Faux Airbnb bedrooms illegally hidden in Berlin’s underground subways

By Kitty Knowles 21 March 2016
Illegal Airbnb style art found in Berlin's underground system.

An artist's statement about society? Or a trendy city loft alternative?

What would do you expect when you arrive at your Airbnb? Cheap checked wallpaper? Blooming Yukka? Matisse art and Virgin Mary on the wall? Quite possibly.

At first glance, with its single bed and small leather armchair, photos leaked to the German press, might appear to depict your typical Berlin apartment.

But – as hinted at by the grime and graffiti – lodgers won’t be receiving a warm welcome from the host any time soon.

That’s because this illegally constructed bedroom is hidden deep underground in one of Berlin’s U-bahn subways, and no one is quite sure what to make of the strange scenes.

Airbnb “retro-chic”

The first bedroom to be found (above) was discovered in a disused tunnel in Berlin’s Reinickendorf district. While understandably perplexed, U-bahn staff dismissed the piece as a disused film set, and cleared it away.

Last month however, photographs of the bedroom were emailed to the biggest Berlin newspapers by an anonymous rail worker (the city’s transport company BVG deny any involvement).

A cheeky tongue-in-cheek advert was later posted on Airbnb (it’s since been removed). This read: “Central location, close to the U9 line.”

“Loft character, retro-chic. The apartment was completely modernised in 2016 and is relatively quiet (as long as you wear earplugs). Perfect for commuters and rough sleepers.”

A second even more ornate tableau was found earlier this month at Yorckstrasse station featuring a front garden, a cheery gnome, flower bed and cat, and we wouldn’t be surprised if further pieces pop-up around Berlin in the coming months.

What’s the point?

There’s obviously been a fair amount of speculation about who the rogue bedroom builder could be – and what their domestic scenes could all mean.

People on German social media have suggested that the bed could have been put together by impoverished students hoping to save on rent, with the majority believing the room to be a part of an artist’s stunt.

Some have pointed to on-set clues – a Star Wars novel and some African string instruments – to suggest the scenes are a comment on the current refugee crisis; others point to the Airbnb ad to view the room as a critique of Berlin’s gentrification.

Not everyone’s impressed

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the BVG, is less than pleased.

“It’s dangerous to cross [lines],” the BVG first told Berliner Zeitung. “The power was turned on all around it… It is clear trespassing and if we know who is behind it, we will report it.”

However time has softened the transport body’s artistic sentiment, and in a later statement the BVG seemed somewhat impressed.

“We cannot condone these works,” said Petra Reetz. “But the attention to detail that’s gone into these rooms, it’s quite original – I have to admit that.”