13.8 C
New York
Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Don't miss

More than just the sunflower house: How Rostock-Lichtenhagen is trying to reinvent itself

- Advertisement -

It is a hot Monday in August 2022. The last ships of the popular Hanse Sail are just leaving the port of Rostock and with them the many tourists who make the annual pilgrimage to the Hanseatic city for this spectacle. The sun is burning and the streets are deserted during the midday heat. Those who are free can enjoy the day on the beach in Warnemünde.

In the late afternoon, a few people gather at the Lichtenhäger Brink. “Watch out!” a mother calls out to her child. At the northern Brink there are seven water basins with fountains. “No bathing water, no entry, risk of injury” is written on the signs at the edge of the pool. The kids still splash about in it.

- Advertisement -

There’s been a lot going on in this neighborhood for weeks. An important event is coming up. The media call it “30 Years Rostock-Lichtenhagen”. But it is not celebrated that Lichtenhagen is 30 years old. The district has been around for 50 years. The reason for the 30th anniversary is the pogrom of 1992.

“Life in the water” is the name of the seven fountains at the northern Lichtenhäger Brink.
© Photo: Anni Dietzke

During the riots in August 1992, a racist mob gathered between Mecklenburger Allee and Güstrower Strasse for several days. The central reception center for asylum seekers is located there at this time. On the east side of the eleven-storey prefabricated building, three huge sunflowers shine on the facade.

- Advertisement -

You can already see them from the S-Bahn station. You can also see them from the expressway that leads to Warnemünde. They are still visible today and give the house its name. In August 1992, the sunflower house became a major scene of racism and since then has stood for an entire district that years before had been a showpiece in the GDR.

I was positively surprised by the Lichtenhäger:innen. Maybe because I’m not free from prejudices either.

Nico Baumgarten, photographer from Berlin

From the 1970s onwards, large housing estates in the prefabricated building style typical of the GDR gradually came into being in Rostock. In the northwest of the city, on the border with Warnemünde, the Lichtenhagen development area was built up between 1972 and 1976. Until the fall of the Wall, it was considered a prime example of modern urban and residential construction, far away from old buildings with stove heating and shared toilets. The center of the settlement is the Lichtenhäger Brink – a pedestrian zone about 500 meters long that stretches from Güstrower to Ratzeburger Straße.

On the hot Monday afternoon in August 2022, the Berlin photographer Nico Baumgarten is also there. In the past few months, since summer 2021, he has met and portrayed a wide variety of people in the district. These pictures now adorn the Lichtenhäger Brink on large screens as an open-air exhibition.

The open air exhibition by Nico Baumgarten at the Lichtenhäger Brink
The open air exhibition by Nico Baumgarten at the Lichtenhäger Brink
© Photo: Anni Dietzke

“I was positively surprised by the Lichtenhäger:innen. Maybe because I’m not free from prejudices either,” says the 41-year-old about his project “Behind the slabs lies the beach”. The pictures show the people he met on the street, who aroused his interest and allowed themselves to be photographed – in all their diversity.

“In general, in my work I often deal with places and topics that are reduced to a single aspect,” says Baumgarten. The intention behind his photo project is to emphasize the diversity that exists in Lichtenhagen today.

In addition to the photo canvases, sculptures and Hansa Rostock stickers on lanterns and rubbish bins adorn the pedestrian zone. The farmer’s fountain is located at the southern tip of the Brink. However, the fountain, which was built in 1976, has seen its best years. The Rostock Society for Urban Renewal and Urban Development (RGS) is to make the listed fountain shine and bubbling again by summer 2023.

Hansa Rostock is present everywhere.
Hansa Rostock is present everywhere.
© Photo: Anni Dietzke

The focus of the planning is “the sensitive renovation of this pedestrian zone with the character of an inner-city park,” says the RGS. So something is happening in Lichtenhagen. It is renovated, restored and attempts are made to restore the good reputation of yesteryear. Back then, before the area became a symbol of xenophobia after reunification.

Since September things have calmed down again. The journalists are gone, probably until the next pogrom anniversary. Local residents are once again using their Brink to linger. your brink? “Brink, no one says here! We’ve always called it the boulevard!” says a 50-year-old resident, irritated.

“We were in Warnemünde today because the weather was so nice,” a retired couple told a neighbor who sat on a bench on a late summer’s day in mid-September. After a short chat we continue. “Come Fiffi, we’ll go too,” says the neighbor to her dog. No one talks about the sunflower house and the many foreign visitors of the last few weeks.

The GDR department store on the southern Brink is due to be demolished soon.
The GDR department store on the southern Brink is due to be demolished soon.
© Photo: Anni Dietzke

About 200 meters from the farmer’s fountain, behind a former department store from GDR times, which is definitely past its best, is the northern light – according to its own statements “probably the most multifunctional house in the Hanseatic city of Rostock”. A poster has been stuck to the facade for weeks: “Viva La Travestie” on November 5th. How does a travesty show fit into Lichtenhagen’s reputation? Not at all. Apparently it’s just the reputation that continues to ruin the district.

Autumn is coming and Nico Baumgarten’s open-air exhibition was dismantled again at the end of October. “An elementary part of the exhibition concept was to show the pictures on site and accessible to everyone,” says the photographer. “I wanted to show appreciation for the Lichtenhäger:innen with my exhibition.” If the district and the residents are only reduced to the pogrom of 1992, this could only have negative consequences, according to Baumgarten.

The northern lights – the “probably most multifunctional house in the Hanseatic city of Rostock”
© Photo: Anni Dietzke

In mid-November there was a yawning emptiness on the “Boulevard”. The fountains at the north end no longer flow. But there is a discussion going on at the Nordlichtschule: the citizens’ participation addresses the question of what the Lichtenhäger Park can look like and how it can be used in the future. The residents get involved. They want to upgrade their district again.

Chris von Wrycz Rekowski, first deputy mayor of Rostock, agrees that Lichtenhagen is different today than it was 30 years ago. “Many people from different backgrounds shape our social life together and respect each other.”

There is no question: the Lichtenhagen pogrom is part of Rostock’s city history and must neither be forgotten nor downplayed. But Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 2022 is colorful and diverse and no longer just the sunflower house.

To home page

Source: Tagesspiegel

- Advertisement -
spot_img

Latest Posts

spot_img

Latest