Greifi DIY. Berlin, Germany
Edit: Florian Porath
Interview with Johannes Hirschmann by Jonathan Hay
Photos by Tom Schneemann, Henrik Loos, Lucia, Panke & Jan Vollmann
What’s the spot called, when did the build begin and how did the idea come about to start the spot in this location in Berlin?
Finding a name for the spot was one of the most unpleasent and unimportant jobs on the list. To make things short, you could say the spot is called “Greifswalder D.I.Y.” because it’s right next to the train station “Greifswalder Allee”, more or less in the center of Berlin. Telling when the build began is hard to say, because different people already built one or two ramps eight years ago. The property was hard to enter back in the day, and word was it that the whole place was about to be torn down very soon. So there was no regular building happening until three years ago, when the Müsli-Gang und the Shake-Pfand guys put their heads together and decided to start building ramps at the spot. Since then, a lot of things changed on this precious property because the guy that owns the place made it more open for the people by tearing down the fence and getting different parties to rent out certain parts of it. One of these parties is a collective of people running a subcultural place containing a techno club, art exhibitions, a circus and a lot of other awesome stuff. They helped us out a lot, which formed a big friendship between these different parties. Anyway, the landlord didn’t open the place for us on purpose, we we’re just an unpleasant side product that developed without him really recognizing. Now he has obviously recognized, and still tolerates the skaters, not without making things difficult for us, but this is another story.
Who is involved in the build, or do you prefer not to mention names?
By now it’s still the Müslis and the Shake Pfand guys keeping it up, with a lot of support from people all over the Berlin skate scene. We have an official “club” by now which tries to connect building and skating with the social claim all around skateboarding which means that we do skate courses for the young ones, have pizza parties and BBQs, urban gardening, ping-pong and whatever it takes to show the world that skateboarding is not only about rolling but also about making the city a better place for young and old.
Who is the captain of the ship or who put in the most behind the project?
We are very careful with name dropping, because you know how it is, a lot of problems with the landlord and maybe also the city council. At the moment we are more or less good with both of them, but things can always change. But still, yes there are at least two guys which spend a huge part of their energy to keep this place growing. In Berlin, most everybody knows who they are talking about if you hear somebody talking about the Bürgermeister and the other guy that takes care of all the plants while he’s building another wall all by himself, or doing the last finish to perfection.
Did you draw out some plans or just start building and after each part was finished figure out what was next?
There weren’t any plans drawn for a long time, but now with less and less free space in the park, we feel forced to draw up some possibilities while having Schultenbräus at the fire place. For the last big wobble we built, we used the white gift this winter gave us, by shaping the thing with snow first. Now the wobble is done and fits perfectly!
How did you fund the build? The local skaters or did you get some brands involved?
The funding is mostly about donations and the peoples’ private money. We don’t have any brands involved and we won’t have in the future. So yes, Nike and all you guys out there, find your own place to wash your names clean from all the fucked up things you did to skateboarding in the past.
How did the Covid pandemic effect the progress of the build… in a positive or negative way?
The pandemic effected our project in different ways. Before all this stuff went down, we had a lot of problems with our neighbors because of noise. The lockdown seasons gave us time to work on this problem because there were much less late night sessions and parties and I think we are better now with the people living around the park. A lot of people are having their lockdown walks on the property and they more and more see and accept the positive side of the place. In things of building, of course it slowed down a little bit but it also gave us time to work on smaller projects where maybe only one or two people were involved. In this time, for example, our pizza house was built, which contains a sick ass pizza oven and a kitchen.
Where did the pool coping come from and why did you use so much metal coping, because of costs or because some people prefer metal coping over pool coping?
The pool coping is home-made but we also have granite copings, only god knows where they are coming from. And yes, besides the stone copings we have a few metal-coping sections. I think it’s because the people that build the park like to skate different things and we always try to make everybody happy. Fuck Nazi-skating and people that think this and that is better to skate, we just do it for the fun of it. Also there’s the manual aspect of trying diffirent things.
For a lot of people the building thing contains learning new things, so now we know how to build ramps with proper metal coping and also how to puzzle pool-coping corners together.
What does the city of Berlin think about this project… obviously they must know about it, and are allowing for it to remain for now?
As already mentioned, the place is private property, so it’s not too much about what the city thinks about us, it’s more about the relationship to our landlord. This relationship has a high priority and we make all the effort to work out solutions, that both sides can agree with.
How is it working on the spot in the harsh northern german winter or did you take a break through the winter?
Basically there is no winter break. The last few years we were blessed with a mild winter and just continued building and skating as good as possible. This winter we had two weeks of snow, so we just made the best of it and had some little snow-skate sessions, everything with only a very small group of people, due to the lockdown situation, of course.
How does it look for the future of the spot?
We hope the future is bright! We’re working on it for sure! There is more building to come, but apart from that we want to expand the social aspect of this project. Everything will stay non-profit, but we would like to give something back to skateboarding and the culture. Working with kids, getting them off the street into an environment in which they can learn new things. It doesn’t matter if it’s about skateboarding, building, growing plants or whatever. This place is a D.I.Y. skate park and a big playground for people of all age, all gender and origins. We will fight for it until the bitter end, and make the best of it!
When is the opening party?
We wanted to do an opening party somehow in 2020 but yeah, we all know what this year was all about. So there was no big opening ceremony, but still we had bigger and smaller sessions with different people that knew about the place. At least by now the word is out and everybody from everywhere is invited to join the sesh. Let’s see how things are developing with the pandemic situation. If it’s calming down we hopefully will have big sessions with music and burning copings once again! This place is about skateboarding and all the good things that come with it. There is no room for homophobia, racism or any other kind of bullshit. So just come, bring beers and have a good time with the homies!