Ryotaro Bordini Chikushi is one of the co-founders of NION. This is his personal story about the project.
Life is to be found in the action and not in the confrontation with a finished state or product. Berlin, like no other city in the world, stands for this philosophy. I even learned that there is this saying that people whisper to each other, when for the first time they grasp that vibe that underscores everything in this restless place: “Berlin will never be completed, it will always be in a state of becoming.”
The city must have radiated something like this when I decided to move here in 2009. It was at the dawn of the start-up scene and I readily dove into it.
While I was busy creating a business for the electronic music scene, I investigated how things moved in this open- minded habitat and learned by doing. I realized that freedom of action in Berlin was greatly supported by its infrastructure, which puts responsibility and freedom in balance. It was around this time, that the state’s financial ministry realized that the city’s club scene attracted just as many visitors as its world- renowned philharmonic orchestra, and made a wise decision: to support it adequately by applying the same low tax status. The ministry didn’t differentiate between electronic music and high-classical music cultures: People traveled to Berlin from far away just to experience the diverse music scenes.
Organically grown urban projects
Simultaneously, I witnessed how places like Markthalle Neun and the Holzmarkt Project were being developed. These urban projects were not planned and constructed on a grid, but grew organically with and through the people involved. They have become ecosystems within the city and meanwhile have been copied all over the world. As a result, city life in many places has become richer, more authentic and humane.
Through my involvement in these projects, in cooperation with the German Embassy in Japan and the Senate of Berlin, we organized an exhibition to promote Berlin’s creative industries in Tokyo. Would it be possible to export the vibe? What were its origins? We staged the event at the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. It was a phenomenal success. Even today, creatives from both places exchange their music, design, and art and collaborate on various projects. It was like a booster detonation – that’s at least how I like to think of it.
From these experiences, I am convinced that creativity will grow exuberantly from the exchange of ideas between people of different backgrounds and disciplines. Meanwhile, the municipal utility companies of Berlin, the backbone of life in the city (consisting of garbage collectors, water suppliers, energy providers, public transportation & mobility and infrastructure supporters) put me in charge of stimulating their conversations.
Allowing ideas to develop
Together we created the groundbreaking “InfraLab”: a round-table, where all the above- mentioned utility companies meet on a regular basis. Here we address complex questions and discuss implementable solutions – we listen, practice inclusivity, and allow ideas to grow.
Topics that we currently work on are e-mobility solutions and building a sensor network that runs through the city. We break big ideas down into manageable units and see how the utility partners can put their knowledge into practice. The lab works incredibly well: we are in dialogue with China, India and Japan to set up new greenboxes there.
To me, it is the culmination of my combined experiences: a chance to create a vibrant new space within the city, reaching out and enriching lives globally. My DNA might have something do to with it: being half Japanese / half Italian from Germany, I see my background as an asset, with which to build bridges that connect the best of all worlds. I see NION as a smart space with its own culture and technology that will shine beyond its geographical limits.
As I love to apply a playfulness even when approaching serious matters, I want it to become a place to experiment and implement, where small details and big questions are looked at with the same weight. Most importantly, I want NION to grow organically: please share your ideas, so we can create a space where many cultures enhance each other. Yours, mine, theirs, ours. Let’s build bridges!