What if a city allowed a huge regeneration project to be led, not by the wealthiest property developer, but by the club owners who put on the best parties in town? With the opening of Holzmarkt, Berlin is about to find out

For the first decade of the 21st century, the industrial wasteland between Berlin’s Ostbahnhof station and the river Spree was earmarked for a huge urban regeneration project – one that would show that the German capital could keep up with London and New York. Where flowing water had once marked the divide between communist and capitalist spheres of influence were to be a phalanx of high-rise blocks made of shiny glass, some of them 80 metres tall, containing luxury apartments, hotels and offices.

But tomorrow, that same 12,000m2 patch of land will open with an altogether different look: an urban village made of recycled windows, secondhand bricks and scrap wood, containing among other things a studio for circus acrobats, a children’s theatre, a cake shop and a nursery where parents can drop off their children while they go clubbing next door. There’s even a landing stage for beavers.

We wanted to disable the mechanisms of the race-to-the-bottom economy

Related: From Berlin’s warehouses to London’s estates: how cities shape music scenes

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