Why maps? Because maps are a visual tool for sharing information with others. Because they can be produced by many people and combined together to tell stories about complex relationships. Because maps are never finished and only tell part of a story that can constantly be expanded upon. Because power exists in space, struggle exists in space and we exist in space. Because we cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we are from.¹


“Arriving in Berlin” –
A guide for newcomers

What does it mean to be a newcomer in Berlin? What does it mean to be a newcomer and a refugee in Berlin? These questions are the starting point for the collective mapping project “Arriving in Berlin” – researched and developed by Hamidullah Ehrari, Mohammad Yari, Farhad Ramazanali, Alhadi Aldebs, residents of Haus Leo in 2015/16, in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

The map is especially meant to support refugees in answering question like: Where in Berlin do I find free counseling services for refugees? Where can I attend free German classes? Where can I find a doctor who speaks Farsi? Where do I find a library to read, study or have access to the Internet?

It has been developed collectively over the course of several months, during workshops, conversations and reflections, translated into English, Arabic and Farsi, and published online, using an open source mapping tool. The “content” of the maps is based on both the personal experience of the working group as well as pro-active research.

Arriving in Berlin App

In order to increase the usability of “Arriving in Berlin” an app was created in 2016/17: The Arriving in Berlin App. Developed by Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Refugees on Rails, kindly supported by the Friends of Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

Why collective mapping?

Collective maps are inclusive and enhance discussion and exchange. They are tools to empower individuals to share their own experiences. Everyone is an expert in an open mapping project, everyone is the “expert” of his or her experiences and impressions.

Collective maps give way to these perspectives – the perspective of the newcomer, the citizen, the refugee, the pedestrian, the one who experiences the city, its people, the traffic jams, its authorities and waiting lines. Such a map is not based on the work of professional cartographers but on daily practice and a perspective from “down below” rather than “above”.

Critical, collective and open mapping projects enable us to rewrite the city from a spatial point of view. Maps can be filled with any visual representations, commentaries, experiences, personal stories and hidden trajectories. Critical maps can become a political tool to open our perspective to the subjective character of maps and to deconstruct traditional norms and rules of a society.

Collective maps are never finished

Within the project “Arriving in Berlin” these personal stories and experiences, from a refugee´s point of view, touched upon the most basic needs: residence, accommodation, health and education. Nonetheless, free-time activities, shopping and sports possibilities are equally important. Also the decision to publish the results on a digital map mirrors today´s realities – a reality, where people use smartphones to connect with friends and family members and to inform themselves.


“Arriving in Berlin” invites others to participate. Is there more information that should be on the map? Please contact us by sending an E-mail or by using our contact form.


¹ Notes for a People’s Atlas, p. 7.