Simon Stellwag, Interaction & Service Designer, Neukölln

December 5, 2019

This week, we meet Simon, a Russian expat interaction designer. Simon came to Berlin chasing love and stayed because he fell in love with the city itself. Now, he relishes the time he spends in his garden growing food to cook for his friends, organizing community gatherings, and reveling in the fact that his journey from Russia brought him here.

Where are you from?
I was born in Perm, Russia, an old industrial town located in the European part of Russia near the Ural Mountains. Now, Perm is known for its growing cultural scene that evolved out of the community’s new visions for the future. 

What is your strongest memory of your hometown?
I have many memories of Perm, but the strongest might be eating homemade pickled cucumbers in my grandmother’s kitchen. As a child, I would spend my days playing in the courtyard with my friends or jumping on garage roofs. My world back then was small and didn’t extend beyond the boundaries of my neighborhood, but that is typical for most children. As a result, I don’t think I actually know Perm very well, but I have very fond memories of it. Maybe it is time to go back and live there for a few months so I can reconnect and experience it from a new perspective. 

What did you do in your hometown?
I didn’t have a proper job at that time because I was a child and only lived there until age seven, but in the winter, I loved to take care of our courtyard and clear ice from the stairs. My biggest dream at that time was to become a groundskeeper.

When did you come to Germany?
In 1995, when I was seven years old, my family (my mother, father, and I) moved to Germany. As you can imagine, I was too young to have any idea what was going on at the time, but that was the beginning of my German journey. We moved to Bad Griesbach, a small city in the countryside of Passau, which is in the Bavarian state. Luckily, there were numerous other migrant families from the east. Because children do not really care about nationality or any other stereotypes, it was easy for me to connect and make friends. The fact that I played soccer also made my transition relatively smooth. From day one, I became part of the soccer team, which included many of my classmates from the new school. I am very thankful for that team. But after finishing school and vocational training in Linz, Austria, I knew that it was time to move on.

When did you arrive in Berlin and what brought you here?
In 2011, I moved to Berlin with my former partner, and I would have followed her anywhere at that time. It was a very spontaneous decision without a proper plan, but I knew that I needed to move somewhere, and Berlin sounded like the most exciting alternative at that time. 
It sounds cheesy, but love brought me to Berlin, so I feel fortunate that this was the destination. Honesty, after having lived here for several years, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

What do you do?
Together with my lovely and very close friends from Guadalajara, Mexico, we opened our own design studio this summer. It is a collaborative studio that mainly operates between Germany, Mexico and Russia. Our base is in Berlin and in Guadalajara. I feel very grateful that these guys opened the doors for me and I became part of them. Everybody brings a special discipline to the studio and that makes a very interesting mix. It’s a huge step for me towards my dream to live and work location independent. 

I also love traveling and cooking for friends. Last summer, I rented a garden space in Rudow where I grew my own vegetables. To go through the whole process from planting a seed to harvesting fully grown vegetables to share with my friends makes me incredibly happy.

What do you love (or hate) about Berlin?
It’s very hard to put this in words. I would say “Alles kann, nichts muss!“ or ”Everything is possible, nothing is necessary.“

What is your contribution to make Berlin a little bit more beautiful?
It’s hard for me to pause and reflect on how exactly I interact with the city. Everything is in constant motion, and it is difficult to take the time to stop and reflect. But I am working on making it part of my routine.

Somehow, I have found myself organizing small events with my roomie like our beloved SPÄTIRAVE – a techno party inside a open late store – or other similar gatherings in the last couple of years. I love bringing people together to create an atmosphere where everybody has a good time.

What is your favorite place in Berlin?
That’s a hard question to answer. I love strolling around Neukölln and Kreuzberg observing people and enjoying the general atmosphere of freedom. It gives a great deal of satisfaction. In summer, my favorite place is definitely Admiralsbrücke. I love how everything is flowing here, and things come and go quickly. It makes me realize how important it is to be able to enjoy these special moments and feel that energy when I interact with people. It also gives me the feeling of continuity, because it has this unique energy that stays constant and doesn’t disappear over time.

Visit the website of to find out more about Simon’s work and/or to get in touch with him.

Photography by Beatrice Grundheber

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply