Meeting place city

plan b – Places to live, laugh and do

TV premiere: Saturday, February 3rd 17:35 CET

as of now ZDF Mediathek

Every city needs them: public spaces where people can meet, celebrate and play – without having to spend money. Places to spend time instead of shopping centres.

However, spaces for social interaction without commerce are becoming scarcer. Berlin and Helsinki show how to stop this trend: with innovative places that are open to everyone and free to use.

In the Finnish capital, one such place was built right next to the main railway station. The Oodi library is an ode to people’s thirst for knowledge and imagination that goes far beyond books to borrow. “Oodi” is a meeting place for all people and yet something different for everyone. A kind of large living room – with more books and films than at home, with space for music, corners for handicrafts or tailoring.

You can borrow instruments free of charge, including sewing machines and 3D printers – or book a complete photo or recording studio. There are also cosy sofas where you can meet friends or just chill out. All you need is a library card, which is free for everyone in Finland.

13-year-old Nimuri comes here almost every weekend with his parents and rents the photo studio. Siri, Pia, Eeva and Johanna have formed a punk band in “Oodi” and rehearse there regularly. Pia is still happy: “We discovered on the internet that you can rent band rooms for free at ‘Oodi’. They’re so expensive in Helsinki and extremely hard to come by – it’s like winning the lottery.”

n Berlin, a metropolis of millions, it is hard to find free space – for growing vegetables, for example. The demand is huge, but the supply of allotment gardens is minimal. Community gardener Robert Shaw from the “Prinzessinnengarten Kollektiv” had an unusual idea: couldn’t vegetables be grown in a cemetery? There are open spaces and greenery there. It costs nothing to ask. The city gardeners were all the more surprised when the cemetery association responded positively to the enquiry. After all, cemeteries are also suffering from cost pressure. The deal is now: cemetery maintenance in return for a discount on the lease for the beds. And so a new community garden is created in an unusual place, open to all: for sowing, planting and harvesting – with others who don’t remain strangers for long in a place that is shared.