An informal place for theater folk, patrons, and locals to mix and mingle, the garden originally aimed to fill the glaring gap of greenery in a mostly barren industrial landscape. Now, the thriving oasis and associated municipal theater encourage life and ideas to grow while also supporting self-sufficiency – a vision realized by Theater Cologne.

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Photo: Ioanna Gogolin

Bit by bit, the wastelands were transformed by volunteers starting in May 2013. Armed with tons of top soil, steel chains, cable boxes drums, steel crowns, and baker’s boxes, the CARLsGARTEN team transformed the found and ‘raw’ materials into organic compost beds, trellises, and even a leafy hill – now home to the complexes’ smallest venue, DIE GROTTE and monthly presentations by film-makers who open up their latest, unconventional works for discussion.

Photo: Peter Bender
Photo: Peter Bender

Donations paved the way for the garden and venue: Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier, for example, provided the Enzo lounging areas that previously dotted and characterized the Austrian capital.

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Photo: Ioanna Gogolin

Now, CARLsGARTEN belongs to all: Anyone can plant, use, and inhabit it. A shipping container obstacle course shields the complex from the street, turning the garden into a “blossoming hub” for actors, residents, and avid gardeners.

Photo: Peter Bender
Photo: Peter Bender

On Sunday afternoons, interested visitors can pitch in and help to develop a place that belongs to all. Or they might drop by on Thursday afternoons when members of Cologne’s stages join non-actors in their gardening efforts.

Photo: Peter Bender
Photo: Peter Bender

Those further away or not blessed with green thumbs can support the location with donations: 50 euros will sponsor a symbolic square meter of sustainable urban culture – and social collaboration.

All sponsors are mentioned on the website.

Header image: Peter Bender