Let it Baern! The Reclamation of Urban Public Space
In honor of the World Climbing Championships in Bern, a new film pays homage to a hidden piece of sports history – urban bouldering. This artistic manifestation of city culture takes center stage amid an ongoing discourse that transcends the realm of sports: the ownership and utilization of public spaces
In early August 2023, Bern Switzerland will host the Climbing World Championships, featuring competitions in sport climbing, bouldering, and paraclimbing. Ever since its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the sport has gained global recognition and the athletic community cheers for its participants.
However, tightly regulated competitive climbing merely scratches the surface. For the vast majority of enthusiasts, climbing is an active way of life that rejects strict rules and hierarchies. It serves as an outlet for creativity, freedom, and joy in movement, fostering strong connections with like-minded people, nature, and the environment. A glimpse into the past reveals that Bern was one of the original hubs for an underground variant of this versatile lifestyle: urban bouldering.
In arch-conservative Switzerland of the 1990s, two young climbers from Bern claimed what shouldn’t have been contested: public space. This action did not sit well with Bern's city government. Dr. Bomb and Dr. Bäri sparked a revolution, reshaping urban structures by introducing innovative climbing routes then featured in their own creation: Bärn* Boulder Guidebook.
Their creative rebellious manifesto demanded the right to fun and unrestrained expression, presenting a peaceful rebellion against rigid systems. It encouraged imaginative boundary testing and a challenge to the status quo. This call resonated with a growing community of urban bouldering enthusiasts worldwide. The limited edition Bärn Boulder Guidebook, on the brink of prohibition, evolved into a legendary myth that continues to inspire generations of urban climbers. Even renowned climbers like Adam Ondra (CZ) and Hannah Meul (D) were drawn to Bern's underground spots just before the World Championships.
The short film “Let it Baern” pays homage to this obscured piece of sports history. It unveils some of Bern's legendary boulder locations and features interviews with elusive authors of the Bärn Boulder Guidebook, known by their aliases Dr. Bomb and Dr. Bäri. The enduring debate over the creative and unconventional utilization of public space is exemplified by the protagonists Hannah Morris (UK) and Emil Abrahamsson (SWE). The film is directed by Hannes Tell, a German filmmaker and climber.
*Within Switzerland, the city of Bern is called Bärn (or Baern).
The "Let it Baern!" short film will be available shortly, a trailer is already available for download below, as well as images. We are happy to arrange interviews with Hannah Morris or Emil Abrahamsson.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.