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Doors: 15:00

Duration: 2 hours

The panel on sustainable and democratic urban development organized by Freiraum Anstadt would like to address these topics based on the debate about the meaningfulness of the planned development on the Gaswerk area.

A panel of experts from the fields of politics, urban planning, construction and social and ecological sustainability will discuss democracy and sustainability in the construction and real estate market in general and in specific terms. Questions and objections from the audience are welcome.


Opening remarks: Max Gnant from Anstadt
Intro: Lena Käsermann from Gaskessel briefly explains the history of the Gaswerk site to date and the current status of planning for the development

Moderation: Noah Pilloud

Fabian Bauer – Head of Urban Development Gaswerkareal
Lena Käsermann – Co-Director Gaskessel
Stefan Zöllig – timber construction pioneer and engineer
Michael Sutter – SP city councillor
Martin Schick – Genossenschaft Kalkbreite, IG Klimagenossenschaft, ZHdK (artistic research on the potential of permanent brownfield sites)

Why is Anstadt organizing a podium on the Gaswerk area?

On the one hand, it seems important to have a broad discussion about a development on a site as central and steeped in history as the Gaswerk site: It will help shape the city of Bern of the future. On the other hand, the Anstadt is directly threatened by the development. Here are some thoughts on this from a person from Anstadt:

Bern, like all Swiss cities and large parts of the world in general, is increasingly dominated by private property and interests, concrete and consumer spaces. Behind the facades of this city, money and profit seem to be increasingly important as a central value. Meanwhile, the good life, meeting places and open spaces are being pushed to the periphery. However, the focus on consumption and growth is exactly the opposite of what is needed to counter the constantly worsening global crises such as the climate crisis. These only exist because of the profit logic and patriarchal and racist structures in capitalism. As a result, the city of Bern will be heated to the climate of Milan in ten years’ time. In this context, it is urgently necessary to ask how a sustainable and liveable city must be designed! (This question will be discussed on the podium) Where is there space to try out and experience alternatives to this short-sighted system on a small (or large) scale? Where can people meet without having to buy or consume anything? (Degrowth – less consumption is needed). Where can people create or participate in culture if they are unable to spend money on it due to high rents, for example? Where can confrontations with unjust and hostile structures take place? How can infrastructure be created that serves people and not profit? How can we build sustainably?

Open space as non-commercial space

A few years ago, the WOZ wrote on the topic “It’s about ensuring that there is enough space in and from which people from the entire population can design, operate and use public spaces without market-based constraints” and “Buildings in which people can try out new things and fail spectacularly without spending a lot of money. Only in such wastelands can creative urban and village development flourish.”


Anstadt is not the answer to these questions, but a search for answers. It is a space where it is possible to experiment, try out new things and take different paths than in the rest of the city. That is why it is also called An-stadt. In this way, it manages to attract a large number of people and inspire them that there are alternatives to the destructive functioning of consumer capitalism. On guided tours here, for example, children and young people realize that there is not just one prefabricated career path. A book and a documentary film about Anstadt will be published in the near future, which will reach a wider public. We are working with various media and together with our neighbors to raise the visibility of alternative approaches in Anstadt.

Two important principles of Anstadt are that more than half of the square is open to the public; and that everything that takes place here must be non-commercial (i.e. free or on a collection basis). Anyone can come here, set up their own projects or collaborate on something else. (In this sense, the Anstadt should receive money from the city for the socio-cultural work it does). Anstadt is trying to move away from a logic of consumption in every respect and towards jointly designed space. Anstadt is trying to move away from a logic of consumption in every respect and towards jointly designed space. There are various long-term and temporary projects on the public space (which are endangered by the planned development):

  • The vacuum: a non-commercial (=free to use) dance and movement space; birthplace of countless dance and theater productions (e.g. Theater der Heitere Fahne, Sofariots, Pleas F*ck me,…); space for workshops and cultural events; used by over 130 organizers and several thousand users annually.
  • Playground by and for children and adults incl. slides, trampoline, carousel, giant swing, boulder block
  • Community vegetable garden run by the neighborhood.
  • Wood & metal workshop incl. trolley construction sites
  • Communal kitchen and pizza oven, used for birthday parties, Küfa (kitchen for everyone), etc.
  • The KRK: a large hall for art, culture and theater
  • Sleeping place collective Bern
  • Jugendwagen: a meeting place for young people from the region
  • Once a year, a large festival is organized with 700 to 1000 visitors from the neighbourhood and the whole city.
  • Zirkus Chnopf: During its performances in Bern, Zirkus Chnopf stays with us with over ten wagons, as the city cannot provide a suitable space to accommodate the circus.

Around 40 people live in the Anstadt residential area, who organize themselves together in plenary sessions and various working groups and help to maintain and shape the entire space. One of the more progressive forms of democracy is practiced and learned here: all decisions are made on a grassroots democratic basis.

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