Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our first movie from the German capital, DMY Berlin founder Joerg Suermann shows us around his favourite neighbourhood of Kreuzberg and tells us why he believes the relaxed atmosphere and low cost of living that attracts many designers to the city can also trap them there.
"Berlin is a never-finished city. The living cost is not so high here, which means the people have time to think and time to make experiments," says Suermann. "This is quite a comfortable situation for the designers."
"But we have also problems," he continues. "We have not so much industry in Berlin, we have not so many companies that need design. But we have a lot of creative people and so the competition is really hard here."
Suermann moved to the city in 1993, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had divided the city for nearly 30 years. Ten year's later, in 2003, he founded DMY International Design Festival Berlin.
He says the lifestyle of Berliners has only recently started to change. "I think now, after 20 years [living in Berlin], it's changed a bit. Now the money is also coming to Berlin, we can feel it. The rent is going much more expensive. But it has also a positive side: for the designers they get more contracts here, they have more work."
However, there are still many areas of the city where the cost of living is still low compared to other cities, Suermann says. One such example is Kreuzberg, the central Berlin neighbourhood where he lives and works, which was formerly bordered by the Berlin Wall. "Nobody wanted to live in Kreuzberg, so a lot of foreigners moved here because the rent was really, really cheap," he says.
"Now a lot of creative people also come into this area [and] the mix is really interesting. It's quite lazy - it's really nice that you can have this easy neighbourhood so near to the centre [of the city]."
"We have a lot of galleries here, studios, clubs, bars, cafes," Suermann continues, pointing out SO36, one of the first German punk clubs to emerge in the 1970s, as well as Burgermeister, a burger restaurant located under a railway bridge in a former public toilet.
"You can start on Friday evening with your party and then continue until Monday morning," he says. "For Berlin it's typical; there are a lot of people going out after breakfast."
But Suermann sounds a note of caution to those young designers expecting an easy ride once they arrive in the city. "A lot of young people come to Berlin and they think, 'okay, I'm now in the hotspot and I [will] get successful here.''' he says. "But after a while they find out it's a really hard fight here."
"If you don't go outside [of Berlin] you will [get] stuck here. You can have a nice life here, but you have a low income and you're stuck. And then it's really complicated to come out of this situation."
"Most of the successful designers have their studios here, they live here, but they're working with companies outside from Berlin. I think that's really important."
We'll be posting more Dezeen and MINI World Tour reports from Berlin over the coming days.
We drove around Berlin in our MINI Cooper S Paceman.
The music featured in the movie is a track called Reso Dream by Simplex. You can listen to the full version on Dezeen Music Project.