When darkness falls, the containers in the Werksviertel Mittel district are illuminated.


Futuristic nesting ground with history – and lots of life, culture and creativity

In the east of Munich, a place with a vibrant history is developing 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. 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”. It’s home to one of the most exciting urban development projects in Germany. The old and the new are united here. Remodelled industrial buildings stand next to futuristic new structures, highlighting the area’s architectural extravagance. The tone has been set by New York’s Meatpacking District: The slaughterhouse district has been turned into a glamorous neighbourhood that isn’t afraid to remember its roots.

The Werksviertel-Mitte is set to welcome the addition of 1,500 new flats and offices, including loft apartments, and around 7,000 jobs will be created. These will also be joined by hotels, shops, a school and daycare centres. 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. It’s scheduled to open in 2021.

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.

The centre of the 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 idea of the new Almschule (Alpine School) is to put a bit of nature back in the city and teach children and teenagers about healthy eating, sustainability and environmental protection. The Almschule is part of a sustainability concept used by the Werksviertel to show how cities can be greener and save resources in the future. This also includes the topics of e-mobility and car sharing initiatives.

The Almschule’s location on the roof is enough to ensure a special experience that gets people interested in nature. And WERK3 is even a registered farm. Its roof garden features 2,500 square metres of mountain pastures with fruit trees, raised flowerbeds and a sheep pen. Children can work with bird nesting boxes in hands-on workshops, help out a beekeeper at the hive, and observe ants at the ant hotel.

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 makeshift – and that’s a good thing. After all, the “Container Collective” is the life and soul of the neighbourhood. The site trailers house shops, studios and pubs; there are cinnamon rolls, and even ice cream for children.

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 tracks are reminiscent of times gone by, when the 38 hectares of land were still used as an industrial site. The departure of the local companies sparked the beginning of a new era whose hallmark is still very much evident in the Werksviertel-Mitte to this day. 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, cinemas and the WERK7 Theater, which used to be the potato hall at the Pfanni factory. Towers of potatoes have been replaced by musicals. 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 tour of the trendy neighbourhood takes place at irregular intervals. The starting point is the Container Collective at 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. 



Text: Stefanie Gentner, Photos: Sigi Müller


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