20 years after the German reunification, the largest urban renewal project in Europe has almost been completed. In the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin, one of the last old buildings in the area is being renovated: the block of flats in Lychenerstr. 64.Over a period of two years, the documentary follows the house and its residents through the process of transformation from substandard to standardised living, from individual freedom to conforming to the norm. „Lychener 64“ shows the different phases of the construction work on the house and gives all those who shaped this process of regional and social change a chance to have their say. It documents the negotiations, developments and mood changes in a community that steadily grows closer together. With varying degrees of persistence and negotiation skills, the protagonists face the diverse front of redevelopers. Between construction rubble, jackhammers and packed boxes, they deal with their everyday life and its absurd moments. At the same time we experience how the threat to their own living space triggers them into increasingly asking questions about individual freedom, assimilation or resistance. The protagonists find themselves in changing roles, as potential owners, outcasts, displaced persons or conned tenants. Will they benefit from the renovation? „Lychener 64“ is a film about everyday life and changes caused by the process of gentrification. Archive footage is used to link this reality with the history of Prenzlauer Berg and its many changes, where the struggle for living space has been a constant.
Simone, a graphic artist and passionate collector, is currently unemployed. In the former East Germany, she used to live as squatter in untenanted flats. Since 1987, she has been living in a large partially renovated flat with her son and eight parrots. She enjoys her way of life – the birdcages even have floor heating – and rates her living conditions as “super”. The whole debate about “substandard living” drives her mad. She considers the negotiation attempts of the building’s owner to be a ploy to get rid of her.
“I don’t think I live in bad conditions…Whoever says that has a screw loose….That is why I don’t get worked up when they say this is substandard living. I think I live better than they do!”
Viktor & Ljusik
Victor is a student and casual worker from Ukraine. Contrary to his girlfriend Ljusik, he can handle the toughest of living conditions and is unfazed by inconveniences such as the toilet being outside the flat in the staircase. But she is craving for a tiny bit of luxury. Viktor likes having people around him, tight confines is not a problem for him. He has fallen in love with the morbid charm of the house and values the low rent. Even after all other tenants have moved out, he stoically lives among the construction rubble and pokers his way through the negotiations with the owner with relish. When he finally moves out, he has learnt something.
He also asked me: “Are you not happy about it?” And I told him honestly I don’t give a damn. I said: “Man, I don’t like it. I like my flat the way it is”.
Karsten, a caterer, has been living in “Lychener64” since 1984 and has invested a lot of money and work into the renovation of his flat. It is by far the best-looking flat in the entire building. He closely associates Lychener64 with the spirit of change during the German reunification and finds that he is now being given a rather dodgy farewell.
“No water during the last few days or weeks in my beautiful flat…that is annoying…”
Sophie was born in Prenzlauerberg. At the time the building with the address “Lychener64” got renovated, she was just completing her school-leaving certificate. She shares a two-room flat on the fourth floor with her friend Jule; it is her first own flat. In spite of the coal stove heating and not having a toilet inside the flat itself, Sophie likes the house and almost tenderly calls it a “beautiful old lady”. The renovation and the issues surrounding it force her to take her first steps into the adult world. Her passion is to travel and she is eager to get out of Berlin.
“There has to be an end to it! I have to free up space for something new!”
Judith & Viola
Judith and Viola are both are in their late twenties and live in a large flat share which has existed for a few decades, where tenants alternate constantly. They are not only extremely fond of their five rooms, which they want to keep, but are also fighting for their way of living.
“…We have astonishing power… And whether some people from Leipzig will come and say ‘This is now our house’ – that we will see. Legally it might be their house, but we are still living in it…
“…You don’t get the big boss anymore, the one with cigar and capitalism and such… Instead, they come across very friendly. And when you address a problem, they always understand you right away. Of course that makes it much harder to act and to see them as the enemy. Yes, they are quite clever.”
The tenant advisor of the district and the lawyers of the counselling centre for those affected by urban redevelopment inform the tenants about the renovation procedure and their rights. The redevelopment expert explains the motives of investors and looks at the house through the eyes of a redeveloper. Representatives of S.T.E.R.N, a company specialised in gentle urban renewal that has been commissioned by the Senate, outline their concept for urban renewal. Finally the construction manager of Lychener Str. 64 takes us on a tour through the hardly recognisable renovated house.
Commissioning Editor rbb: Birgit Mehler
Line producer rbi: Jörgen Radach
Archive researcher: Ursula Rühle
Editing: Jörg Schreyer, Jakob Rühle, Teresina Moscatiello
Editing Consultant: Nelia Székely
Subtiteling: Annelie Wheeler
Composer: Hayden Chisholm
Sounddesign: Thomas Kalbèr
Sound editor: Sabrina Naumann
Soundmix: Eric Horstmann, Dominik Schleier/ The Post Republic
Color correction: Gregor Pfüller/ The Post Republic