The former location of Underground, © Tourismus NRW e.V.


Bloom­ing waste­land

Ehren­feld was a prob­lem area un­til well in­to the 80s. Since the 1970s, cor­por­ate clos­ures, high un­em­ploy­ment and run-down streets have shaped the formerly thriv­ing work­ing-class dis­trict: just the right ter­rain for sub­cul­ture wild minds and loud mu­sic, as low rents and va­cant in­dus­tri­al build­ings at­trac­ted cul­tur­al work­ers and stu­dents. Opened in 1988 the club Un­der­ground was the go-to place for punks and rock­er, which made the club well know far bey­ond Co­logne. Like no oth­er ven­ue in the city, the Un­der­ground there­fore stands for the so­ciocul­tur­al im­port­ance of cul­tur­al in­sti­tu­tions for a dis­trict.

On the fact­ory site of the former He­lios AG, the Un­der­ground con­sisted of two club stages, a car re­pair shop and a large beer garden. A pop­u­lar pub with de­moli­tion charm was to be found here as well as a laun­dry. Later there was also a tat­too par­lor and din­ing op­tions. The Un­der­ground be­came a liv­ing room for punk, met­al and hard rock fans. The small club gained in­ter­na­tion­al renown through a vari­ety of WDR Rock­palast shows.

Sev­er­al oth­er cul­tur­al sites flour­ished close by. Ateliers, theat­ers such as the Artheat­er and pro­gram cinemas such as the Cin­en­ova opened, clubs such as the Loft, the Live Mu­sic Hall and the Son­ic Ball­room were foun­ded. They all helped to re­vital­ize the dis­trict cul­tur­ally. More than 10,000 events took place in the Un­der­ground un­til its clos­ure. Also, be­cause of the spe­cial at­mo­sphere, that helped artists and fans to linger, the Un­der­ground al­lowed a close, cre­at­ive ex­change between mu­sic lov­ers and artists. In 2017 the club was closed. On the He­lios site, the con­struc­tion of a school is planned. Ul­ti­mately, a circle closes, be­cause the formerly poor part of the city has be­come a boom­ing, mod­ern dis­trict, thanks in par­tic­u­lar to the flour­ish­ing, in­de­pend­ent cul­ture. In this new, gentri­fied dis­trict, how­ever, the po­ten­tial build­ing land has be­come pre­cious, while the avail­able spaces for sub­cul­ture are be­com­ing scarcer. In the course of this urb­an trans­form­a­tion, Co­logne lost one of its form­at­ive sub­cul­tur­al places with the Un­der­ground.

Fur­ther in­form­a­tion:
Vo­gels­anger Str. 200, 50825 Co­logne


The Underground before it was torn down, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
Todays building site at former Underground, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

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