Ehrenfeld is not the sort of place you would visit by chance. It is not near the central railway station, nor is it en route to the Fair & Exhibition Centre in Deutz. If you are going to Ehrenfeld, you must have meant to go there. There is plenty still going on in Ehrenfeld; graffiti and poster-covered surfaces bear extensive witness to the existence of an untrammelled and creative scene. An atmosphere of rear courtyards to old buildings, industrial districts, waste land, and out-of-the-way corners. If you're coming here, you had better be prepared, unless you're walking.
The Wohn-Bar has cleared out its machine shops, cleaned them up, and decked them out with old cult-type furniture, giving the place the atmosphere of a living room. The lights are burning, you can sit on the chairs, and the old heating pipes serve as mountings for furniture. You might think you were sitting in the little bar round the corner. There is a reason why "No smoking please" signs are stuck on the walls in every room. Outside stands the Helios Tower, Ehrenfeld's 44 metre high landmark, busy transmitting small twinkling signals into the night.
In the back courtyard of Meiré und Meiré stands a black box. Here Dornbracht is showing the latest contribution by Mike Meiré, the exhibition "Global Street Food." Between mobile snack trailers, collected from all over the world, there are authentic-looking canapés in bamboo bowls and on pinewood. The improvised kitchen installations, to be found between Timbuktu and Honolulu in streets, on the corners of blocks, and sometimes even on the water, are placed in front of the neutral walls of the White Cube.
While here it is cool, and lively, and all trashy chic, three buildings down the road the atmosphere is sterile and dry. In the "Vulkan", a refurbished complex of brick buildings, the students of the Weimar Bauhaus University are showing their works, plainly and without pretension. Rubber plants and upright tables make it difficult to "reach" the visitors here.
You can find some pearls, not just in Ehrenfeld, but at the Cologne Arts Club and in the former Railway Board building. "The Dutch corner" is showing young, amusing design: shelves for folders, shelves which look like sushi, are flexible, and are actually made of straw. Here too a folding cardboard trunk finally bundles up all the many notelets and brochures which have collected over the day. At the Designers' Fair in the former Railway Board premises, Formfjord, the design practice, is showing its colourful "Piggy" stool, and Linda Altmann from Stadtnomaden is offering an answer to the problem of untidy bedrooms: the "Valet."
In nine hours - not counting travelling time and attacks of exhaustion - you cannot do justice to a colourful programme of art and design. Nevertheless, this is the place to catch on to some invigorating ideas.