Kottbusser Tor, or Kotti, as Berliners call it, has built quite a reputation over the years. It is famous for it’s crowded, chaotic and noisy atmosphere. An area where the smell of döner never ends and the sounds of reconstructions and traffic jams are always present. Nevertheless, to many people, Kotti is the greatest place in Berlin!
Kottbusser Tor is an U-Bahn station located in central Kreuzberg. It used to be one of the many city gates of Berlin’s city wall until 1860. Back then this wall determined the borders of the city. Through the gate at Kottbusser Tor, Berliners could enter the region of Cottbuss. In 1902 the first U-bahn line from Potsdamer Platz to Stralauer Tor was opened. The line was built as a viaduct above the street. In 1926 the U8 was built. This line was constructed underground. Partly as a result of these two important metro lines that cross at Kotbusser Tor, the area later became known as a hot spot for drugs and homeless people.
Whoever thinks of Kottbusser Tor, will soon think of the immense and robust grey apartment building that dominates the square. About 400 apartments are in this building, that is constructed almost as a bridge over the street – reaching from one side of the road over the other. The ‘Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum’ has been a popular subject of discussion and media coverage over the years.
The building, constructed between 1969 and 1974 was a public-private project. It was part of a larger urban renewal plan. The plan ordered that a great part of Kreuzberg’s housings had to be demolished. At the same time, the area just northwest of the NKZ was designated to become an important highway intersection.
Unfortunately, this highway intersection never made it – which left the NKZ as a somewhat alien building in the middle of an area characterized by nineteenth-century apartment houses. The NKZ eventually became the home to a large community of migrants, mostly Turks.
Nowadays Kotti is often referred to as a ‘problematic area’, where violence, drug dealing and alcoholism are part of the daily scene. Some say, that the way the NKZ is built contributed to these problems, as it provides dodgy public spaces that are perfect for informal activities. Several politicians actually called for the demolition of the NKZ in 1998.
However, Kotti’s low point seems to be more in the past now. Due to many local social projects and initiatives, drug and alcohol abuse have declined. The place seems to work perfectly well for its residents, what is expressed in the liveliness, the diversity and the economic activity of the shops. Public opinion has changed over the years. As said, to many people Kotti today is the greatest place in Berlin. It has become a real melting pot of many cultures and people, right in the centre of Kreuzberg.