The Cuvry Wasteland. Group Discussion on Informal Settlements

Group Discussion on Informal Settlements

In chapter 5 you learned about informal forms of housing. Sometimes, as in the case of living on a plot or in a squat, such forms are the result of alternative ways of living. In other cases, they arise out of existential necessity. The historian Niko Rollmann historian researches informal settlements that emerge both as a result of alternative lifestyles and out of existential need. With the Berlin example of the Cuvry wasteland (Cuvry-Brache) he describes a case in which both initial situations are linked together against a political background.

To get an idea of the Cuvry-Brache, read the following text from Niko:

The informal settlement called 'Cuvry' was located in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, on a wasteland next to the Cuvrystrasse street. It existed for some two and a half years before being cleared out by the police after a blaze in September 2014. Up to 120 people had lived there, a mixture of homeless and "alternative" people from many different nations. They resided in huts, tents and teepees. Although there was a certain amount of solidarity among them, there were also frequent conflicts, sometimes escalating into violence. Such tensions had to with the fact that there was a very broad range of people present - persons with addiction or mental health problems, political activists, 'freaks', artists, people on the run, refugees and others. They did not always mix very well. In any case, the 'Cuvry' tended to polarize people: Some saw it as one of the last local bastions in the fight against gentrification, others simply referred to it as a ‘disgrace'. Finally, a relatively small fire was used as a pretext to evict all the settlement's residents in one go.“

To learn more about the Cuvry wasteland, study the following article (if you read German) or simply take a look at this photo gallery:


Now discuss in pairs or threes:

  • Do you know similar examples from your area? What do you know about them?
  • When do people choose informal forms of housing and when are they forced to do so? Can these two reasons always be clearly distinguished? 
  • Does it make sense to speak of individual voluntariness in relation to informal forms of housing?
  • Some people argue that informal forms of housing have a political dimension as a protest or as lived counter-models. What is your position on this?
  • Alternative ways of living often happen in informal ways of housing. What are the structural reasons for this? What could other, more supportive frameworks look like?

 Additional literature:

  • Rollmann, Niko. Der lange Kampf: die „Cuvry“-Siedlung in Berlin. 1. Auflage. Berlin:Selbstverlag, 2016.
  • Rollmann, Niko. „Wagenburgen, Hüttendörfer und Spots. Informelle Siedlungen in Berlin.“ dérive. Zeitschrift für Stadtforschung, Nr. 68 (2017): 23–27.


Last modified: Wednesday, 14 September 2022, 10:51 AM