Topping it Off: Bellevue di Monaco by Hirner & Riehl Architekten
Initiative and Cultural Centre
Bellevue di Monaco tells a wonderful story about the power of good ideas. It now belongs to a social cooperative that took over the apartment building and two neighbouring structures in leasehold to the City of Munich and renovated them as an independent project. Many committed people stand behind the initiative, including Matthias Marschner of Hirner & Riehl Architekten, who for three years worked his way through the house “centimetre by centimetre”, replacing windows and installations and ultimately creating a counter-model to the profit-driven living spaces in the neighbourhood. Bellevue has become home to a cultural centre with a ground-floor café and affordable apartments. More than a dozen different groups and associations offer help here: advice for refugees and those seeking work, German courses and homework help. Known far beyond Munich, it is a showcase project of successful integration.
Citizen Action and a Sense of Community
It all started in 2012 with the threat of demolition. In order to save their kickabout behind the Glockenbachwerkstatt and the surrounding buildings, Munich artists simply occupied an empty apartment and showed how easy it would be to renovate. This guerrilla operation won a lot of attention, to say nothing of sympathy. It reveals the absurd side of German thoroughness. Why do urban apartment houses stand empty for so long before ultimately being torn down at great cost, only to be replaced with modern subsidized housing?
Marschner, an architect, revolted as well. “When it takes 15 years to gently vacate a building and then to create new subsidized apartments, something is wrong.” As he worked with many helpers, including Matthias Weinzierl and Till Hoffmann from the Bellevue di Monaco Association, it became clear to Marschner that more is possible, even in the very centre of Munich: apartments for refugees, get-togethers and cultural activities. Renovation rather than demolition and replacement; community rather than segregation.
A View of the Inner City
Now the activists have topped it all off: what may be Munich’s highest kickabout overlooks St. Peter’s church and the rooftops of the Gärtnerplatz district. There is only one limit: no more than 20 players may enjoy the view over the city (reservations available online). How lovely that something like this is possible, even in such a saturated city, when people have the courage to effect change.