Did Berlin really just say no to one of the most powerful technology firms in the world? Last week, Google announced that it would not be opening a 32,000-square-foot campus in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, backing down from the plan after widespread local protests and even a lukewarm attitude from officialdom. In an era where American cities have been contorting themselves to host Amazon’s HQ2, the resistance to Google’s overture might seem incredible, especially as Berlin’s economy is not one of strongest among Germany’s major cities.
Zoom in a little closer, however, and a more complex picture emerges. The fight over Google’s Berlin campus was not about rejecting a tech leviathan as such. It was about preserving the integrity of a specific neighborhood—one in which Google would have struggled to fit.