From Successful TV Production Site to Today’s Atelier Gardens

The 1960s saw a slump in film production as the film industry was losing ground to the booming TV business. This didn’t go unnoticed in the film studios on Oberlandstrasse, where Ufa made losses in the millions. After the studios with its staff, which had grown to around 500 people at the time, were almost bought by ZDF, in 1963 the Berlin Universal-Film-Atelier GmbH & Co. KG (BUFA for short) became the company’s eventual buyer.

Despite turbulent times, German film history continued to be written in Tempelhof. In the year of its sale to BUFA, Walt Disney’s “Emil and the Detectives” was filmed on site. Scenes from the Karl May films “Der Schut” or “Der Ölprinz” were also produced in the studios and attracted names such as Terence Hill or Winnetou actor Pierre Brice.

During these times, in parallel to film productions, dubbing work was in full swing. Just to name a few, “Odds and Evens” with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, “Dirty Dancing” as well as various British and American series were dubbed in Oberlandstraße.

The Dawn of the Television Era

Films like “Didi – Der Doppelgänger,” which was jointly produced by Ufa and ZDF, showed that television was taking on a greater role in the filming spectrum. What is now considered a common practice, the co-financing of films by the film and television industries was still a novelty at the time. The film drew close to 2.2 million viewers to German movie theaters in 1984, leaving little doubt about the success of the new state of things.

Television was becoming increasingly present. In 1963, the Tempelhof studios signed a contract with ZDF, which from then on became a permanent tenant of TON 4. In the so-called “Current Affairs Studio,” programs such as “Kennzeichen D” or the “Nachtstudio” were created, which both ran for decades and decisively shaped the German television landscape.

Legends of German Television

Starting in 1969, the production of the ZDF Hit Parade rapidly became the biggest symbol of television’s success in the Oberlandstrasse: 22 million people tuned in to watch the show on average. Until 2000, the Hit Parade “wandered through” the studios and was shot sometimes in TON 6, and other times in TON 3, 1, 2, or 5. Both BUFA and the Oberlandstraße studios became widely known thanks to this show, as fans regularly waited outside the studios to catch a glimpse of the stars.

The quiz show “Der große Preis” with Wim Thoelke, which had been running for almost two decades, and “Circus HalliGalli” with Joko and Klaas, which was recorded between 2013 and 2017, were also similarly successful productions.

The Oberlandstraße Studios Now

And today? The halls of the Atelier Gardens are no longer at the center of German film history as they were almost 100 years ago, but they are still involved in major film productions. In 2018, Netflix was on site to  film scenes for “Skylines,” and in 2019 Amazon used the studios for “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.” The so-called Dubbing Village is also still in use.

In addition, there are film events such as the “Human Rights Film Festival,” open-air cinema in the summer and regular film screenings organized in conjunction with the Arts of the Working Class, Fotografiska and the Atelier Gardens Film Club. Thus, the history of film continues to live on at Atelier Gardens, always morphing into new formats and synergies. What’s more, Atelier Gardens hosts events and activities related to sustainability, circularity and regenerative power.

Garden by name, garden by nature — but where does the water come from?


Through a radical re-greening concept, the Atelier Gardens campus is home to many species of trees, shrubs and plants. It wouldn’t be a garden, otherwise! Thoughtfully planned by Harris Bugg studios, many of the plants on-site are drought-proof but nonetheless some of the greenery on site requires water. To limit demand from drinking water sources, and heavily aligned with the sustainability concept of the campus, measures have been implemented to harvest the rainwater on-site. This approach not only reflects sustainability but also resonates with the core values of Soil, Soul, Society and Celebration at Atelier Gardens.

Now, onto the gritty details:

A total of three stormwater systems have been planned for the Atelier Gardens site. The prototype is the stormwater management system in the west. Here, primarily parts of the roof areas of Studio 1, Studio 2 and House 9 as well as a very small part of the (still) sealed traffic area are connected to the cistern (west).

In order to ensure that rainwater is safe for flushing toilets and watering the garden in terms of hygiene and aesthetics, a multi-stage purification process was implemented above and beyond the quality and condition of the respective precipitation catchment areas.

  1. the sludge trap retains coarse floating matter and dirt.
  2. the calmed inflow into the sludge trap favours that the finest dirt particles can settle on the bottom and at the same time the inflowing water is prevented from stirring up the sediment again.
  3. dirt particles that are lighter than water (e.g. pollen) float on the water surface. When the rainwater overflows into the cistern, the so-called overflow siphon prevents these floating dirt particles from reaching the tanks, which is important for consistently clear and fresh water quality.
  4. The rainwater pump sucks the rainwater through a floating intake in the upper part of the cistern. This is where the best water quality is found (approx. 10 cm below the water surface).
  5. Since the rainwater is used for flushing the toilet on the one hand and for drip irrigation on the other, it must be prevented that foreign particles >100 μm (= solids such as rust particles or grains of sand) cause corrosion damage in pipes and fittings. The installation of the backwash fine filter prevents such operational disturbances.

All connected consumers are supplied via a separate pipe network that is completely separated from the drinking water system. An automatically controlled pump pumps water into the pipe network as required. If there is a shortage of rainwater, it is fed from the drinking water network.

In addition to collection and use, it is also important to take into account rain events that cause the cisterns to overflow. The realised system solution therefore includes infiltration trenches to infiltrate the rainwater and return it to the natural water cycle.

While you may not be able to see the under-ground catchment cisterns, come spring, you’ll be able to see the effects on the garden! Come by and see for yourself!

A Journey to Foster Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Representatives from sustainable enterprises, environmental protection and the start-up world, as well as students from various academic fields, all gathered in TON1 to advocate for a new era of entrepreneurship. Since 2015, the Kreatives Unternehmertum (KU) collective has been travelling once a year through various cities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria to spread its message of social entrepreneurship.

The first stop of this year’s Kreatives Unternehmertum Street Show tour was Berlin, addressing the topic of oversaturation and the idea of ​​post-growth. It’s no coincidence that TON1 was chosen as the meeting place for the event “Oversaturation – What comes after a society in which everything is there?!”. And what a more fitting place for such a discourse than the Atelier Gardens campus which is perfectly suited as a development space for social and regenerative entrepreneurship, as emphasised by our campus director, Selim Pekin Güngör.

Shaping Systemic Change

“We live in a time where disruption is the order of the day,” said KU Managing Director Manuel Binninger. This intense need for change was a strong thread running through the entire evening. For example, during her talk, Nina Breu, Managing Director of Economy and Society at Greenpeace Germany, argued for a systemic change in the economy to solve ecological, social and democratic issues associated with capitalism. Sebastian Fittko, founder of the Initiative Regenerative Marktwirtschaft (Initiative for Regenerative Market Economy), also expressed how he strives for a holistic and symbiotic economy, which is not solely focused on the growth of the gross domestic product.

After a roster of thought-provoking talks and discussions, it was time for natural wine from the ecological producer Nature’s Calling and delicacies from the Brandenburg area. With a slice of country-style bread with saffron butter in hand, the 60 or so guests (most of them entrepreneurs) exchanged their personal thoughts and ideas. Because that’s what KU is all about: “We see ourselves as an entrepreneurship university,” says Binninger. They want to help companies implement their activities in harmony with people within a market economy.

So the first of seven events of this year’s KU Street Show ends with cheerful and inspired chatter. Next stop: Hamburg, with the topic “From Me to We: What Co-operations Does the Future Need?”. Here at Atelier Gardens, the story of regenerative entrepreneurship will continue, long after the event.

Imaginary Dinner at Atelier Gardens

The Imaginary Dinner is a unique networking event that employs immersive design to reflect upon our collective futures.

The concept was developed by With Company, a transformative design agency based in Lisbon but with its roots in Berlin.

For the 2nd edition of this immersive dinner, With Company partnered up with Atelier Gardens, the Berlin campus supporting pioneers for change and regenerative entrepreneurship.

Inés Lauber and Roots Radicals add to it the right food concept with a seasoned circular and up-cycling approach.

Together at a table were an environmental lawyer, a passionate botanist, a companion’s robot cat, an algorithm, a 100-year-old tree…and many other characters, that engaged in future archeology.

Based on Live Action Role-Playing techniques, the imaginary dinner invited key figures from the local transformation economy scene to play their role and discuss extreme future scenarios.

At times, we transcended reality; At others, we delved into the core of human nature. Through collective exploration, we ventured into the possibilities of designing future systems.

The outcome was dynamic discussions that skillfully embraced divergence while navigating extremes, we explored alliances and possibilities mirroring our collective imagination, culture, and aspirations to face these transformative times.

Meet Changing Cities


The mission of Changing Cities puts an emphasis on livable cities. Creating awareness of civic problems, they implement creative actions that inspire people to initiate change themselves by supporting them in getting involved in a variety of campaigns and initiatives.

They bring their expertise into the political discourse to create the framework conditions for the transport transition locally, at the neighbourhood level, to the state and federal political level.

Atelier Gardens caught up with Changing Cities when they moved to the Atelier Gardens campus last year. For more information, you can learn more about what they do here.


On a snowy February day early this year, nearly 40 fully packed cargo bicycles arrived on site. They are Changing Cities—the newest tenants on the Atelier Gardens campus. The organisation, which some people may still remember from the bicycle referendum in Berlin, was founded in 2016. The members’ primary motivation and goal? To make cycling comfortable and safe.

Ranghild Sørensen, spokesperson for Changing Cities, says that the association collected 100,000 signatures for the referendum within just three and a half weeks. The government also recognised that the city was ready for a change in mobility and passed the Mobility Act shortly thereafter. Changing Cities set an important movement in motion with the referendum: today, almost 7 years later, over one million signatures have been collected all around Germany for another 54 bicycle referendums. According to Sørensen, this is one of the association’s greatest successes: “Transport policy is no longer left to the experts, but is debated in public discourse.”

Towards the Redistribution of Public Space

Changing Cities quickly realised that passing the Mobility Act was not enough. “You need political consent and willingness to implement it. And there isn’t enough of that at the moment,” says Sørensen. Of the 2.698 kilometers of cycle paths that should be built by 2030 according to the Mobility Act, merely 113 kilometers had been completed by January 2023—a scant 4.2 percent. This observation comes from a bicycle network monitoring.

New ideas and actions are needed, and therefore the association pulls up their sleeves and starts from scratch. Once again, a bottom-up approach to the redistribution of public space is at the centre of action, starting with citizens. Inspired by an initiative in Barcelona, the Kiezblock campaign was born: transit traffic should be kept out of the neighbourhoods, which in turn should improve the quality of life of residents. The Changing Cities association pursues a similar idea with the school zone campaign. Simple measures should be taken to ensure that children are safe on their way to school. “There are schools that have fought for a crosswalk for seven years and are still waiting,” says Sørensen.

Large demonstration against the stop of cycle path expansion, July 2nd, 2023

A Shared Vision & Philosophy

The twelve-member team feels right at home in the new offices south of Tempelhofer Feld. The association identifies with the campus’ motto, “Soil, Soul, and Society,” because it reflects its ambition to redefine public space. Especially in terms of social issues, Sørensen sees an overlap with Changing Cities’ attempts to change the way we live together.

As Changing Cities is a relatively new resident, there haven’t been that many points of contact with the Atelier Gardens community yet, but the association has high hopes for the green spaces outside the offices, particularly in the summer. “We want to hold meetings with volunteers here, and possibly host conferences in the future,” says Sørensen. The in-house cinema also offers interesting possibilities.

*Talks Helena Norberg-Hodge

Around fifty years ago, Helena Norberg-Hodge travelled to a small part of Tibet called Ladakh as part of a documentary film crew. At the time, the region was barely touched by the global economy and led the Swedish activist to a realisation that would shape her life. In the second talk in the series of events at Atelier Gardens, she will explain exactly what this realisation was and what consequences Norbert-Hodge drew from it.

Smaller, slower, local

Around 60 people have gathered in TON 1. The atmosphere on this evening is cosy, almost intimate – in keeping with Norberg-Hodge’s motto of localisation. The founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture sits on a small stage with our Vision and Community Director Benjamin Rodriguez Kafka and explains: “When I arrived in Ladakh, I had the idea that we had to become smaller, slower and more local – that was the greatest moment of my life.”

Norberg-Hodge had already seen quite a bit of the world by then, having received her education in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England and the USA. She also speaks six languages fluently. And yet she discovers something completely new in Ladakh: “All the differences that I had recognised between cultures that I had known up to that point seemed null and void when I came into contact with this ancient and indigenous culture”. What is significant for her is that in the Ladakhi way of thinking there is an understanding that people are only part of the overall system of nature and must constantly adapt to it.

Localisation for health

“The Ladakhis were the happiest people ever,” says Norberg-Hodge. She talks about how she comes back to Sweden after travelling there, a country that everyone considers to be so successful. And yet, unlike in Ladakh, she sees alcoholism, depression and high suicide rates there. According to Norberg-Hodge, globalisation is to blame for this and so she develops a new concept: the economy of happiness. It is important to return to the local, to restore the connection to the community and to nature.

The absurdity that is sometimes associated with globalisation is illustrated by excerpts from Norberg-Hodge’s documentary “Planet Local”. Scottish prawns, for example, are shipped to Thailand for peeling after being caught, only to be sent back to Scotland. German foreign trade in milk can also only be described as bizarre: in 2020, Germany was not only the second largest importer of milk, but also an exporter. The Swede comments: “Our arms have become so long that we can no longer see what our hands are doing”. According to her, there is no way around global localisation.

More connection to people and nature

In this sense, Norberg-Hodge’s lecture is a continuation of Satish Kumar’s Soil, Soul and Society concept, which also drives our campus. The Indian activist kicked off the event series a few weeks ago with fascinating stories from his life of activism. You can read more about Kumar’s lecture, our campus and our upcoming events on our website.


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