An unemployed guy and a student were able to convince a German bank to lend them €80,000 which became the start of the Das Baumhas Project, striving to empower people within their community in Berlin.
In Europe, Berlin is the city known for its status as a platform for creativity, inspiration and aspiration. There are people who start from nothing and are able to build their way up thanks to low rents, inexpensive living costs and the massive field of opportunity and space. This might be how Scott Bolden, an American living in Berlin came to be one of the co-founders of the Baumhaus project. “When is the last time you heard of an unemployed dude and a student getting an €80,000 credit from a bank?”. In most European cities this would be a mission impossible, so what is it with Berlin that makes people believe that the impossible can become possible? What does Berlin have which boasts creativity unlike any other city, and how does this relate to the creation of the Baumhaus project?
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and a reunified Germany, creativity was able to flourish along with Berlin becoming the centre for the parliament and other government offices. As an effect of the war the city was both poor and had no substantial structures for the ownership over buildings. This opened a window of opportunity for people coming to Berlin, as what once was East Berlin had free or cheap places in abandoned or unused buildings. This has been the cornerstone for why the city has become such an attractive place for artists, who’d usually struggle to survive and in turn, is why the city has seen a creative explosion together with globalisation. Compared to cities like London and New York who also are considered to be hubs of creativity, the major differences are the living expenses and the government’s investment and support into the creative industry.
One of these investments is called “Projekt Zukunft” and is an initiative from the Federal State of Berlin since 1997, to “support the growth areas of information and communication technology, media and creative economy”. Leaders of the city have also recognised the importance of maintaining inexpensive housing, through which they have created programmes subsidising studios and apartments of artists and urging real-estate investors to provide spaces for artists in their buildings.
All of the reasons above helps the creative industry to grow which has resulted in Berlin becoming one of the leading creative cities, so it’s no wonder that the Baumhaus project was able to set up.
It started off with Scott, an unemployed guy and Karen, a student, who had the aspiration to make the world a better place. Scott had become unemployed when he was gentrified out of Friedrichshain. He received help from the job centre which provided him with economical support, he says: ”They gave me a little bit of money just so I could maintain life while going on to do things, I wanted to start my own business and they supported me, got some language classes, it was real basic support but it works. You don’t have to starve – so because of that it was possible.”
They created a business plan which they worked on for a full year until they presented it to four banks. Two of which were interested in their idea, but they were forced to re-write and re-negotiate for quite a while until they landed the €80,000 loan which was the start of Baumhaus.
They strive to connect, empower and inspire people within their community, both targeting individuals, organisations and local change-makers who want to transition into sustainability in several aspects; intellectually, emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. Their framework is called PEACES which stands for; personal, ecological, aesthetic, cultural, economical and social aspects that they try to work on.
Their space is located in an up and coming area in south Wedding which is the basis of all their activities. The interior of the premise reveal their creative abilities, old floorboards that was turned into a bar table, a cask of beer teared apart and put up as decoration on the walls. Everything they have built is made out of material that otherwise would have gone to waste. Apart from the spectacular decorations, what’s in it for the local community? What does Baumhaus offer them?
Baumhaus offers different workshops, for example on Thursdays they receive rescued bio food from volunteers, that otherwise would have been thrown away. From this they cook different dishes and create a buffet which people can pay three euros for and spend the
evening with ”people outside your normal demographics” – whoever they may be – to connect. At the end of the night they have a vocal jam session which everyone can participate in, where they keep their eyes closed and vibe together. Scott believes the music they create together can be applied to their personal lives as well, he says:
”You can take the same elements of how we did it and bring it back to the real world to find resonance in your regular life too, not just singing, but in communicating with other people as well. So see how this soup, the aesthetic feeds in the personal, feeds the ecological and it’s all soup, these things are seasoning each other”.
They do late night pitches where people who have an idea are allowed up to a minute to discuss themselves and their idea, and then they are matched up with people from the community who, want to and, can help them. They also have gatherings for refugees who are paired with Germans who help them get through their time in Berlin. As if that was not enough they lend their space to young poet groups who can be inspired by each other and produce poetry. Scott believes what they’re doing is on the right path to sustainability, he says:
”If we’re gonna change the world and save the world whatever it takes, it takes us all of us coming together and doing a little bit of something and behaving right”.