The history of the quirky Gängeviertel (lit: 'alleyway quarter') goes back to the 19th century. In those days, the city's workers lived in timber houses built close together in the labyrinthine streets and alleys throughout the district of Neustadt in multiple such Gängeviertel. After a cholera epidemic, the government began the process of tearing down houses with dubious hygienic conditions, and by the mid-20th century, there was only one such area remaining. What is today the only such area to retain the name of Gängeviertel is listed by UNESCO as an example of cultural diversity, and is cited as a success story of the Right to the City initiative.
For years, the buildings and houses in Gängeviertel were left empty. But when an investor's project threatened to demolish the buildings in 2009, the site was occupied in an attempt to preserve this piece of history. After several protests by a group of dedicated Hamburg activists and artists, the decision was made to keep and renovate the buildings, instead of selling them. Gängeviertel began to hosts events such as film screenings, sketch sessions and live music events. Today it prides itself on being a cultural artistic space for all of Hamburg — young and old alike.
Murals, events and cafes
In 2015, Gängeviertel celebrated its sixth year as a cultural space, celebrating with its Komm in die Gänge (lit. 'Come to the alleys') initiative. This series of cultural events and celebrations launched a campaign designed to sustain the Gängeviertel into the future, with the online programme listing weekly and monthly events.
Gängeviertel also has a cluster of refurbished flats (with modern hygiene standards!) and is home to the so-called Fabrique, a project meant to expand the available spaces for readings, concerts and exhibitions and to bring life back into the heart of the area. Another cultural offering is the Raum linksrechts, an art gallery for new art and artists in Hamburg, which creates yet another space for cultural exchange in the Gängeviertel.
For those looking to relax and admire the Gängeviertel's impressive street art (including a new mural by the 'Low Bros'), there are a few cafés dotting the streets, including Nasch, which has a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options. Alternatively, give your bike a little TLC in the Raum für Fahrradkultur, which isn't just a bike workshop, but also a café, library, kitchen and bar.
Since 2010, the Gängeviertel has been steered by the Gängeviertel Genossenschaft 2010 eG, a type of co-operative association, and relies on donations and volunteers to maintain it. Because of this, it is possible to buy a share in Gängeviertel. With a share in the area, not only is an important piece of history preserved, but it allows the holder to have their say at the AGM and help to shape the future of the Gängeviertel with other like-minded share holders.