years is your story. Put your wishes into the capsule and hurry back to 2019. The band, now equipped with space suit and space glasses, continues playing, bar and buffet provide the future travelers with thrust – now it’s just “Party like it’s 2039”! We really didn’t expect this from a foundation stone ceremony. 

About 100 people have gathered around the foundation stone. 
Good conversations are accompanied by appetizers and Glühpunsch.
Bernhard Faber opens the event.

My name is Karl, I am a journalist in Berlin and I'm here to write reports about your new neighborhood.