14.05.2015 Jakob Schoof

Low-price living for 250 Euros: Shabbyshabby Apartments in Munich

The Door by Muck Petzet Architekten, Munich

This September Munich, currently Germany’s most expensive housing market, will become the scene of an experiment. Within the framework of the Shabbyshabby Apartments project, 25 design groups will realize their visions of low-cost temporary living. This project is connected to last year’s Hotel Shabbyshabby in Mannheim, another project initiated by raumlaborberlin.
Munich has a lot of money and one big problem: rents and purchasing prices for residential spaces are now approaching the dizzying levels of Paris and London. For months, political debate has concentrated practically on one topic: affordable living. Anyone looking for answers to the question why the federal government has recently passed rent-control legislation need only pay a visit to Munich. The city - often at the cost of fundamental quality standards – rolls out the red carpet for almost every investor and simply cannot keep up with creating enough space for new residential buildings.

In the short term, no relief is in sight, meaning that many creative forms of resistance have emerged. In the middle of September, Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius and Matthias Lilienthal intend to set their own protest in motion. Foerster-Baldenius is one of the leaders of the raumlaborberlin architects’ cooperative; Lilienthal will take over artistic direction of Munich’s Kammerspiele studio theatre.

Last year, the two men realized the Hotel Shabbyshabby project in Mannheim with 22 temporary hotel rooms distributed throughout the entire city. Now they have modified their idea and transferred it to Munich: at the beginning of September, 25 low-price apartments will appear in seven locations; for a fee, citizens and visitors may spend a night in one of them.
258 design teams from around the world
At the end of January Foerster-Baldenius and Lilienthal, in conjunction with the City of Munich and the Arte Creative TV station, announced a design competition for these apartments. 258 teams from around the world submitted their plans. Now a jury of nine including Elisabeth Merk (head of the municipal planning office), Chris Dercon (director of the Tate Modern in London), Anne-Julchen Bernhardt (BeL Architekten, Cologne) and Niklas Maak (editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily) have chosen 23 designs to be implemented. Two others have been chosen by the viewers of Arte Creative in an online voting campaign.

The announcement reads: »We invite you to create apartments that anyone can afford. You will design living space that is not subject to speculation: studios, lofts and subsidized apartments
in the public realm.« The comfort level of the resulting apartments can best be described as basic: the competition’s organizers stipulate a budget of 250 euros per apartment. The design teams themselves are responsible for any actual building. The Shabbyshabby apartments are not (legally) connected to the electricity or water networks- each team must come up with a creative solution to this problem, or residents have to do without the luxuries of power and water.
Cheap Living Between Gucci and Prada
The seven locations chosen by raumlaborberlin for their installations have a certain cachet: in the English Garden next to the Haus der Kunst museum of art; on Maximilianstrasse- Munich’s priciest shopping district and home to Gucci, Prada and the Kammerspiele theatre; at the Isartor on the edge of the inner city; in the open-air facilities of the German Patent Office; on the Isar and on Candidplatz, an uninviting traffic junction of Munich’s Autobahnring.

The teams were free to choose their locations, although the prize-winners show a clear preference for Maximilianstrasse, the Isartor and the park along the Isar. The designs vary according to their future neighbourhoods: while the apartments in the shopping district present a silent yet overt criticism of consumerism and the contrast between rich and poor, those on the Isar are more focused on nature and the ones at the Isartor refer to the area’s existing structures and street furniture. As we saw last year in Mannheim, several teams have cleverly integrated street lamps and fountains into their designs. Others have recycled old things like bathtubs or besoms in order to keep costs down. Some have planned to connect their apartments to existing vacant spaces in the city: underpasses, temporary pedestrian tunnels under scaffolds or the foyers of imposing buildings.

The competition’s winners are to display these designs in their intended locations from 3-11 September. Afterwards, interested parties can test the apartments. The price? Expect to pay 35 euros for one night in a double room. There will be no shower, but breakfast at the Theatercafé in the Kammerspiele theatre is included.
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