Alternative Theater

In Cluttered Chaos of Berlin’s Shanty Squatter Town, Distilling Art from Anarchy

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • In the midst of a rapidly gentrifying Berlin, a shanty town of sorts has established itself in Kreuzberg. While some residents choose not to conform to mainstream society and live there by choice, many others are poor refugees and homeless people.
  • Facts


    • The Cuvrybrache is a collection of huts and tents on a wide open space next to the River Spree in Kreuzberg.
    • The land is owned by a Munich investor who wants to build apartments there.
    • A theater group is performing a moving play there on Saturday.
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Dominique Wolf
Theater director Dominique Wolf who is putting on a performance in the Cuvrybrache. Source: Doris Spiekermann-Klass, Tagesspiegel.


A collection of huts and tents on some wasteland by the River Spree has become Berlin’s own favela.

The Cuvrybrache, or Cuvry Wasteland, has grown up over the last two years on an area the size of a soccer pitch and is home to around a hundred people. Its residents are a mix of refugees, Eastern European migrants, including many Roma and Sinti families, homeless people and non-conformists seeking an alternative lifestyle.

This Saturday a theater group will perform a play that moves about the space and explores life in one of Berlin’s least conformist communities.

The shanty town is in the heart of Kreuzberg, a traditionally counter-culture part of the former West Berlin, once home to left-wing squatters and punks. In recent years rents have risen sharply in the area and it has morphed into a major party and tourist destination with clubs, hostels and bars lining the streets.

The Cuvrybrache has divided opinion in Berlin. Some see it as an anarchic place lacking in sanitation or infrastructure, rife with drugs and violence. Others are more positive, regarding it as one of the few free spaces left in a city that is rapidly becoming less alternative and more gentrified.

The land is owned by Munich-based investor Artur Süsskind, who wants to build apartments on the spot right next to the river. He says he wants to build 250 apartments, 10 percent of which should be affordable housing. Since it is private property, the local district government says it is not responsible for sanitation or waste removal there.

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