At the Lab: Berlin’s ‘hot topics’ and who’s talking

People often ask “How did you choose the themes and the speakers for your eight days of public programming at the BME Guggenheim Lab?”

The answer is easy “I talked to people in Berlin”.

I spent September, half of October and most of November last year in Berlin. When I wasn’t working with Maria the Curator and the other Lab Team members; Jose, Carlo and Corinne, I was talking to people in Berlin about the ‘biggest issues’ and the ‘hottest topics’ that they faced. I did lots of talking!  I organized meetings, I attended forums, I went to seminars, I talked to people in cafes, in the launderette and in the supermarket. I even went on a 40km bike ride on the hottest day on German weather records so that I could speak to cyclists!

Back at AECOM in Brisbane and with three Cath Kidston flowery notebooks bulging with notes from my conversations with hundreds of Berliner’s I complied this list of what I was told were Berlin’s ‘big issues’ and ‘hot topics’:

  • Gentrification
  • Integration
  • Economic growth
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of job security
  • Youth unemployment
  • Low salaries
  • Living costs
  • Rising rents
  • Fear of change especially changes in lifestyle
  • Land and property development
  • Use of vacant land/space
  • Tourism dependency
  • Education
  • Nightclub ‘industry’
  • Public transport
  • Cyclist crashes
  • Waterfront access
  • Public infrastructure funding
  • Differences between ‘city’ and ‘suburbs’
  • Boundaries: Senate vs. Districts
  • Dependency on subsidies
  • Temporary ‘population’

So, its simple, I have based my 8 days of public programs on as many of these ‘big’ issues as I can including:

  • Cycling, transport & mobility
  • City developments, vacant land transformation and civic infrastructure
  • Economics,  employment and tourism

I have invited a really amazing line up of speakers. I am so excited!

  • Chris Hines MBE the founder of Surfers Against Sewage, Britain’s coolest pressure group
  • Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old woman from Germany who gave up using money 15 years ago and says she’s been much happier ever since.
  • Sidsel Birk Hjuler from the Copenhagenize Bicycle Index and Cycle Chic
  • Jo Royle the awesome female skipper of Plastiki
  • Vertech the incredible engineers who build bridges out of bottles.
  • Manda Brookman co-founder and Director of CoaST, the Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project and One Planet Tourism.
  • Ben Hamilton-Baille a renowned specialist in innovative solutions for reconciling traffic movement with quality public spaces in cities.
  • Gap Filler Charitable Trust a creative urban regeneration initiative started in response to the September 4, 2010 Canterbury earthquake, and revised and expanded in light of the more destructive February 22, 2011 quake.

I will be blogging and Live Tweeting @CyclingRSmith everyday… please stay tuned!

TOMORROW: Why I’ve got the best job in the world!