Hamburg, I love you but you’re bringing me down

Since the first time I visited Hamburg, back in 2001, I fell in love with this beautiful town. And I always wanted to live here since the first day I got in touch with the city. The harbour, the people, the openness… Hamburg surely has its own charme.
But mostly, I was overwhelmed by the different mixed cultures and the people, who come together in Hamburg. Its a melting pot and I have only seen it again in New York. There are the Punks, the Snobs, the Hipsters, the Artists, the Prostitutes, the Alternatives, the Indigenous, the Immigrants, the Rich, the Poor, and all together are necessary.
2007 I finally made it to Hamburg and I never met with disappointment to live here. But more and more disappointment and above all lack of understanding came into my relation with Hamburg.
One main reason is gentrification. Hamburg would not be Hamburg without its alternative sides, they are special and unique. The artisic oasis.
But the decision makers see it differently. More and more alternative parts of Hamburg vanish, no they get exterminated.

I want to start with the Gaengeviertel:
It is located in the inner city of Hamburg. A collection of 12 houses in original condition. Although most of the buldings are in memorial status, they shall be demolished. The areas could be used by artists and creatives. But the city is more interested in some investors, who will raise the next grey concrete monsters into slots where once cultural places have been.
Artists have been trying to save the places by organizing a week of artitstic events: see this video.

A similar fortune will happen to Frappant. It is a collection of artists (for example the SKAM is one part of it) who are renting a giant pile in Altona. You can find artistic societies, cafés, clubs, work spaces… But soon the demolition will start in order to make space for an IKEA. It will be the third one in Hamburg.

Another victim of Hamburgs erasing is the GartenKunstNetz. This is even more attritional for me, because friends of mine are part of the artistsic Garden of Eden within the Schanzenviertel in Hamburg. It is a place where nature is kept alive. The place for Hamburgs subculture will be sold and the commercialisation will take place. Even the 50 year old trees will be cut down.

There are several other cultural and artistic places that will die within the next time, like the Vorwerkstift or the Bernhard-Nocht-Straße.

But there also three clubs which have to leave for some sanitation. And the clubs won’t come back, never. How important the Astra-Stube, Fundbureau and Waagenbau and what kind of cultural status they got can you see on the left side. The clubs, which are located under the Sternbrücke are displayed on Jan Delay’s newest Album.

It is really sad. The cultural lost will never be cured. And I really hope that the actions every little project is trying will achieve something!

By the way the title “Hamburg, I love you but you’re bringing me down” is chosen because that’s what I feel right now and it is coined by the song “New York, I love you” by the LCD Soundsystem.

The picture above was shot by adesigna and the one of the GartenKunstNetz was shot by missanitsa.


  • Malte

    The same here (Berlin) – but i think this is the normal development of a city – it´s always on the run. Some places are down – new ones grow up. So when you stay at the same place in your city – you live in a other way a city does. Underground-Culture will be there forever – but not in the same places.

  • Oliver

    Agree. The gentrification process is a natural but nevertheless painful one. A city’s structure changes and subculture like a fluid everytime moves to the small and undefined spaces in between. So alternative culture isn’t basicly defined by the places it happens but through the people who love it, live it and create it.

  • roitsch

    Alright, I agree. It’s a normal process that the city is in a movement. But the places where artists and creatives can work, perform and live getting rare in Hamburg. Many artists already moved to Berlin, where the rents are still much lower. The Artists of the Gängeviertel have been asked to come to Leipzig, the city would give them asylum. I think this is the sad and lack of understanding part for me, the city takes the loss of artists inorder to gain more money with higher rents for fancy advertising companies and residential houses nobody can afford. The subculture may not die, but a city can do much more to live with it in harmony and provide the artists with space to live. Shutting down the Astra-Stube, the Gängeviertel is like shutting down CBGB’s in NY! It sucks!

  • Johannes

    Just reading your entry from Thursday, September 17th, 2009, “Hamburg, I love you but you’re bringing me down” – the photograph is identical with my current view from the window (except, I see different houses, O.K.) – this is not a particularly intelligent/construktive comment – but anyway, it is hard to stand! (Puuuh!)
    = Johannes

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Hamburg, I love you but you’re bringing me down