I am writing a lot about what many call gentrification. This word is often used with negative connotations concerning high rents, monocultural city districts, NIMBYism and the displacement of less affluent citizens. I am a bit more sanguine about gentrification which is just one part of the everchanging urban landscape. For me gentrification is nothing evil, it is not about immoral real estate moguls and speculators but about people who want to live in an urban space that also feels somewhat communal. Today I want to show one positive aspect of these multi-faceted developments in our cities.
The Babaluna Store
This is the Babaluna store in 2013. It is still in existence today. I love the blue facade and neon colored sign. The owner sells handmade, comfortable fashion for women and children. As a district “gentrifies”, i.e. more affluent people move in, stores like these become possible. People who earn more than what is necessary to pay for their basic needs wish for more. But not only more mindless consumption but in fact conscious, sustainable and local consumption. They not only want things but they want to support artisans in their neighborhood, they want to support eco-friendly products, they want to buy quality.
If we want to step back from cheap fast fashion, from products that end up on landfills, from questionable production methods and enviromental standards, these stores are one way to do it. But currently they are only possible where people are affluent enough to be able to afford their products. In this sense gentrification, despite all it’s unwanted consequences, is also a force for positive change. My argument has always been that to achieve a more environmental friendly economy, to support diversity and to mitigate the effects of gentrification we ought to help people become more affluent. We need to grow to be able to afford sustainable production, to afford generous support for those with less income, to create enough demand for a diverse range of artisinal products instead of cheap mass market stuff that falls apart just so we can buy even more.
Gentrification has ugly sides but it is generally a good development. Today’s “gentry” has vastly different values from the Yuppies you have seen on “Wallstreet” or “American Psycho”. Instead of villifying them we should look at what their environment fosters and see how we can scale this so it can reach the less affluent parts of society as well.
This is one of many images I take whenever I am idle or waiting. On this day I was waiting on a bench opposite of the store for my wife to finish her shopping. As it often is when boredom strikes me outside I felt the creative urge and took a few shots of the storefront and street. Because of the striking blue and neon colors I eperimented with cross-process simulations in post to achieve this slightly surreal look.
One response to “Babaluna Berlin”
I have had intense conversations with one of my children, who went on a negative rant about the gentrification of the “”ethnic neighbourhood that was torn down to make expensive condos and apartments”” near her University. I found it ironic that she seemed excited that the neighbourhood crime rate was down, and she felt safe walking to the brand and well-stocked grocery store.