26. März 2014

The Housing Area, 2001

The housing area between Grellstrasse and Erich-Weinert-Strasse, Gubitz- and Hosemannstrasse, is a small neighbourhood in northern Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin. Joint use of nurseries, garden plots and public greens has in part evolved during the last 50 years. Despite the partly desolate condition of some of the nearby buildings that were built in the 30s, the interpenetration of garden plots and kindergartens evokes a certain enchantment.

As a short cul-de-sac, Preußstrasse leads onto the premises. Around the yard a footpath has been laid out that runs in between blocks of houses and allotments. Some of the latter probably had to make way for the construction of the large buildings of the kindergarten Preußstrasse. After the war the area was said to be littered with rubbish. There is also a sizeable public playground.

The kindergarten ’Sonnenschein’, was opened in 1970 as one of the many Berlin in-house facilities of the gasboard, GASAG. At that time it was called ‘Kindergarten Gasversorgung’ (Kindergarten Gas Supply) or ‘Kindergarten Gubitzstrasse 17a’. After the merger of GASAG and Bewag, (the local energy suppliers) it became staff kindergarten of the ‘VEB Energiekombinat’. However, not only employees’ children were looked after here. The kindergarten was erected on grounds that the locals had previously used as a sports ground. Its immediate neighbours are the holders of allotments. ’The green oasis is a little paradise that you wouldn’t necessarily come to expect behind the grey facades.’ Frau Schröder has been head of the nursery for 19 years. Two of the teachers have been working here since its opening. At the moment, 73 children are being looked after on the premises, while during the time of the GDR there were 120 places. At that time, one person was in charge of 22 children. During the summer, the older children went along with their pre-school teachers to the company-owned holiday camp in Ferch.

After German unification the nursery came once more under the ownership of GASAG, which handed it over to the city of Berlin shortly thereafter. It was important to Frau Schröder at that time that both the kindergarten and its grounds were not to be sold. The financial situation as an in-house kindergarten had been ideal, parents had helped design and furnish the kindergarten.

Since the borough took over, budgetary funds were cut steadily, so that renovation work could no longer be carried out. Last autumn, the janitor’s post was also cut. To support the kindergarten, parents, teachers and friends set up an association.

The playschool is fitted with night-storage heaters. ’But they still work very well, it is nice and cosy here.’

Contact with residents and other local institutions has been in decline over the past few years, but the kindergarten is striving to cooperate with different establishments. The children can visit the sauna of an independent kindergarten in Mandelstrasse, for instance, and they use the gym of the nearby school. There still is cooperation with the Volkssolidarität (a charity organisation for senior citizens). The local old people’s homes don’t exist any more.

Adjacent there is a further facility of the borough of Pankow, the kindergarten Preußstrasse 6, which has access to three big terraces. Two state-run institutions used to be located in this building built in 1958: a Wochenkrippe (a care centre on the basis of a whole working week) and a kindergarten.

Tel. ”Sonnenschein” Frau Schröder: 424 40 44
Tel. Preußstrasse 6: 424 41 92

Text written for the work »The Housing Area«, projection of 20 slides, 2001.