ExRotaprint is a model for urban development that rules out financial profit through ownership and establishes a heterogeneous, open environment for all community groups.


ExRotaprint is the former site of the Rotaprint printing press manufacturing plant in Berlin’s Wedding district. A security bond issued by the Berlin Senate in the mid-1980s for the ailing Rotaprint AG led, following the company’s bankruptcy in 1989, to the property being transferred to the district and eventually to the Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin (Berlin Real Estate Fund), which was contracted to sell the 10,000-square-meter property to the highest bidder.

In 2004, visual artists Daniela Brahm and Les Schliesser formulated a concept for taking over the property by on-site tenants. The goal was to develop the location to serve a heterogeneous mix of uses for Arbeit, Kunst, Soziales (work, art, and community) and affordable rents for all. Following lengthy, arduous negotiations with the Berlin Senate and the Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin, the tenant-founded ExRotaprint gGmbH took over the complex in 2007.

ExRotaprint institutes a unique form of ownership and self-organization within a precarious environment; the legal structure prioritizes group interests over individual interests and ties the notion of profit to the physical site and its goals. The complex has been withdrawn from property speculation for the long-term. The focus here is not on marketing or financial profit, but on the users and the work they create. ExRotaprint is predicated on a diverse social mix that lays the groundwork for new impulses and furthering mutual acceptance in a precarious neighborhood—for and with the people who live here.

In order to ensure the long-term objectives of the project, ExRotaprint set up a legal configuration comprising a heritable building right and non-profit status. The buildings are owned by ExRotaprint gGmbH. The land is owned by two foundations that are aligned against property speculation and exclude its resale. Based on a ninety-nine-year heritable building right, ExRotaprint manages the site and is responsible for all aspects related to project development, the renting of spaces, financing, and renovation. As a nonprofit organization, ExRotaprint gGmbH is committed to the nonprofit objectives it has set out for itself. Any financial profits generated must be applied toward the preservation of the historical architectural monument and the promotion of art and culture; the syphoning off of capital from the project for other uses is excluded.

ExRotaprint rents a third of its overall space to each area of “work, art, community.” Working on site are businesses, community outreach organizations, and independent creatives. What emerges is an overall community image—one that challenges the imposed dreams of investment return monocultures, and instead promotes togetherness and exchange. The profit of the project lies in the stability it offers and the ways it is used—today and in the future.


ExRotaprint Project Description (all aspects summarized, 8,300 characters) Download PDF here