Since becoming an official Berliner seven years ago, Lacy Barry’s admiration for the ever-evolving city she calls home hasn’t wavered once. Peeling back Berlin’s intricate layers has inspired both her artwork and podcast, Secret Place Berlin. And as gentrification rolls across the city, Lacy’s eager to defend Berlin’s unique character.
Although she never looked back after a particularly enticing visit to Berlin ended in a visa application, it was only after that grueling first winter consumed by grey hues and damp concrete that Lacy fell in love with the German capital. Lacy remembers the lush summer city that was revealed to her as it emerged from its hibernation: “There are lots of lakes you can cycle out to and swim in. There are so many gardens, parks, and lots of places where you can forage for food”. Biking around the city is perfectly suited to the slower pace of life in summertime, and entices adventure at every turn: “It’s like the city is always revealing itself to me and showing me its secret side”.
Lacy’s podcast, Secret Place Berlin encompasses this very idea: “It’s all about my experiences around Berlin, mostly on my bicycle.” Lacy’s artwork is based on urban greening and imagines the future of our city spaces through a playful, sustainable lens. Lacy describes Berlin itself as a kind of “gigantic playground”: “A lot of the art that’s produced here isn’t necessarily polished – it’s just fun.” This patchwork, playful approach to creativity is something she’s spotted in the complex makeup of the city’s architecture – another visible layering within the city that’s emerged as a result of its past: “You can see a communist block sat next to a Kaiserreich-looking building next to a 1960s prefab”.
But gentrification threatens to gloss over the wonderful blemishes and complexities that nourish Berlin’s soul. Lacy’s discovery of her own German roots only after settling in the nation’s capital is a testament to the importance of preserving the stories our cities have to tell: “History tells us something about ourselves and about the people who live here and made a home here – it’s important to preserve that.” Berlin has long been a fertile ground for exploration and artistic inspiration; a place that champions individuality. This aspect, from Lacy’s perspective, is certainly one worth defending.
In Lacy’s neighborhood of Kreuzberg, peoples’ determination to maintain their sense of community in the face of gentrification gives her hope that Berlin’s unique character will remain intact. The city has, so far, answered inhabitants' calls for a better city existence: “A lot of community initiatives are being implemented – community gardens, more bike paths, things that are helping the quality of the air...and [creating] more happiness amongst people and nature.”
In fact, Lacy points out that breathing life into new, visionary ideas has happened many times over in Berlin: “Some parks were not even meant to be there – they were created as post-war architecture was left behind, and plants were allowed to take over.” The city’s always been ready to implement fresh ideas for future living. This, from Lacy’s perspective, is certainly worth defending.
Explore more of Lacy's work here.
In the series Rider Stories, we explore perspectives on living and working in cities and beyond through the eyes of our riders.