In the east of Munich, a place with a vibrant history is developing since 2016 into a unique, trendy and futuristic quarter. The old and the new come together in the Werksviertel-Mitte to create a completely unique urban way of life with lots of culture, modern living and sheep on the roof.
Munich’s future may well be located just behind the Ostbahnhof. An industrial site is being transformed into a trendy urban quarter that’s attracting visitors and locals alike for almost seven years now. Some would like to settle here, while others just like to enjoy the moment. After all, there’s something for everyone in the Werksviertel-Mitte. This is where creativity meets commerce, work combines with living, and underground and mainstream come together.
The motto in the east of Munich is “Redefining Urban Life”. What is happening here is considered one of the most exciting urban development projects in the country, which was only awarded the German Urban Development Prize in May 2023. The old and the new are united here. Remodelled industrial buildings stand next to futuristic new structures, highlighting the area’s architectural extravagance. Some see similarities to New York's hip Meatpacking District or Berlin's trendy corners.
In the entire Werksviertel, around 1,500 new flats and offices, some in loft style, are to be built in the next few years, with around 7,000 jobs. In the meantime, hotels, shops, a school and day-care centres have also been added. And the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is looking to develop a new concert hall in the heart of the district – right next to street and graffiti art. The Austrian architect Cukrowicz Nachbaur has been commissioned to design the building. His pyramid-like design with a striking glass façade is seen as a rather prestigious project in Munich. The seven-storey glass building will house a large concert hall with 1,800 seats, a small hall with up to 800 seats, rehearsal rooms, a foyer and a restaurant. The planned opening has unfortunately been delayed due to the pandemic, but the hope for implementation remains.
Today there is room for offices - and attention: for a flock of sheep on the roof.
Before the ground is broken for the new concert hall, the site will temporarily be host to the "Umadum München", the biggest mobile Ferris wheel in the world. Since April 2019, it's time to board one of the 27 gondolas and enjoy the 30-minute ride with breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city.
The centre of the Werksviertel-Mitte district is “WERK3”, an orange building with distinctive lettering located on Atelierstrasse 10. The name of the building translates as “FACTORY3” and is reminiscent of times gone by: Pfanni used to produce dumplings and mashed potatoes here. Now there’s room for offices and, wait for it … a flock of sheep on the roof! The so-called Stadt-Hochalm is a meadow of around 2,500 square metres with fruit trees, raised beds and a stable for sheep. WERK3 was registered as an agricultural enterprise for this purpose and the Almschule was founded. This is intended to bring a piece of nature back to the city for children and young people and sensitise them to the topics of healthy nutrition, sustainability and environmental protection.
In hands-on workshops, the children can take care of bird nesting boxes, accompany a beekeeper in his work on the beehive and observe ants in the ant hotel. At the Almschule, the location itself - high up on the roof - is actually enough for a special experience that whets the appetite for nature. The Almschule is part of a sustainability concept with which the Werksviertel-Mitte wants to show how our cities can function in a more resource-efficient and greener way in the future. This also includes the topics of e-mobility and car-sharing services.
Colourfully painted containers at the foot of the WERK3 building are a great place to take a break. You can make yourself comfortable on pallets that have been converted into benches. Everything seems a bit improvised - and that's a good thing, because the so-called Container Collective is also where the life of the neighbourhood takes place. Shops, studios and pubs are located in the original shipping containers from Hamburg, and there are cinnamon buns, jewellery, fruit and vegetables and lots of other delicacies.
Huge flower boxes can be moved along tracks throughout the district, providing a nice green setting and a little shade to snooze and relax. The rails are reminiscent of earlier Pfanni times, when the 39 hectares of land were still used as an factory site. In the mid-90s, the companies moved out and a new era began, whose signature still finds its place in the Werksviertel-Mitte today and is quite noticeable. This started in the years following 1996, when lots of night owls were lured to the district behind the Ostbahnhof, where they first visited “Kunstpark Ost”, followed by “Kultfabrik” and the “Optimolwerke”.
The "Nachtkantine" was first an original Pfanni canteen, then a meeting place for party-goers, and is now experiencing its revival as a restaurant with bar and live stage.
Around 30 discos, bars, gambling halls and workshops were housed in the former Pfanni factory halls. Not a single weekend went by without people dancing the night away at legendary bars and clubs like “Milchbar”, “Harry Klein” and “K41”. The entertainment and party district continued to grow until the early 2000s, when it became “Europe’s biggest party mile”.
The signs of these wild party times can still be seen in many places and help to round off the image of the Werksviertel-Mitte. One such example is the “NachtKantine”, which has been there for decades. It was originally a canteen for workers at the Pfanni factory, then a meeting place for avid party-goers and night owls, and it’s now experiencing a revival as a restaurant with a bar and live stage. The “TonHalle” has also survived as a space for concerts, cabaret and comedy.
The surrounding area is home to lots more cultural institutions and a theatre. The restructuring work has been kept to a minimum. Once again, the idea was to preserve the old and dare something new. And the focus is very much on new things at WERK1 on Grafinger Strasse 6, where people are committed to supporting current and future digital developments. WERK1 calls itself the “friendliest place in Munich for start-ups”, offering affordable office spaces and co-working opportunities. A start-up café and over 100 events a year are intended to promote networking and the exchange of ideas on the digital start-up scene. The spirit of Silicon Valley floats through the air.
One thing’s for sure: There’s lots going on in the Werksviertel-Mitte – and it’s not over yet. The area just behind the Ostbahnhof still has an exciting future ahead. And if you’ve still not had your fill and want to find out even more about the development of the area from a dumpling factory to a party district and the current trendy neighbourhood, you can take a two-hour tour of the area to get inspired by the urban nesting ground with its vision of the future. The tours of the grounds through the Trend Quarter take place at regular intervals. The starting point is at Container Collective in Atelierstraße 4. You can find the dates here: www.werksviertel-mitte.de (German)
Become curious? In our format "Auf eine Runde mit..." our author takes a walk with graffiti artist Loomit through the Werksviertel Mitte. He not only gives tips, but also tells us what he particularly likes about the area.