A different sorting every month to keep up with current focus themes. In conversation with founder Katja Reichard
Pro qm, which translates to ‘per square meter’, is a bookstore situated in central Berlin, founded in 1999 by Katja Reichard and her friends Axel J. Wieder and Jesko Fezer. It is a specialized art and design bookstore, as well as a venue for interdisciplinary debates about the city, architecture, artistic practice and theory. The store evolved from their own theoretical debates and discussions on urban politics and alternative spaces for cultural production, turning into a bookstore to engage in these issues with a wider public. As Katja explains, they «decided to settle in Berlin’s centre in order to be near to all the urban processes that they wanted to examine and discuss».
Pro qm consists of a team of seven people who work in different fields of academic research and artistic production. The thematic focus of Pro qm, as described by Katja, «is the city and its relation to questions of design, politics, pop culture, economy, art, sound, and the field of theory».
The building where the shop is situated is just around the Volksbüne Theatre and dates back to the late 1920s. It was designed by the architectural practice of modernist architect Hans Poelzig. The interiors of the bookstore were redesigned by Berlin-based architect Jesko Fezer – customers often compliment them about the luminosity of their space. The thematic sorting of their shelves and tables changes responding to the discourses and interests as they develop over time.
Katja further states that «we dedicate a space to current local processes, such as housing struggles and the urban and architectural developments in response to migration, for example. Then, around it, we conceive thematic clusters centered on newly emerging issues – these would be, as of recent, posthumanism/anthropocene, digital ecologies, ethical curation, or emergencies (where we tackle the far-right and drone development). In the field of architecture, modular housing and energy-efficient construction (i.e. rammed earth) are getting ever more attention. In design, it is social and political thinking».
Pro qm’s unique feature is their specialized section of publications, half of which are imported from abroad. They deal with many publishers in person, and have a trusted network of independent publishers whom they work with and support. Publishers that they stock range from Merve, Verso, Sternberg, Diaphanes and Spector, to niche publishers such as Occasional Papers, Errant Bodies Press, K.Verlag, Bom Dia Boa Tarde Boa Noite Books. Katja specifies that since Pro qm’s conception, they have been «interested in questions raised by trans-disciplinary publications with a strong thematic focus (for instance “participation”), and how people can develop them further».
Katja describes her customers as «aficionados and experts from Berlin and abroad – architects, artists, ethnographers, designers, social scientists». As a result, Pro qm has to cater to a wide range of interests and needs, not only in the form of literature but in the form of engagement and dialogue.
The store therefore hosts book presentations in different formats, with a focus on new publications, and also fulfills many requests for exhibitions and performances. The founders only accept candidates that fit their profile; over time, they have hosted art exhibitions by Yael Bartana, Olaf Nicolai, AA Bronson, Jutta Koether, and debates with gentrification specialist Andrej Holm, architect and curator Philipp Oswalt, poet Monika Rinck, filmmakers Heinz Emigholz and Bruce LaBruce, among others.
«Exchange, speculation and even ethical clashing are progress’ agents of proliferation. No advancement or discovery can be achieved without movement, be it in the form of a conversation, a lecture, an explanation or an anecdote – ideological contamination is what keeps culture from stalling».