Chattering, clinking bottles, music, breaking glass, dull bass, laughing. It’s summer in Berlin and people are meeting outside at plazas, streets, in front of bars, clubs and “Spätis” to enjoy the mild evenings. While one is exploring the urban night looking for amusement and distraction, the other is trying to sleep and recover from the daily hustle and bustle.
Traditionally night is a time-space of quietness and recovery. However, activities have increasingly extended into the night causing rising levels of nocturnal noise pollution for example due to traffic, urban maintenance and nightlife. The nocturnal city becomes a conflicting space where different needs and norms often seem to be more incompatible than during the day.
Contested space – the Berlin case
Nightlife is strongly interconnected with Berlin’s identity. However recent dynamics, such as gentrification and touristification processes, have led to a rising number of nightlife-related conflicts – with noise being one of them – especially in popular dense inner city districts, as the Reuterkiez in Neukölln.
The neighborhood has undergone deep transformation processes in recent years, including rising rents and structural changes in demographics and in the business sector. The latter, particularly has led to the proliferation of cafés, bars and clubs especially along Weserstraße, which has turned into a nightlife hotspot as well as a place of conflicts.
Night clubbers, indeed, who enjoy spending the nights in Weserstraße drinking and chatting, can affect the quality of life of the residents, who apparently are increasingly suffering from insomnia caused by noise.
With sleep being crucial for our body to recover – e.g. favouring the renewing of cells and regulating our metabolism – a poor sleeping quality can negatively affect our mental and physical health, causing problems, spanning from cognitive impairments to obesity, hypertension and depression. Therefore, community groups in the Reuterkiez are fighting for the right to a quieter night!
Measurements against nocturnal noise
Besides enforcing actions, like curfews and bans, communicative measurements are increasingly being used to reduce nocturnal noise.
In the Reuterkiez, for example, signs in bar windows remind visitors to “respect the neighbors”, whereas in the district Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg night-time maps were distributed and pantomimes sent around to sensitize visitors (read more here).
Another interesting measure, first implemented in Amsterdam and currently on the rise, is the establishment of night mayors, acting as managers and mediators of the urban night. Read an interesting interview with the first night mayor here.
How can we solve this issue and find a balance between the right to nightlife and the right to rest?
This is a crucial topic and it is still an open question at the policy level. We believe that people are the real experts and therefore they need to be included in planning and policy-making processes.
Would you like to share with us your thoughts and experiences? Are you affected by nocturnal noise? Have you envisioned strategies on how to protect quietness at night from nightlife? And, at the same time, to guarantee the right to party at night?
Quiet regards from Berlin!
The Hush City Mobile Lab Team