Themes & Working Groups I: Barriers

Mazin Abdulkarim, Max Mütsch, Jean Paul Olivier, Abeer Younes

‘Reading Barriers‘ is a brief research note about the culture of separation and isolation in the socio-culturally divided neighbourhood of the Veddel.
The dérive and an interview drew our attention to physical items creating and separating space(s): fences. We found and saw them everywhere. They obviously had had a strong impact on the neighbourhood. At this point we read them as negative measures of separation. It appeared as if they were installed to disable public space for private reasons. They functioned as barriers to separate the different communities of the Veddel. Through our focus on this phenomenon we became the ‘Barrier-Group‘. Focusing more on the people installing and profiting from them helped us understand a lot about the Veddel, its inhabitants and the people passing through the borough. We also realised the positive aspects of separation. The ‘Scotland-Jards‘-bakery for example used a wind screen as a visual separation so as to enable the simultaneous operation of two businesses with very different and potentially conflicting user groups: Muslim women were enabled to enter and leave the bakery without being stared at by the eastern European men who frequented the ice cream café.


Bakery Shop - barrier as identification

  • Ground figure plan; location: Veddeler Brückenstraße

  • Entrance situation of the Bakery Scotland Jards (white door next to the red fence)

  • Detailed plan

  • Perspective view

  • Elements



The temporary screen located between the bakery shop and ice cream café is a significant representation of the cultural and social division between the two user groups of the two shops. The bakery shop is mostly frequented by Muslim Turkish women in the early morning hours, while the ice cream café is dominated by young eastern European men. The potential conflict between these two user groups was recognised by the bakery shop owner and resolved by using the screen to create a visual separation. As the potential conflict and tension consisted mostly of gazes that the Muslim women found irritating, the visual barrier was a sufficient means to resolve the problem.

»We arranged a curtain outside to make a more intimate space for women. They felt uncomfortable with men staring at them. You know, there is a look and a look. The other day, this old German woman comes. Since years she buys here two rolls every day. I thought I really knew her. But she tells me we should take the curtain off and that Turkish women in Germany should adjust to German standards. I was shocked. I am a migrant, too! A bit of tolerance is necessary! We have Turkish, Russian, Albanian women sitting here together and there was never a problem.« - Bakery Owner

On the one hand these separators or markers were about place making and
physically defining spaces, but on the other they also represented
an embedded cultural and social divide, and sometimes conflict, between
different groups, enforcing their sense of personal identification with the
space. The idea of reading these barriers as manifestations of socio-cultural conflict, as well as understanding the processes of negotiation that
occur to materialise these conditions became the focus of our interest.

Within this initial interest we asked ourselves:
What kind of barrier are we dealing with?
What is behind the physical border? How does it function? What kind of symbol does it present?
What does it communicate?
Who is concerned and how are they dealing with it?
Is the barrier just a physical space maker or does it create more than two separated spaces?


Sportsclub Wall - barrier as guide

  • Ground figure plan; location: Wilhelmsburger Straße

  • Wall dividing street and sports club

  • Detailed plan

  • Perspective plan

  • Elements



Sallys Imbiss - barrier as separator
The barrier at the diner (Imbiss) located directly at the entrance/exit of the train station acted not only as a separator between two groups of users (harbour workers and train passengers) but also as an appropriation of space to portray workers’ identity. Understanding the case reveals a domination of male workers in a specific time of the day where the barrier signifies an enclosed area for relaxing, drinking, and chatting.

  • Ground figure plan; location: S-Bahn Station Veddel

  • Veddel Station

  • Detailed view

  • Perspective view

  • Elements