Vacant Central Europe Mapping and recycling empty urban properties
edited by Levente Polyák
KÉK – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre
Vacant Central Europe A project by the KÉK – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre in cooperation with Bec Zmiana *Warsaw Napraw Sobie Miasto *Katowice Praguewatch *Prague 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media * Brno Archimera *Bratislava Pblog *Povazska Bystrica
Vacancy and the city: introduction
The imaginary of vacancy
Vacant Central Europe: an experiment
Vacancy and the city: introduction Levente Polyák In most European and North American cities, as well as in the overcrowded metropolises of the developing world, the most unevenly distributed and scarcely available resource is space. For a long time, the real estate sector counted among the leading industries in many Western cities, accounting for a significant proportion of their economic growth. As a result of the economic growth of North American and European economies in the first half of the 2000s and the corresponding explosion of real-‐estate prices, renting living and working spaces has accounted for an increasing proportion of individual and family incomes, gradually turning urban living into an everyday struggle for private space. However, in the past years, as a consequence of the real estate bubble’s explosion and the resulting financial meltdown, a significant surplus in available square meters emerged even in the most dynamic city economies. A few years after the outbreak of the economic crisis, only in the Netherlands, known for the extreme density of its settlements and the lack of space, there is over 6 million m2 of office space, that is, the 16% of the country’s total office capacity, laying abandoned. This proportion is even higher in Amsterdam where it reaches 18%, the equivalent of 1.3 million m2. According to a study by the Delft University, for an approximate 400-‐800.000 of this stock it is virtually impossible to find a tenant, because of their obsolete spatial organization or disadvantageous location. In the meanwhile, the fate of office buildings has reached many other building types, namely school buildings, factories, workshop buildings, commercial spaces and residential buildings all across the country. This phenomenon is by no means specific to the Netherlands. If the urban landscape of Amsterdam and Rotterdam is dominated by unrentable office towers, Leipzig’s empty residential buildings, Rome’s disaffected movie theaters, or Spain’s deserted hotels join the list of vacant properties in Europe. Not to mention the countless halted construction sites across Southern Europe: as an interviewee of the documentary film ‘Unfinished Italy’ remarks, “the most important 1 architectural style of post-‐war Italy is the Unfinished Sicilian.” The long-‐time underused properties are revelatory about the economic crises, but not only about that: they tell about the rigid management concepts of the pre-‐crisis era, unable to keep up with the changing economic and social circumstances.
Unfinished Italy (2011). Directed by Benoît Felici
Vacant real estate is an important element of all property systems; otherwise it would be impossible to find flats, shops, offices to rent. However, above a certain rate, vacancy is harmful to everyone. Owners pay charges after their unrented shops, apartments, offices as well, unused properties are deteriorating, losing their value throughout the process. The commercial activity of a neighborhood is gradually degraded with the presence of vacant properties that don’t generate any traffic and deprive neighboring shops from entire groups of potential customers. Boarded-‐up houses and shops with lowered shutters worsen the public safety of an area, where nobody sees what happens on the street. As a consequence of the crisis, many formerly prosperous cities of Europe and North America found themselves in the same position as East German towns after the fall of the Berlin Wall or cities of the American “rust belt”, when they lost their industries and a large proportion of their inhabitants. In this sense, Detroit and Leipzig, with a radical decline in their population, were precursors of other cities in recognizing and trying to manage their empty properties. Seen from a contemporary perspective, the “Shrinking Cities” project initiated in 2002 by the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, the Bauhaus Stiftung in Dessau and the Archplus journal is nothing less than a preliminary study to get ready for a broader crisis, an experiment to elaborate methods and instruments to treat the problem of vacant properties and urban areas spreading out all over Europe and North America, a proposal to introduce a new urban planning vocabulary, the preparation of the terrain for easing the economic crisis by the means of urbanism. Urban actors across Europe respond to the problem of empty properties in various ways: the lack of financial resources leads governments and municipalities to re-‐interpret their existing infrastructure and to re-‐activate it by involving new functions and new actors. Some states introduce extra tax for properties vacant for more than 6 months (Great-‐Britain), others establish legal means to requisition long-‐time vacant residential buildings owned by legal persons or institutions and to convert them into social housing (France). Yet other states offer tax breaks for owners who allow social or cultural activities in their empty properties (Czech Republic, Poland). Some municipalities (like Amsterdam or Vienna) have established or plan to establish their own agency enabling and managing the temporary use of vacant properties by linking the owners of empty buildings and spaces with potential users. In other cities, this role is taken on by civil initiatives, like Berlin’s Zwischennutzungagentur. The concept of temporary use also engages an important number of municipal and private economic development agencies as well as cultural organizations, providing local cultural and creative industries with infrastructure and resources. In the meanwhile, architects (and landscape architects, designers) also play a key role in the development of models for interim use and in the establishment of 5
temporary spatial possibilities, turning many architecture offices into quasi real estate agencies promoting conversion and temporary use. Evidently, systematic responses to vacancy begin with enumeration. Besides the reluctance of real estate developers and municipalities alike to disclose their vacancy data (fearing that this information may damage their reputations and commercial perspectives), many authorities simply do not dispose of relevant records and thus have no means to inventory their vacant spaces. This insufficiency or inaccessibility of government, municipal and corporate databases makes it difficult to estimate the real proportions of vacant real estate and the potential of their conversion and reuse, delaying the elaboration of related development and management plans as well as policy proposals. The insufficiency of municipal and state real estate inventories also raises the question of transparency: how to create a database in which both centralized administrative knowledge and disperse citizen knowledge are represented? In many cases, the response to this question is offered by community mapping initiatives, that is, the crowdsourcing of real estate data. Organizations in cities with as diverse development contexts as New York, Paris, Hamburg or Vienna initiated the collective mapping of vacant properties. In New York, Brian Lehrer, a radio host at WNYC invited listeners to contribute to his “Halted Development” crowdmap. The community map, indicating unfinished construction sites, gave a significant help with its revelatory power and arguments to the policy initiative as a 2 result of which unfinished luxury condos were converted into social housing. The New York-‐based homeless-‐rights organization “Picture the Homeless” used a 3 similar strategy when its members created a map of empty properties in the city. In Paris, the housing-‐rights organization Jeudi noir launched an inventory of long-‐ 4 5 time empty buildings; and this task is taken up by (im)possible living in Italy, 6 Leerstandsmelder in the German-‐speaking countries, and by Lakatlan in 7 8 Budapest and Central Europe. Community mapping projects, by developing new mapping techniques and by learning new methods, tools and technologies from each other, may contribute to a greater visibility of the vacancy problem: therefore a participatory mapping campaign can help shaping the policy concerning vacant units of real estate as well as put pressure on municipalities to formulate new policies in this issue.
http://goo.gl/maps/wy8xw https://vacantnyc.crowdmap.com/ http://www.jeudi-‐noir.org/2012/10/29/vous-‐connaissez-‐des-‐batiments-‐vides-‐envoyez-‐nous-‐ladresse/ 5 http://www.impossibleliving.com/explore/ 6 http://www.leerstandsmelder.de/ 7 http://lakatlan.crowdmap.com/ 8 http://kek.org.hu/lakatlan/vce/ 3
This situation opens new channels for community engagement: the task of mapping empty buildings and lots is, in many cities, taken up by civil initiatives. Community mapping projects, by developing new mapping techniques and by learning new methods, tools and technologies from each other, may contribute to a greater visibility of the vacancy problem: therefore a participatory mapping campaign can help shaping the policy concerning vacant units of real estate as well as put pressure on municipalities to formulate new policies in this issue. In the meanwhile, the task of mapping vacant properties requires cooperation between institutional and non-‐institutional sources of information. Municipalities dispose of the cadastral map, the registration number of each property, their geographical location and size. To complement the official information, participating citizens have their everyday observations and memories that they can transform into timelines telling about the duration of vacancy of each property, the previous occupations, their success or failure: this may give a more complex picture of the issue of vacancy, of small commerce as well as of housing shortage or the process of post-‐industrialization. In the crowdmap’s website, therefore, citizens can upload their observations, in a way that they constitute a database comparable to the municipal set. We created an easy-‐to-‐use interface and provided a wide access to the website; the accuracy of the observations is double-‐checked with the help of various verification methods. Mapping is, however, only the first step in strategies to reuse vacant properties. The responses given to the problem of empty properties appear at various levels of urban planning. The inflexible planning system characteristic of the modernist era has been gradually replaced by “soft urbanism”, allowing for experimentation and for trying possible functions at test-‐sites, before fixing them by large investments. This open-‐ended planning system also gives more emphasis to the temporal dimension of developments, enabling temporary uses and successive phases in the development process. To consider the “in-‐between time” opening between the moment a property goes vacant and its new use as an opportunity, design professions were also helped by new considerations of the limits of the shrinking market and the discovery of areas ignored by official planning mechanisms. This approach gives preference to small-‐scale, often temporary, community-‐oriented interventions over extensive construction projects, responding to the needs of local communities instead of to the requirements of speculation-‐driven investments. Each empty building needs a different intervention and program in order to achieve its resurgence, and this task requires a new strategy from the architectural profession, as well. When the Dutch landscape architecture firm Rietveld Landscape presented in the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennial the exhibition “Vacant NL” in which the agency inventoried about five thousand empty public 7
buildings across the Netherlands, they took position in support of a new architectural paradigm. Instead of serving large-‐scale demolitions and investments targeting fictional users, the new paradigm gives preference to the reuse of existing buildings and infrastructural elements with helping them gradually adapt new functions. According to the new model of architectural interventions, experiments lead to the testing of new functions, where successful uses are fixed in the program and failed ones get ejected from it. The Vacant NL exhibition and its catalogue, the “Dutch Atlas of Vacancy” exploded in the national architectural discourse like a bomb, and offered a strong new orientation to the country’s architecture policies: instead of new developments, architects should focus on abandoned buildings. The 2012 International Architecture Biennial of Rotterdam followed a similar path: as a central part of the Biennial, the office Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS) tested their economic and urban development concepts in and around a vacant downtown office building baptized “Schieblock”, designating it as a “test site”. The goal of the temporary use of the Schieblock was to fill it with sustainable economic functions, re-‐establish its connections with the surrounding urban fabric and throughout this process, in order to turn the Rotterdam downtown into an attractive, dynamic location. The core of the of the Schieblock’s program is to pair and connect various functions in a mutually fecundating way, stimulating the exchange of competences and information, and creating links between different social groups. The members of ZUS call this development model “unsolicited architecture”, where architects act as real estate developers by initiating projects instead of waiting for commissions. Besides reusing and reconnecting empty buildings, this development model also offers an incubating process to NGOs, social and cultural activities as well as and start-‐up companies, for whom affordable workspace may give important help to establish themselves. The role of economic and civil incubator is one of the most important promises of abandoned properties, that makes vacant real estate increasingly interesting for urban strategy-‐ and policymakers. Despite the efforts of municipal and governmental actors, the incubation function is best realized by NGOs: many European cities witnessed the establishment of “in-‐between use agencies” helping the cultural and social reuse of empty properties, in order to help strengthen these spheres, as well as to support neighborhood renewal. The employment of in-‐between or temporary use as a tool for urban development is a delicate process, based on establishing communication between owners and potential users, on network building, and on the identification of resources and the collection of data. This requires a flexible legal framework, a fast decision-‐making process, local sensibility and the continuous integration of experiences in the model. This process may be significantly facilitated by the establishment of an intermediate organizations, independent 8
enough from but cooperating and exchanging information with municipalities, whose functioning is not decelerated by the system’s cumbersome bureaucracy. Organizations of this kind (like Berlin’s Coopolis or Leipzig’s Haushalten) build databases and cooperation networks, involve and connect competent actors, delegate tasks and assure the constant flow of information between offer and demand. Transforming empty properties to allow them adopt new uses offers advantages to all: owners profit with the renovation and preservation of the building, users access affordable work and living spaces, residents enjoy their revitalized neighborhoods, merchants benefit increasing traffic and sales, and the design professions gain new work opportunities and expanded professional perspectives. These assumptions correspond the long-‐term objectives of the Vacant Central Europe initiative. Accessing affordable spaces may contribute to local culture in a stimulating way, social initiatives may gain momentum and expanded visibility by moving in available locations, and initial-‐phase enterprises may gain more room to manoeuvre and experiment before engaging in investments. By developing a discourse about the problem and possibilities of vacant properties in Central Europe and by introducing to local stakeholders and decision-‐makers various practices that aim to recycle these buildings, we aim at opening the public imagination to the acceptance of innovative reuse of abandoned spaces in the region.
The imaginary of vacancy Levente Polyák The complex relationship contemporary culture has built up toward ruins and unused architectural structures has a lot to do with the search for an own past, and identity, the motif of the continuity of self. Industrial museums, local history collections, national heritage institutes and documentary enterprises all work and think according to the demands of distinct interpretation of authenticity. But while these mechanisms aim for conservation and the torsion-‐free representation of the past, even those “hard” scientific researches like industrial archaeology feed on quite irrational and emotional motivations like awe, admiration, mourning: “Trust in future was badly shaken in the wake of the changes of the seventies, causing people to turn back to the past fleeing their sense of insecurity. This turn played an important role in the development of the notion of industrial heritage. Mourning the irrevocable closure of the recent past made industrial heritage – at least the part that is still around – valuable, and it gave birth to the pressing need for their preservation (…) The reputation of the heritage of traditional industries was further augmented by the appreciation of old trade knowledge in the face of 9 alienated technologies incomprehensible for the layman.” The emotional structure evolved in the relation to industrial heritage – in many ways connected to the nostalgia for derelict, abandoned, peripheral places -‐ is defined by the feeling of evanescence, a symbolic desire for the consumption of ruins, old buildings and machines, and natural or artificial re-‐ruralization or 10 landscape-‐ization of once urban spaces. These relations are realized through necessary social and chronological transpositions, differences and distances that delegate phenomena belonging to the sphere of work or poverty to the sphere of adventure and aesthetics. This is the process in which memory-‐work solving authenticity into fiction makes industry, production and work, these extremely important utopias of modernity the subject of peculiar desire, and emotional relations. The openly institutionalizing process of rendering memories into the sphere of heritage was prepared by the exploration and rehabilitation of peripheral spaces by fine arts, film-‐industry and photography, naturally followed by the political and economic utilization and annexation of the rediscovered geography of this experience and adventure. Derelict, forsaken places as utopic or distopic bubbles not only store unique possibilities of experiencing urban spaces, but they own an
Györgyi Németh: Industrial Heritage and city-‐scape. In: Regio 2005/3 pp. 32. Bob West: The making of the English working past. In: Rober Mumley (ed.): The Museum Time-‐ Machine. London&New York, 1988. p. 39. 10
exotic potential, that can act as the engine behind tourism and real-‐estate business, and can easily hijack artistic and cultural projects with a social mission. So it seems, that not only films, art-‐projects, alternative city-‐tours, but also large-‐scale political and real-‐estate campaigns situate themselves into this aesthetics originating from post-‐industrialist society’s evolved relation to city and space, appearing as a special reincarnation of metropolis-‐myths. The process that raises industrial buildings and scattered ruins, firewalls and vacant lots, tunnels and alleys into the focus of attention is connected to a general attraction to marginal places which might be named “rust-‐aesthetics” adequately. The abandoned, the unused, the forgotten do not only appear in our thinking as places of possibilities outside the structure, but as territories of nostalgia and difference. The pragmatic approach searching for the possibilities of usage and recycling is slowly imbued by considerations of rust-‐aesthetics, and the emerging symbolic value of these spaces either enhances or decreases their practical usability. Abandoned places and ruins, just like vacant lots, alleys and tunnels unleash the threads of memory and ignite the imagination at the same time. Marjetica Potrc, when elaborating on the public spaces of contemporary cities, attributes special significance to empty spaces: "I predict another shift of feelings within contemporary cities, this time regading empty space. Empty space on earth is contracting, being lost to the fast developing metropolis, which on its own produces more empty space, embodied in urban voids. (...) Though it seems everyone considers that it's really bad to look at a deserted house from one's own dining room window, this turned out to be a pleasurable experience for tourists touring the bombed Sarajevo. They enjoyed filming and photographing the disaster, which of course was not their own.”11 The relation to abandoned places, ruins and firewalls is based on the same kind of distance: our perception distances them from their pragmatic function, elevating them to the level of aesthetic objects, we confide memories to them, and we attach fears and hopes to them. This paradox -‐ the fear and the desire felt toward the dark, unlit corners of the transparent, controlled space – is emphasized by contemporary theories of space of a psychological inspiration which rediscover one of the most important motives behind urban discourses and processes: desire. Consumer society spreading commodification to all walks of life makes fashion -‐ the desire to consume -‐ hungry for spaces as well as objects. Anthony Vidler, in his book, The Architectural Uncanny introduces this desire as the repressed subconscious of modernity: "The contemporary sensibility that
Marjetica Potrc: Public Space in Contemporary City. In: Florian Matzner (ed.): Public Art, Kunst in öffentlichen Raum. München, 2001.
sees the uncanny erupt in empty parking lots around abandoned or run-‐down shopping malls, in the screened trompe l'oeil of simulated space, in, that is, the wasted margins and surface appearances of postindustrial culture, this sensibility has its roots and draws its commonplaces from a long but essentially long modern 12 tradition." In his train of thought, Vidler manages to point out a repressed desire behind modern efforts to transform space into a rational, transparent system. This desire yearns for the inscrutable, the obscure, that defies any systematization. This is the desire that finds its objects in abandoned houses, empty factories, vacant lots and firewalls. Spaces of periphery offer the possibility of a different order. The “invasion of alien presence” in the centre of the city offers novel sights: it turns the usual and familiar into occult and imponderable. The tension in the relationship of strange places with everyday places, marginal situations with touristic clichés, or generally periphery with centre, stems from the relative indefiniteness of the formers, their symbolic difference and interpretative distance. This relation is not constant however: with the belief in the different aspects of modern society impaired, the repressed "(…) periphery escapes its geographical location and occupies the city's historic center, rural/natural surroundings, technological 13 fantasies, the social utopias of postmodernity.” Psychologizing theories of space make new statements basically about the dialectic nature of modernity mainly from the aspect of the organization of space. In the fissures of rational organization of space and society, desires of resistance and compensation rear their heads: modernity’s demand for rationality is inseparable from its own irrational negation. Thus uncanny is interpreted as the 14 repressed, “pathologic reality” of modernism. Liberation from the utopia of planning is only possible in marginal, forgotten spaces offering the possibility of spontaneity. The “architectural uncanny” as the subconscious of modernity is closely connected to the idea of ruin: Andreas Huyssen calls ruins the “secret classicism of modernity” that consciously or unconsciously prefers fragment, collage and aphorism to the totality heralded by Wincklemann, Goethe and the International 15 Style. Ruins – with the ideas of catastrophe connected to them -‐ at the same time carry the “self-‐criticism” of modernity, the awareness of its “dark side”, the system of chronological and spatial doubts – following modernity all the way -‐ that is 16 essentially the fear of nature taking over culture. Ruins remind us, that "the idea
Anthony Vidler: Posturbanism. In: The Architectural Uncanny. Cambridge-‐London, MIT Press, 1992. 177-‐186. p. 84. 13 Sara Nadel&Carles Puig: Planning on the Periphery. Barcelona, 2002. p 14 14 Anthony Vidler: Fantasy, the Uncanny and Surrealist Theories of Architecture. In. Papers of Surrrealism, 2003/1. 15 Andreas Huyssen: Nostalgia for Ruins. In: grey room 23, Spring 2006. MIT, Cambridge 16 Andreas Huyssen: ibid.
of progress is always already in the state of catastrophe" and that"only when such novel commodities, architectures and confident expressions to the idea of progress fall into ruin and decay does their initial promise reveal its hollowness and 17 its frailty." The secret desire for the ruined, the derelict, the vacant and the peripheral haunts modernism, but it can only come out to the light and become a mass-‐movement, when the basic elements of enlightenment reveal their own failure, and when convictions and desires on which modern structures are based loose their appeal. One of the sources of the present desire for abandoned buildings, crumbling firewalls and disused factories as ruins is the fear of sterility and the eternal presence of objects: "The chance for things to age and to become ruin has 18 diminished in the age of turbo capitalism." That makes the experience of time especially important in urban peripheries: "Experiences of the city are at their sharpest at the point of disappearance, already dissipated by the time a story 19 about them can be told." The experience of chronological marginality interlocks with that of geographical peripheries. Abandoned places can be interpreted as documents: the "failed experiments in the history of the city can be discovered in its neglected spaces (...) the urban wastelands generated by the economic recessions of the late 1970s and 1980s are no longer simply about emptiness, nor about their absence of history, their absence of anything going on; they are now haunted by ghosts that 20 say how it might have been, if it had kept its people, its job." Still, contemporary imagination considers these places as the spaces of remembrance as well as the spaces of experience. Stepping into the space of marginality, the urban explorer moves out not only of his own territory, but of his own time as well. This traditionally subversive urban exploration, flâneurie or dérive, frustrates any authority’s banal and structured city concept with its ironic and ambivalent idea of urbanity. Though today it is already an institutionalized genre, its engine is still mystery, secret and adventure, and works against the continuity and coherence of urban experience. Secret always carries the idea of “unspoiled”, avoiding dominant urban narratives and everyday attention: "At the end of the 20th century secret was positive and it was desired as never before. This desire for secret places relates to perennial fantasies off the map. (...) The traveller seeks the secret hidden spaces of real life, untouched by control and mediation,
Kevin Hetherington: Memories of capitalism: cities, phantasmagoria and arcades. In: Journal of urban and Regional Research 2005/1. p. 191. 18 Andreas Huyssen: ibid. p. 10. 19 Steve Pile: The problem of London or how to explore the moods of the city. In: Neil Leach (edit.): The Hieroglyphics of Space. London&New York, 2001. p. 205. 20 Steve Pile: ibid. p. 207.
21 where the authentic and marvellous still flourish." This is the real stake behind psychogeography conceptualized by situationists dreading the loss of adventure.
The conflict between controlled and chaotic space does not only emerge as a key problem in western modernity. In his book, “Praise for the shadow”, about the significance of shadow in Japanese culture, Junichiro Tanizaki devotes a long 22 chapter to the requirements of internal lighting. In the traditional Japanese room, lamps should be organized in a way, not to shed light on everything: the upper corners should be left in shadow. This is the decorative method to preserve the mysterious, the invisible and the unfathomable also inside the house: to avoid a rational, controlling light choke everything. The western equivalent of Japanese shadow is the fantasy of the haunted house that challenges the totalistic organization of space brought about by the Enlightenment. The inclusion of fissures and disorder into plans is not blasphemy; it also appears as a necessity on an urban scale: “vandalism fed in homeopathic doses”, and “fuse-‐zones” all serve 23 temporary loosening, to release the stress. Abandoned buildings, peripheral places can be found usually at locations quite instable socially as well. Artistic thinking positioning itself as critical often finds the social relevance of peripheral spaces in marginal groups, stigmatized as “the Other”. The physical and symbolic space connecting to the Other can be called “Elsewhere”, standing opposed to the familiar “Here” in the minds of majority classifying urban spaces. The relationship to “Elsewhere” is manifold: "Repugnance and fascination are the twin poles of the process in which a political imperative to reject and eliminate the debasing 'Low' conflicts powerfully and unpredictably with a desire for the Other. (...) It is for this reason that what is socially peripheral is so 24 frequently symbolically central." The admiration for the Other can also bring about the other’s localization, crystallization according to clichés, exotic distancing, consequently the preservation of their peripheral social position. This is the danger often pointed out by the critics of documentary and photography: while they record, they reproduce the positional difference of observer and observed. Urban ecologies do not only work with physical ingredients. Abandoned buildings, empty factories, forgotten underpasses, firewalls and vacant lots that seem to avoid planning and control, appear as spaces without definition, and carry
Phil Baker: Secret City. Psychogeography and the End of London. In: Joe Kerr&Andrew Gibson (edit): London from Punk to Blair. London, 2003. 30.p. 22 Junichiro Tanizaki: In Praise of Shadows. Island Books, 1977 23 Michael Zinganel: Vandalism as a Productive Force. In: Philipp Oswalt (edit.): Shrinking Cities. Ostfildern-‐Ruit, 2005. 24 Peter Stallybrass & Allon White: The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca, 1986. 5. p.
the tension of unsatisfied desires, and unrealized, though realizable plans. Spaces of urban periphery are transitional zones existing without a legitimate reason, gaps in a rationalizing city. Blocking the fulfilment of the ever-‐renewing demand for the total transparency and readability of the urban space, they leave an appropriate space for the joy of discovery. They sustain the presence of secret and the accidental in the city. While this contemporary sensitivity toward peripheries is gaining momentum, and is replacing the demand for transparency with the values of experience and interest, the domesticating nature of “rehabilitation” that destroys the mysterious, the uncanny and the crumbling counters its effects. It obliterates spontaneity sprouting in the crevices of rationality, practically realizing the modern utopia of controlling space. This danger raises the question, which is closely connected to the distress felt toward the institutionalization of art: how could the places of 26 periphery be redefined, without bereaving them of their insecurity and hope? How could spontaneity be planned?
Robert Strachan and Sara Cohen: Music Cultures. In: Philipp Oswalt (edit.): Shrinking Cities. Ostfildern-‐Ruit, 2005. 26 Stéphane Tonnelat: Interstices urbains. Les mobilités des terrain délaissés de l’aménagement. In: Chimeres 52/2004.
Vacant Central Europe: an experiment Levente Polyák & Daniela Patti Post-‐communist cities are often portrayed as spatially fragmented, and this disintegration appears also in the temporal dimension of urban memory. The ambitions manifested by the successive waves of removing memorials or renaming streets could be described as a simultaneous culture of spatial erasure and temporal oblivion. The history of post-‐socialist urban space reveals a politicized struggle of competing identities in a fragmented domain where history is a weapon and a technique of colonization more than an accumulated set of experiences and commodities. Eastern Europe is the backyard of utopias, its cities containers of social experiments and individual strategies, its architecture more a set of symbols and storytelling than masses and voids – reality is often dissolved in a mirage of projected language. Memory is forced on the region’s residents in the form of amnesia: the grand (liberal, eclectic and multicultural) foundational narratives of many Post-‐Socialist cities mark off both the interwar era and the Socialist decades as regrettable intermezzi, and locate their Golden Age in the nostalgic image of their fin-‐de-‐siècle predecessors. According to Boris Groys, the dissent of the “gray, monotonous, uninspiring look of Communism“ drives Western tourists towards “Eastern European cities that look like direct throwbacks to the nineteenth century—all things that are non-‐Communist or pre-‐Communist, that look eclectic and fit well 27 within the framework of the contemporary Western taste for heterogeneity.” This sentiment is shared by Eastern Europeans themselves: many countries are still “permeated by a fear of concrete, similar to the hatred towards the buildings that 28 resemble the past era.” Beyond concerns of aesthetics and the potential use of industrial spaces, relationship to the industrial heritage is rather ambiguous in Eastern Europe: buildings have an uncommon life in countries of the former Communist Block. With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the arrival of market capitalism, many of the social and political values commonly inscribed in buildings turned suddenly obsolete, leaving behind anachronistic architectural structures, forgotten or bulldozed by contemporary forces: derelict office buildings containing toxic construction materials, abandoned headquarters of institutions standing for
Boris Groys, Art Power, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 155. Tomasz Fudala, “Interview with Monika Sosnowska,” Domus (May 5, 2009),
dissolving forms of social organization, or factories representing outmoded concepts of production and economy. Post-‐socialist societies’ relationship with other spheres of cultural heritage than the civic monuments of the foundational periods is thus highly complicated. The expropriation of the working class culture by the communist parties of the region resulted in a strong backlash after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Industry, while playing a central role in the socialist economy, had from the second half of the 1980s gradually lost its relevance, and weighed on employment policies as well as on the urban landscape as an unsustainable structure, a ghost without any reason of existence. Working class culture, in parallel, was condemned to oblivion, and to refurbish industrial sites to metaphorically emphasize the continuity of production was for many in the early 1990s, an unappealing idea. The disappearance of industrial production and the related working class culture was interpreted in a very eloquent art piece by Andreas Fogarasi at the 2007 Venice Art Biennial. In his Golden Lion-‐winner project Kultur und Freizeit for the 2007 Hungarian pavilion, Fogarasi depicted the the Post-‐Socialist transformation of Hungarian culture and the gradual obsolescence of certain outmoded cultural institutions, such as the Houses of Culture in Hungary. Founded in the 1960s and 1970s, these cultural centers – originally built in order to educate “the people”, that is, the workers – were gradually deprived of their cultural mission as well as of their audience during the socio-‐political changes of the 1990s. The concept of revitalizing industrial zones and buildings in the Post-‐socialist Europe was thus lacking any of the socio-‐historical interests it often had in Western contexts. However, the interest in the cultural reuse of industrial buildings arrived to Eastern Europe through the example of Western conversions. In the late 1990s, many Central and Eastern European cities rediscovered their forgotten industrial areas, not only in their official regeneration schemes, but also in conjunction with the popular imagination and growing interest of the local cultural scenes. The example of Nowa Huta in Cracow or Ózd shows that bit-‐by-‐bit, municipal leaders have also recognized the development potential of industrial heritage in the new economic context. In the past decades many cities launched their own art festivals aiming at reinterpreting the industrial environment of their cities, like the Kladno’s Industrial Nistopy or Zagreb’s Urban Festival. In the meanwhile, in most urban regeneration processes in Eastern Europe, due to the specificities of both the democratic transition and the privatization process, the art-‐driven phase of gentrification has often been skipped as major players of the real estate market, knowing the fashion and trends along which Western inner cities have regained their appeal, cut short the regular cycles of urban development. It is therefore possible, that in many Eastern cities, interest in the industrial building stock arose earlier from the side of institutional investors 17
than from the side of independent, grass-‐roots cultural and social initiatives: when the non-‐profit and cultural spheres discovered the potential of industrial areas, most of them had already been sold out. It is, however, in the gaps of mainstream development, that the most interesting cultural productions of Eastern Europe found their venues. Less central and economically less interesting industrial locations accommodated spontaneous processes of re-‐appropriation, similar to those decades ago in New York’s SoHo: Metelkova in Ljubljana, for instance, was the first Post-‐socialist organization to become member of Trans Europe Halles, an international network assembling independent cultural initiatives operating in industrial complexes. Culture finds vacant spaces in a spontaneous way. The scale of vacancy in Eastern Central Europe is even more striking than in Western European cities. In the region, however, despite the acuteness of the problem of vacancy, there is very little awareness of the phenomenon. While there are successful top-‐down and bottom up initiatives for the cultural or social reuse of empty properties, systematic approaches to understand and to solve this problem are still missing, or being refused due to rigid emphasis on the rights and freedoms of private owners. * The Vacant Central Europe project aims to address the problem of vacancy by mapping empty properties, by researching planning instruments, architectural tools and by exchanging experiences and strategies of intervention that make the temporary use of empty properties and their conversion for another use possible. The project's objective is to turn the negative effects of the economic crisis and post-‐industrial economic restructuring into opportunities, by offering available space for various social and cultural initiatives, start-‐up companies and social enterprises. Accessing affordable spaces may contribute to local culture in a stimulating way, social initiatives may gain momentum and expanded visibility by moving in available locations, and initial-‐phase enterprises may gain more room to manoeuvre and experiment before engaging in investments. Besides launching a debate about the issue, the project also aspires to elaborate legal, economical and architectural frameworks for the temporary use and conversion of vacant properties, by introducing a more flexible and process-‐based planning and real estate management logic that may result in a more accessible urban building stock where social and cultural experimentation is encouraged. The project’s basis is a cooperative research: participants from Bratislava, Brno, Budapest, Katowice, Povazska Bystrica and Warsaw began investigating their cities’ publicly or privately owned real estate stock: mapping vacant properties and the current state of initiatives to reuse them gave the cooperation a 18
strong point of departure. The participating organizations shared their findings through joint events, presentations, workshops, and the new maps and websites they generated. The opening workshop of the Vacant Central Europe project took place in Katowice, on May 10-‐11, 2013. In the frame of the “Vacant Katowice” event, participants explored empty, abandoned or ruined buildings and lots in the Upper Silesian Agglomeration and the possibility of recycling them. The workshop included presentations of case studies, including the activities of BIBU group (Katowice-‐Szopienice and Ruda Slaska – Chebzie), and the transformation of Katowice’s railway stations and inner city buildings. During the workshop, participants visited vacant properties in the city centre and discussed various forms of conversion, reuse and in-‐between use. The event also gave opportunity for the project partners to elaborate ideas for the vacancy crowdmap network developed as part of the cooperation and to comment on the existing Katowice map (http://puste.naprawsobiemiasto.eu/). The second workshop of Vacant Central Europe was hosted by Brno’s 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media on May 16-‐17, 2013. The meeting concentrated on vacant territories and buildings in the Brno region and their potential reuse. During the workshop, participants visited the „Brno South Centre“ (Jižní centrum), the creative centre „Šestá větev“ in a former textile factory, and were presented the cases of Wannieck Factory (Vaňkovka), CT Park, the former City Penitentiary and the creative use of abandoned buildings and brownfields in Prague by invited lecturers. Besides the site visits and the presentations, participants discussed the elaboration of vacancy maps in the region as well as potential strategies for the in-‐ between use and conversion of vacant properties and cooperation schemes with municipalities, property owners and the civil society. The third workshop of the Vacant Central Europe project took place in Považská Bystrica. The workshop invited participants to discuss the future of abandoned industrial sites in small settlements, and gave an opportunity to further elaborate strategies to reuse or convert abandoned buildings and land in conversation with local experts, activists and politicians. The closing event of the project, the Vacant Budapest Festival was a cooperation between the KÉK -‐ Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre, Wonderland – Platform for European Architecture and the Vacant Central Europe project. The festival’s goal was to summarize current research on mapping and reusing vacant properties and to explore new methods and solutions. It included an architecture workshop, the Vacant Central Europe cooperation workshop and international exchange on in-‐between use, as well as urban walks and architectural visits. The event helped visitors contextualize the debate with the help of an information hub, pop-‐up library and exhibition. 19
Vacant Brno Sarka Slobodová & Jaroslav Sedlák Similarly to the other cities involved in the project Vacant Central Europe, Brno’s vacant and abandoned spaces and areas show both shared and specific characteristics. Being a post-‐industrial city, Brno is currently facing the remains of industrial production, which had extended here since the mid-‐19th century. With the gradual city extension, the original industrial areas have often become located near the city centre or in its broader range. The general public has no interest in such areas, so they are usually turned into subject of property speculation or target of developers’ strategies. The city as an entity possessing instruments of planning and urban development has been showing no interest in so-‐called brownfields for a long time already. Very soon it got rid of many industrial sites and all responsibility of their future ceded to developer entities. Without a clearly specified regulation of their use the city of Brno has been deprived of the possibility of decision making on strategic urban locations with significant historical and architectural value. In addition, many of the planned or already implemented development projects 20
calculate with disproportionate large administrative and shopping complexes, which cannot be regarded as urban development interventions supporting the diversity of surroundings.
Vlněna – former textile factory area
Visualization of Vlněna according to its owner’s plans 21
Undoubtedly, the most significant brownfield in Brno is the area of the so called Lower centre. This is a site adjacent to the historical centre of the city, south of the current main railway station. The railway line, which was brought to Brno in the 19th century, has been seen already for long time as a natural barrier preventing natural urban development. Ever since the twenties of the 20th century, moving of the existing main station to the south has been planned in order to extend the city centre. Implementation of this large-‐scale project has never been realized. Yet, in the city zoning plan and in the political programs it has remained until nowadays. Despite the fact that currently there are numerous alternative and cost-‐efficient solutions, many city officials haven´t resigned to the plan of the station transfer, especially due the land speculations and thanks to the visions of grandiose developer’s projects. Extensive and attractively located area thus stays abandoned and without built-‐up areas, which has a negative impact on the surrounding areas.
South centre – comparison of almost unchanged state of the area in the last 60 years However, the situation of the brownfields in Brno is not utterly ignored. In 2008, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has released National strategy for brownfields regeneration. It has aimed to map brownfields in Czech Republic and to collect documents for a possible financial support from EU for revitalization of the areas. The Czechinvest (CI) Investment and Business Development Agency (www.czechinvest.org) chartered by a state as a public-‐benefit corporation has been deputed to fulfil the goals of the strategy. It has administered, for instance, National brownfield database (www.brownfieldy.cz), which is in operation since 2005. Mapping and brownfield revitalization is also in a competence of respective 22
departments both on regional and municipal level. In Brno, it has been launched in 2006 by the Department of Planning and Development; the collected data has been updated twice. Thus, a detailed map of brownfields mapping 124 areas on 418ha of the city area has been created. Map of the developing areas / www.brno.cz
Each of the depicted areas contains detailed information on its owner, former purpose, state, technical conditions, infrastructure or ecological problems. One of the purposes of such a database has been to offer brownfields to investors and projects that would revitalize the area. The purpose is also manifested by the fact that only areas larger than 0,5ha and with at least 30% of area suitable for further investment have been included. However, the database focuses also on the areas not owned by the state or city (these forms only 12% of the whole database). Short term or one-‐off uses of such areas is not being focused on. The city does not deal with other uses of the areas but investments either. Despite the fact that there is a huge interest from independent and non-‐profit cultural scene, the city lacks a strategy to support such a phenomenon. The city only interferes in the cases of temporary usage of the locations by restrictions against the illegal use by the homeless people. Those are the only cases of squatting phenomenon in Brno, as other forms are miniscule, thus not problematic. 23
Illegally occupied unfinished varnish factory (top) and former railway station (below)
To launch a dialogue and to discuss a short-‐term and temporary use of abandoned city areas with a municipality and respective districts is thus a main goal of the 4AM participation in Vacant Central Europe. One of the first steps is an on-‐line map of the empty areas and sites called VACANT BRNO that is available at www.vacantcentraleurope.eu and is developing to the above mentioned map of Brno brownfields. Unlike the brownfields map, it includes all the empty spaces disregarding their size or an area for a possible investment. It, on the other hand, includes vacant shop windows or shops in the city centre that has been abandoned due to the huge shopping centres. The map also includes empty residential spaces in a location traditionally considered by a general public as socially excluded, as well as buildings for various kinds of technical purposes and many other sites and locations. In many cases the VACANT BRNO map obviously overlaps with brownfield map released by Brno city. In such cases, the information does not duplicate: VACANT BRNO refers to the brownfield map and the two maps are thus linked together.
www.vacantecentraleurope.eu One of the main advantages of VACANT BRNO is its accessibility by a general public. It is designed as a crowdmap. Anyone can add a new entry describing an 25
empty point via internet or mobile phone. Apart from the basic information (address, GPS, photo documentation), the entry may also include detailed information (history, owner, link to cadastral map, conservation, suggestions for use). The map also provides the entry with links to the examples of spaces or areas with similar characteristics and it enables sharing of the information with the other cities that are taking part in Vacant Central Europe project.
www.vacantecentraleurope.eu The owners of the spaces often lack not only a vision, but also a inspiration for the use of their property. The map is aimed as a tool providing the information and stimulating the creative potential of the vacant locations.
IN BETWEEN USE* BRNO VLNĚNA (FORMER TEXTILE FACTORY)
Former textile factory for wool products owned by the Jewish industrialists Stiassny and Neumark was established in the second half of the 19th century. The complex was substantially modified and completed at the twenties of the 20th century. The factories were nationalized after World War II and later united as the Vlněna state enterprise. Production finally ceased around 1997 and the vacant buildings were sold. The majority owner of the former plant is a development company which intends to demolish the current buildings and to build new administrative and residential buildings. The proposal to declare historical factory complex as a cultural heritage, or at least some part of it, was refused by Ministry of Culture. The current investors sic have been considered the possibility of complex conversion, but ultimately for economic reasons prefer demolition of the site. The site was used only partly for commercial purposes so far, mainly as a storage space. Already three years operates here the several studios (art, architecture etc.) called "sixth branch", which moved here from another industrial complex Zbrojovka Brno. The motivation for hiring these areas is particularly law price. In addition to long-‐term leased the space or certain parts are rented to short-‐term cultural events.
ART AND LIBERATION. EUROPE 1943-‐67. Part one: REVOLTING PEOPLE 29. 1. – 27. 2. 2011 The exhibition curated by 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media deals by the installation of the materials found in the site with the factory testimony, including the political context.
POTENTIAL -‐ Evenings of young progressive experimental audio-‐visual art. 29
WAVE -‐ Periodically held festival with cultural program.
DOLNÍ NÁDRAŽÍ BRNO (LOWER GOODS STATION)
The building from fifties of 20th century served as an administrative building and dormitory of Czech Railways. It has been abandoned by its owner for long time and currently is rented as commercial space to private subjects. Renting price map is low here because it is an area where it is planned to move the Brno main railway station. Given that the transfer station is one of the long terms as topics of political causes; its implementation does not seem as likely. Since February 2013, the association moved into the building 4AM Forum for Architecture and the media that it houses and organizes some of their events -‐ lectures, workshops, concerts and more. 32
4AM has brought other architects, designers, musicians and artists along to the former goods train station. Thus, new cultural centre unique for its destination has emerged: it is close to the historical city centre and in the same time it is specific fot the freedom it offers thanks to the lack of built-‐up spaces. 33
KÁZNICE (FORMER PENITENTIARY) The former correctional institution is located in the broader city centre in an industrial area of the East of Brno. It is one of the few abandoned brownfields owned by Brno city. 34
It is one of the two on-‐going projects of the city aiming to use non-‐operating area for the purposes of culture. In cooperation with the South Moravian Innovation Centre Brno it aims revitalize the whole of the complex of the buildings into a “creative incubator”. However, Brno approach seems to be problematic in terms of incapableness to launch the project from the bottom – to offer the location on minimal costs to the interested artists and cultural subjects. The situation is thus complicated by a fixed idea of the Brno city that Káznice cannot operate without previous complete reconstruction. Such thinking is a typical example of a deadlock: the lack of the knowledge of the unofficial cultural scene and the lack of thrust of the potential of the non-‐revitalized complex of buildings obstructs the natural process which can be observed in the other parts of the city. 35
However, since 2009 occasional short-‐term cultural events has taken place in Káznice, like exhibitions or theatre performances. 36
UMAKART GALLERY Independent student platforms focuses primary on the work of new emerging artists. As the gallery is situated in the window of the former shop, the audience has a unique opportunity to visit gallery 24 hours a day. The most important feature of the gallery is its ability to provoke social and cultural interaction. Regular two-‐weeks-‐long exhibitions have taken place since 2009. The window of the former shop is rent on a symbolic price that is partly covered by the financial support of the city. 37
FESTE THEATRE Feste Theatre is an independent professional theatre group focusing on taboos and ambiguous social-‐political topics. One of their projects is a site-‐specific festival of staged reading SPECIFIC that brings new pieces of drama into abandoned yet interesting city areas. The performance is unique for it takes place just once. The venues are rented for minimal costs or for free.
4AM FORUM FOR ARCHITECTURE AND MEDIA / BRNO 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media represents an open platform of experimental approaches and a wide range of activities related to architecture, urbanism, urban space, contemporary art, and new media. Within such an inter-‐ disciplinary framework and with emphasis on the involvement of both professionals and the general public, current cultural and social phenomena, related issues and questions are both articulated and critically observed through a variety of forms of open discussions, international workshops, lectures, exhibitions and events held in public venues. 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media is a venue and space that both in a virtual and a physical manner connects the students of relevant majors, professional theoreticians, and practical professionals from a variety of fields. From January 2011 till December 2012 the 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media has run the Gallery of Architecture in Brno. Since February 2013 the association is based in an old railway building in the southern city of Brno (Rosická 1). www.forum4am.cz 40
Vacant Budapest Levente Polyák & Júlia Oravecz Budapest has suffered more from the economic crises than many other European cities. The recession, combined with many building types becoming obsolete and no longer able to respond to contemporary needs, as well as with the mismanagement of real estate properties owned by private as well as public owners, has emptied a significant proportion of the city from its previous functions and use. Over 30% of office spaces are vacant in Budapest alone, adding up to an estimated million square meters of wasted space, not to mention the countless empty storefronts, abandoned residential buildings and even commercial complexes. Visitors to Budapest are often struck by the omnipresence of vacant lots in the city. Vacant lots are everywhere: hidden between dense tenement buildings of Pest or adjacent to neglected parks in Buda, they are often turned into temporary parking lots, their temporariness extended to decades. Besides World War II, when bombings left Budapest’s urban fabric with many wounds, the recent economic crisis also hit hard the urban tissue. After demolishing derelict, 100-‐year-‐old 41
structures, developers often found themselves with no resources to engage in construction. The vacant lots thus created could be contributions to a lighter urban structure, breaking the imposing density of inner Pest neighborhoods. Vacant lots constitute a layer of the city far more important than it is often estimated. Empty parcels scattered around in Budapest may add up to 400 hectares, where (if we consider that a land of the size of 30m2 may supply an entire family for a year) 19000 tons of carrots, 1500 tons of beans or 60 million salads could be produced. This map looks at vacant lots as carriers of a hidden potential, that of urban agriculture, helping to increase ecological and functional diversity. The importance of found infrastructures Independent culture played an important role also in re-‐appropriating the industrial landscape of Budapest. During the last decade of communist rule, independent culture constituted a parallel sphere, with its infrastructure and public separated from the places and publics of officially supported culture. Sometimes remaining in the realm of the “tolerated” section of culture, but more often delegated in the “prohibited” section and hiding from the eyes of political censorship, independent productions often found refuge in semi-‐public, semi-‐ invisible spaces at the periphery of the system’s horizon, like unused but structurally sound buildings.
The group Újlak was among the most experimental artist groups, first occupying a bathhouse, then a cinema, to organize exhibitions and open workshops. Újlak set in motion a veritable movement, previously unimaginable in Budapest, to establish artistic positions independent from market or political forces, and they found their natural venues in run-‐down, empty and moldable urban interiors that they occupied without any permission. Though the group saw empty buildings as the only open possibilities, these spaces – contrary to the “white cube” of the institutionalized exhibition spaces – had a close connection to the image and practice of community, out-‐of-‐structure independence and the free forming of space. Years after the dissolution of the Újlak group, around the end of the 1990s, cultural and alternative functions planted into abandoned buildings gave birth to a peculiar style, with pubs, protocol-‐visits and fashion-‐shows; retaining the image of pioneer occupation, while creating established institutions and commercial enterprises (Lugosi, Bell and Lugosi, 2010). One of the most important cultural venues of the Hungarian capital, Trafó was the first institution to transform an unused industrial building into an art space in Budapest. The electric transformer building situated in the edge of the city’s historical core, built in the style of the industrial art nouveau in 1909, had been abandoned for more than forty years when the French anarchist artist group Resonance discovered it in the early 1990s and transformed it into squat, hosting a variety of cultural events, performances, concerts, presentations. After the squat was shut down, it served for years as a storage space for theatre and music groups. In the middle of the 1990s, using the money it didn’t spend on the 1994 World Exhibition, the Municipality of Budapest bought the building to transform it into a well-‐equipped contemporary art centre. The Trafó – House of Arts opened its doors in 1998 and had quickly become an important Central European center for contemporary theater, dance and music. Another spectacular conversion following a bottom-‐up initiative is the renovation of A38. A38 is the reincarnation of a Ukrainian stone-‐carrier ship. The mission of its private owner to convert the ship into a cultural venue was to bring life and cultural events to the banks of the Danube, which are still isolated from the city by highways running along the river. Building a concert hall and a bar in the ship was a challenge but this challenge was answered with architectural finesse. The resulting composition with a magnificent view over the Danube proved to be popular, as A38 was voted to be the best bar in the world by readers of Lonely Planet in 2011. Other initiatives had shorter lives. In 2003, a group of young architects and cultural producers initiated Tűzraktár in an abandoned medical equipment factory, in the same street as Trafó. The group rented the 7000 m2 building from its owner for a year at a very low rent, promising the owner the valorization of the building 43
by cultural events and thus an increasing visibility. Tűzraktár opened with minimal architectural interventions in June 2004, and it was an immediate success: thousands of people invaded the factory’s empty spaces and courtyards already on the first days. Tűzraktár’s operation had to be suspended due to its popularity: the building and its temporary commercial spaces have suddenly become very attractive and the cultural function gradually disappeared behind the commercial activities. After the two years spent in Tűzoltó utca, Tűzraktár, changing its name to Tűzraktér, moved to a new location, a vacant school building. The organization th used the new location, in Budapest’s 6 distruct for a couple of years, before closing down in 2011 by the municipality. A successful long-‐term conversion of another abandoned school building is the Jurányi Inkubátorház, a prospering center of Budapest contemporary arts since its opening in 2012. Located in a refurbished school building, Jurányi Inkubátorház is impressive in its size: it has 5 levels that host more than 15 independent theatre and dance companies and other organizations. The colourful lines that show you the way to their workrooms and studios are symbolic: they represent the idea behind the house that is based on bringing together a bunch of creative, open-‐ minded artists to see how they can connect and cooperate in new, inspiring ways. Besides studios, there’s also a big theatre hall for the performances. Another cultural experiment in a vacant department store is Müszi: a complex cultural space, a home for NGO’s, hosting community arts projects, creative workshops and various cultural and social events open for the general public. Müszi is a meeting place, a new junction in the cultural life of Budapest. It is a fresh and free space; a workshop for independent social projects, a creative environment for artistic work, a presentation and events center. Müszi stands as an unprecedented venture in Budapest, a venue attempting to combine its artistic and social mission with business principles in a sustainable manner.
Katowice: A problem of vacancy Pawel Jaworski A spatial disposition and a specific character of vacant properties in Katowice is not only an outcome of a transformation of a macro-‐economic, macro-‐political and legal context and a socio-‐economic condition of the city but also a result of its industrial past, including restructuring of the metallurgical nd mining industry. In this context two processes are crucial: a disappearance of a state and company patronage over shaping and maintaining a city fabric and a consequent transformation of a property ownership. First of all we can find single empty tenements and almost the entire former housing quarters in an inner-‐city area, designed and built in the 19th and in the beginning of 20th century. A history of a building located on the corner of Matejki and Słowackiego Streets focuses nearly all problems caused by a management of such properties. The real estate was bought by a natural person in the 90’s, but was 45
inhabited by tenants who paid regulated rents. Building fell into ruin as a result of litigations on the merits of reduced rents, conflicts concerning an eviction of tenants, cutting off technical infrastructure access and disputes with utilities providers, finally arsons and legal controversies (incorrect entries in the Land Register). At the end the Building Control Officer has issued a demolition order. The appearance of next empty properties in the city fabric is the result of other processes. The reform of a state-‐owned railway company (division into smaller enterprises) and financial problems related to a maintenance of fixed assets contributed to an emergence of unused stations and stops -‐ both in inner-‐ cities and peripheral areas. The largest facility of this type is so called "Old Railway Station" built in the 19th century but systematically excluded from use after running a new one. Currently, the property is owned by two private enterprises and to this day has not been reused as a whole. The condition of the railway company had also affected a development of the modernistic city center, shaped since the 60’s, where the regional office of this enterprise was built (now vacant). In this district, limited by the Main Square and Spodek Hall, other abandoned buildings and lots are located: former ‘Silesia’ Hotel, which is currently owned by a private developement company, former ‘Centrum’ Department Store (presently ruined and partially demolished during building a new road) and an empty plot -‐ effect of a demolition of the Wedding Palace. Aforementioned buildings were built and maintained by a public sector, some of them have been privatized, and now reuse poses the greatest challenge. A masterplan for the central area of Katowice selected in an urban design competition assume that urban development indicators (including plot ratio, building height) will be raised but economic conditions do not contribute to the achievement of such intensive growth. It provides with some modifications a guidance to more detailed planning work nonetheless and a communication infrastructure is simultaneously modernized. Postindustrial premises are also specific vacant areas in Katowice and Upper Silesia region. They are situated in inner-‐cities and peripheral districts (availability of coal deposits -‐ not the existing settlements -‐ was the most important determinant of their localization) and therefore a context and chances of their reuse are / were different: the former ‘Katowice’ coal mine located close to the city centre of Katowice is now a new headquarter of the Silesian Museum, the former ‘Wilson’ shaft in Janów was converted to an office building and private art gallery, the Golden Vision Festival is organized in the former ‘Szopienice’ (‘Uthemann’) mill. 46
2. The legal context for use of vacant properties There are no special legal rules adopted at a national or local level that regulate reuse of vacant properties. Building Act and detailed rules for historic buildings contain only general regulations for a maintenance of facilities in a good condition and have restrictive rather than incentive character. Local authorities do not have a consistent and comprehensive policy on empty premises which encourage their temporary or permanent reuse. Recently drafted local financial mechanism called ‘A Place for Culture’ may have some impact on solving the problem of empty properties and indirectly also on revitalization of a public space. The idea is to lease a space owned by a municipality in a competition for natural persons and other entities involved in cultural, artistic and creative activity. Facilities will be rented at preferential rates but higher than the costs of maintaining incurred by the owner. Lessee selection will be made on the basis of the call for activity proposals. 3. Local case studies Vacant properties in Katowice and in Upper Silesia are getting recycled in several ways and becoming a part of urban fabric again through an implementation of various strategies, depending on a location, technical condition and type of ownership. First group gets new function according to a logic of modern city development, such as the spectacular buildings of a Silesian Museum located in the former ‘Katowice’ coal mine. Specific origins of the premises (e.g. industrial past) can then be used as a project pretext. Another group of earlier foresaken properties is temporary used to increase or create a social value of a place at the beginning and economic one at the end, what in the long term can give a benefit to a management of a fixed function. Different reuse forms can be also tested to give a good reason for selecting the ultimate one. Moreover desolate properties may be reused due to their spatial flexibility and low-‐cost maintenance arising from a location (unattractive in business terms) or technical condition. People involved in an alternative culture animation are often with success looking for this kind of places. Mariacka Street Temporary reuse of vacant buildings on Mariacka Street: former ‘Śląski’ Hotel and former mix-‐use tenement number 10 owned by municipality, is influenced primarily of its character: centre of a nightlife, entaertainment and artistic events in a public space. 47
The former hotel building has been bought by a private enterprise. The new owner is planning to restore its primary function but currently uses commercial premises on the ground floor in different way (temporary art gallery, official bar of Tauron Nowa Muzyka Festival 2013), creating its value. Local authorities were planning to rebuild and rent or sell the historic tenement, which is in poor technical condition, but decided in 2012 to adapt a ground floor to a temporary cultural centre -‐ a space that is rented to culture managers, artists and NGOs. The function planned as temporary is now fixed. Former ‘Katowice Ligota’ railway station (http://www.stacjaligota.pl/) The former station (now a railway stop) is located on a one of the main rail routes in the region, in the periferal, housing and academic district of Katowice. The building is opened for a pedestrian traffic but currently not used as a part of railway infrastructure. It consists two levels: the upper one is a platform, the bottom one -‐ closed ticket offices and some rented rooms. The mentioned place is leased by actors who decided to adapt it for the ‘Żelazny’ theater and a cafe (previously: a storage room and a flower shop). This is now a space of all kind of noninstitutional artistic activities: concerts, exhibitions, performances etc. All project are jointly called ‘Creative Space Ligota Station’. ‘Ruda Slaska Chebzie’ railway station The building of the former railway station was built in the 19th century and is now located in the periphery of Ruda Śląska. It was listed as a part of the Industrial Monuments Route (set up by the Marshal Office) due to its historical and architectural values. There was no idea of how to reuse a building and therefore it was systematically devastated. Finally in 2010 it was removed from the list. Following an agreement with the Local Authorities railway company leased the building in 2012 for five years, finding that a lease payment is equivalent to a local property tax (‘zero’ financial settlement). A regulation of the legal status and renovations can be made during this period. The space is currently managed by artistic groups: BIBU from Katowice and ‘Bezpański’ Theater from Ruda Śląska as a project called ‘Chebzie Railway Stop’. They are systematically adapting the building to their needs and performing some artistic events: recitals, concerts, workshops, exhibitions, etc. Former ‘Szopienice’ (‘Uthemann’) mill
A former administration building was a part of a large industrial complex developed during 19th and 20th centuries. In the neighborhood are remains of production buildings, constructions or infrastructure and therefore the whole area is seen as a typical Upper Silesian post-‐industrial landscape. The administration building was bought by a private enterprise which began its renovation and adaptation for a new use. The aforementioned BIBU group temporary uses it and its surroundings as a place of the Golden Vision Festival -‐ space for music concerts and visual arts exhibitions although other festival events are also held in other areas (including abandoned rolling mill in Szopienice). 4. Crowdmap ‘Puste Katowice’ and related tools Crowdmap ‘Puste Katowice’ is not the first idea to gather information on vacant properties in Katowice. Two websites collecting i.a. these data were launched before designing the map: -‐
‘Smutne Katowice’ (https://www.facebook.com/SmutnaStronaMiastaKatowice, https://picasaweb.google.com/105893440868124824012/SmutneKatowice) with photographs of ruined and abandoned buildings,
‘Katowickie Kamienice’ (http://www.katowickie-‐kamienice.cba.pl/) with informations about tenement houses (not only forsaken), in particiular localization on a draft map and descriptive one, area, ownership, number of floors.
Analysis of vacant premises in the inner-‐city was prepared by a Katowice Municipal Office and presented at the meeting of the City Development Committee of the City Council in June. Website ‘Puste Katowice’ develops the idea of collecting above-‐mentioned data in a participatory way. An addition is a Facebook profile ‘Puste Katowice’ (https://www.facebook.com/puste.katowice), where information about vacant properties in Katowice (e.g. articles in local press) and case studies are collected. The website consists of a general information about the project and the crowdmap sharing a spatial data-‐base linked with polygons, polylines and dots representing different types of properties classified with a two-‐stage categorisation. The first one is: ‘vacant building’, ‘unfinished building’ and ‘vacant lot’. The set of vacant buildings can be secondarily divided using function types: mixed-‐use, residential, commercial, office, educational, art & cultural, governmental, religious, industrial, healthcare, sport, transportation, military, agricultural, storage, garage and other. Description of a vacant property includes also an adress or a lot number, a type of an ownership, a period of vacancy, a 49
construction completion date, an approximate area, a technical condition, a number of floors, a temporary land use, a spatial policy data, an information about a neighborhood, an access, a technical infrastructure and an heritage protection. Data can be added by an external user but are verified by an editor before publication. It is an important but also a time-‐consuming process. Wherefore the first step to rationalization of the delivered information verificaton will be a search for technical and legal possibilities to add to the map browser some external layers: -‐
a buildings and plots record linked with the Land Register viewer with an exact ownership information,
spatial planning sets containing borders of spatial management plans areas and zoning regulations,
real estate data with property prices,
heritage data collected by the Regional Heritage Conservation Office,
socio-‐economic data stored by a census bureau.
Appreciable improvement of the data processing can be achieved by using a WMS (Web Map Service) or WFS (Web Feature Service) services provided by the public geoportals. The biggest problem, however, is that they are not available yet. The tool expanded in that way will be used by Napraw Sobie Miasto Foundation for: -‐
collecting stories and interviews with architects, first of all designers of the modernistic city centre,
planning architectural paths (following Brno Architecture Manual example) and visiting vacant places during the city festival (prepared with other NGOs taking inspiration from the reSITE festival),
prepearing ‘I wish this was...’ actions (http://iwishthiswas.cc/),
planning interventions involving students during workshops.
Vacant Povazska Bystrica Peter Lényi Považská Bystrica is a middle sized city for Slovak context. It lies under a highway bridge, one and a half hour of car ride from Bratislava, direction Košice. It has something over 40 000 inhabitants. It become a city in the half of 20th century. All its new history stands and at the same time falls with Považské strojárne -‐ huge industrial area, which was established in the beginning of 20th century. A first base was building of a new factory of Bratislava company Roth -‐ for ammunition production. Since the begining of its construction in the year 1929 Považské strojárne were growing, production programme was evolving and in its top years (which was dramatically interrupted by Samet revolution), there were 12 thousand people working here. After the revolution a period of confusion came. The company, which was originally a single and joint, laminated into many small privatized pieces. This lead 51
to many different heterogenous approaches of buildings. Some of them were let to decay, until they became ruins, were torn down and replaced. Others decay until nowadays, others were transformed for new purpose. Nowadays we can say, that most of the area is technically in a good shape. However this can't be said about infrastructure between them, which is under city administration. The city was always very dependent on Považské strojárne, what caused simmilar effect of crumbling, chaos and decay. The public buildings as cinema, house of culture, congress hall and others lost their donor -‐ there was no more funding for their service and programm. In the last 24 years -‐ past the revolution, many of them found new owners, new ways of use, part of them stayed vacant. There is no such example of squatting in Slovakia, that could have a potetial to create a widely applicable precedent. Generally in Slovak society there is a great respect for private ownership, which causes, that a great ammount of "public demand" would be needed to favorize requests of squatters over the rights of the building owner. There is no such example in Považská Bystrica and I don't know about any other in Slovakia. Property tax itself doesn't evolve pressure big enough, to make owners search for temporary tenants. But it can still be used as partial argument. Whole political situation in the city -‐ acting of city council, it's role, communication with inhabitants, moods -‐ doesn't create impression, that the topic of vacancy is recognized on any level. It's potential is still to be discovered. There were some attempts by various civic organisations to use some of vacant city owned buildings for their purposes, but everytime until now it failed. There is a potential for improvement of process on both sides -‐ city's and both tenant's. The map nad process Our city is small and since we didn't find many vacant buildings during first brainstorming, we decided to focus more on analyzing signle issues. Idea of crowdsourcing in the means, that somebody can directly add vacant place to map is thus not necessary, so we have rather invested the time, that would be invested in programming map into focusing deeper to single isues. Our fan base knows, that if they want to contribute, it's possible to contact us via email, so the crowdsourcing is still, in fact, possible. Most of the knowledge that we gathered is based in excursions, which happened on 18th May, 2013 and august 2011. Juraj Smatana (high-‐school history teacher and activist) and Pavol Mikuš (manager of bankrupcty estate of Považské Strojárne) were their leaders. Excursion was recorded, photos were taken. Then the material was transcribed and edited. 52
As an engine we have used Google maps engine lite, free and is sufficient for our purpose: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/ 1.first view of map that visitor gets. there are currently 2 layers of places: -‐ orange dots represent vacant buildings -‐ blue squares -‐ mental map of Rozkvet neighbourhood
2. layers can be switched on/off, visitor can choose one he wants to explore
3. single place tags are expandable, they contain short story of a building
Case studies: vacant properties and potential reuses
1. The building of the former military office 54
"The building of the military office was owned by the state until it was transferred to the ownership of the city. There was a short lawsuit between the Trenčín Region and the city. The city won. The mayor said the building was ready to be used , it just needed to be cleaned and a museum could be established there or a gallery and space for civil society organizations. Now it is being considered that the district court will move here because they have unfit conditions in their building. There is a kind of little war ongoing between Považská and Púchov, which offered the space for the district court, too. There is a possibility that there will be a court. Now the building has no burden, the city owns it, it´s just about that the city and state now have to agree, if the the district court moves there." It's highly possible that if the court won't come, this building will be used for culture purposes, under city's administration. 4.2 building of the former General directorate of ZVL factory Is currently under reconstruction. Owned by city. Future function -‐ rental offices. 4.3 amphitheater "At the beginning of 80s, when the cinema was launched, you could meet swarms of youngsters going into the summer cinema. They had packed blankets on their backs, bottles. The whole groups of boys, girls were swarming here. Once I was almost squasched when they played movie Simon and Matthew go to the Riviera. There were around three hundred-‐four hundred people pushing at the cash desk. Those who had no money to get inside the premises of Amfík, ran behind and jumped through a fence or watched the movie from the meadow under the calvary. There was a second group, the other community. A third group of spectators were inhabitants of the nearby houses. Directly from their balconies they have been taken care of evening program. We envied them that they had free cinema every night, but when I imagine that there is a noise under my windows for the whole summer season, 3-‐4 times a week, it could be quite annoying. Summer theater went bankrupt because of the disinterest of visitors so as across the whole Slovakia. A similar fate had a summer theater in Bratislava. Four -‐ five years ago some people from the art school organized there a happening that people once again came to the amphitheater, they stretched canvas and screened footage from the amphitheater from the year 86, when it was full of peiple and there was a concert, I think of Tublatanka. Songs as "Truth wins" and the like. Few survivors sat in the audience and watched it how it once looked like, when it worked." Place is in private ownership, there is a plan to replace it with appartment building. 55
4.4 congress hall "That space is shockingly big. Logic of placement is completely clear. Here you have the Culture House, next to it the Art School. Those kids just rehearse, pass through one door and they can play for the entire city. Also here you have more or less six primary and secondary schools. It was quite logical. Plus congress hall, which was prepared for delegates from all over Czechoslovakia. The capacity is huge. They had just to put the windows. If the regime fell about half a year later, they would probably manage to finish the building. Currently, according to review of structural engineer it´s impossible to reconstruct it. Trees grow from the balconies..." 4.5 VVZ "It was built between 1968-‐1971. The original plan was to build two buildings here, the latter should be even higher. It functioned until the late 90's. It has long been for sale until a buyer was found. Now it is in poor state -‐ facade and technical infrastructure are already unfit. Thermogram shows a big air heating. Insulation was planned in 1995 but the investment of about twenty million Slovak crowns was needed. The nearby parking lot does not belong to the building what reduces the attractiveness of its potential use." 4.6 the chimney "Was a part of ZTZ ("connected heat source"). It was meant to be pack of huge buildings for heat production. It was an investement worth 1,200 000 000 SK (Slovak crowns) (which is cca 40 million euros). It was left in a state, where just 600 milion SK was needed, but when conversion of armament production began, ZTZ was cancelled. The chimnay was never used. It has 199 metres, becouse if it had had 1 meter more, it's building permission would be based on international assessment. The Polish would have to approve it. So they made it 1 meter shorter." The building will remain standing, because it's too expensive to tear it down. 4.7 Old heating plant Built in 1935. "It is like a temple, absolute space. For The Monuments board is not yet monument. It consists of two parts. Heating plant and Power plant. The building contained a steam turbine, which was producing heat and electricity. The power plant was built as the second part -‐ the extension. There are remains of tranasformers, ceramic fuses. There are still interesting pieces of inventory (bulletin boards, keys, turbine ...) In the past, there were efforts to reconstruct it. 56
However, they were withdrawn because under the building there is a large energy distribution system from the times of gun factory. The owners were afraid to touch it. Section where the boilers were is in worse shape -‐the roof collapsed. Therefore, it was more exposed to weather conditions." Ideal for cultural programs, it is possible to reconstruct it in many ways, depending on budget. 4.8 DV2 "The production of aircraft engines was about to be launched here in cooperation with the Russians. These aircraft engines have a shortcut DV2, which means the Dnieper-‐Vah 2. But because the year 89 came, the potential customers have disappeared -‐ it should be states like Libya, Cuba and whoever else. To those included in the list of rogue states, after we joined NATO. The building was launched. There are still yet windows waiting to be installed, fall of the regime was so fast that they even did not manage to install it. If they did it, the building would probably survive." 4.9 Old administration building "It was built between 1929 -‐ 1930's. It is a city monument. There is the foundation stone of Zbrojovka in the left rear corner laid on the July 7 1929. At this place was a memorandum. "It says that Zbrojovka was built for the defense of the Czechoslovak State on July 7, 1929. "" 4.10 bunker in Považské Strojárne Currently used by Pavol Mikuš for the purpose of presenting history of Považské Strojárne. 4.11 Sauna -‐ restaurant Sauna built by Považské Stroárne. After revolution privatized and converted to restaurant. 6. ideas for a toolkit 6.1 A explore it First thing is research -‐ it is important to see it personaly, walk around it, if possible see it from inside, take photos gather all possible information. 57
Prague -‐ city of a hundred spires and countless vacancies Michaela Pixová Vacancies are like different moments in life; emerging and disappearing as time goes by. The more time passes, the more of them see the light of day, but only a few seem to last. Prague also exists in time, an ancient city that has lasted over a thousand years. And as time changes, the city changes with it, building the new while leaving spaces – vacant -‐ behind. In Prague, a wide variety of vacant spaces can be found, from feudalism and the industrial revolution, to soviet dominion and today’s contemporary capitalism. From abandoned baroque mansions to underused factories, empty flats or office spaces, each had left a mark in a different time and different part of the city. They all had different destinies and some of them eventually found new uses. Vacant space in Prague has undergone a huge transformation during the past approximately half a century. While the central planning and shortage economy during communism produced a huge amount of vacancies in the historic core, where various ancient buildings were neglected due to massive concentration of development in peripheral residential and industrial zones, the current political-‐economic system has been mainly producing vacancies through real estate speculation and overbuilding. After the Velvet revolution in 1989, Prague experienced a boom of property development due to the city’s new found role as a metropolis being integrated into the global capitalist market; a role that was further enhanced by Prague’s particular charm which worked as an enticement for foreign investors and companies. With the transition from planned to market economies, most property in the city came under private or municipal ownership. Unlike Budapest, a big proportion of Prague’s housing stock was subject to restitution, which considerably affected the residential structure of the historic core; residential buildings inhabited by several households and other types of property suddenly became owned by the heirs of their pre-‐WW2 owners. Other property came under the management of the new democratically elected municipal government. For the new owners and managers of property, particularly in the highly lucrative part of the city, it was very hard to resist the pressure of commercial interests and the prospect of financial gain, causing many cases of speculative development to emerge. These speculations have now become characteristic of Prague’s vacancies. In a city such as Prague, where every square meter is in high demand, you’d be hard pressed to find a better way of explaining the existence of empty buildings in a monument preserve protected by UNESCO, or the coexistence of the historic core and extensive brownfields that sit right next to it. 58
Many vacant plots of land, as well as empty solitary buildings, are being underused simply in the interest of exploiting the invisible hand of the market. And many vacancies are still being built in the interest of this market, and its future crisis. From the perspective of spatial distribution, vacancies in Prague are sprinkled all over the city. They exist as solitary houses, undeveloped lots and brownfields, technical infrastructure and public works buildings, as well as old yards, basements and cellars, warehouses, abandoned shops, or empty apartments and offices. There is a bit of everything and the list does not end here. The most notorious examples of vacancies are large buildings under heritage protection, where the economic interests of private owners are in conflict with the interests of the public and heritage protection. In cases where the public and professionals challenge certain insensitive redevelopment plans, it is often easier to let the old property decay, intending to tear it down at a latter date by proclaiming its reconstruction impossible when the building comes into a state of complete disrepair. The most famous examples of such proceedings in Prague include the building of a former steam spa on Apolinářská street in Prague 2, the historical baroque mansion known as Cibulka in the Košíře neighborhoud in Prague 5, and the historical villa Petynka in the Břevnov neighbourhood in Prague 6. However, similar examples are countless, including vacant property under municipal ownership. The most obvious vacancies are several centrally located brownfields that fall under the category of the so-‐called “large development areas”. In the inner city, we can find the railway yards in the Smíchov and Holešovice neighbourhoods (Prague 5 and 8) and the Masarykovo railway station in the historical core of Prague 1. These large plots with a history that reaches to the pre-‐WW2 era have remained underused since the cessation of the totalitarian regime. In the meantime, they have changed ownership several times, along with the planned development. Despite the turbulent ownership and planning evolution, building on these plots is still limited by the development enclosure. Officially this is due to the conception of their future use not having been verified by detailed land-‐use planning documentation and supporting land-‐use planning information; the main prerequisites for building to start. But in a city famous among developers for its clientelism, it would be foolish to think that these are the only reasons -‐ the 2008 economic crisis has certainly played a role here too. Nonetheless, the current owners, big development companies such as Sekyra Group, Orco, or Masaryk Station Development, have already presented the public with visualizations of the projects they plan to build on these lots, all of which use ludicrously oversized dimensions and have never undergone a consultation process with the public. With regards to the brownfields found in the inner city where the development enclosures do not apply, a few vacancies of industrial character can 59
be found in the old docks of the rapidly gentrifying Holešovice neighbourhood (Prague 7), north-‐east from the Bubny brownfield, as well as in the predominantly gentrified Karlín neighbourhood (Prague 8), a former industrial zone which in the past principally served the engineering production of the ČKD company. The same company had spawned more vacant spaces in north-‐eastern Prague’s Vysočany neighbourhood (Prague 9). In the Nusle neighbourhood (Prague 4), a former brewery under heritage protection takes up considerable space and is now due to be demolished and replaced by luxurious residential housing. Apart from a few other smaller-‐scale brownfields, it is worth mentioning the freight train station in Žižkov, known as Nákladové nádraží Žižkov, which is located in the centre of the Prague 3 district. The development of this extremely attractive plot of land has been the subject of lively debates due to vigorous attempts of the professional public to save the main building, an example of functionalist architecture from 1936. Since the development enclosure had been lifted from this area by the City Development Authority, the land’s owners, Žižkov Station Development (a company founded by the Sekyra Group and ČD – Czech Railways) and a consortium of the Discovery Group and Grainger Trust companies presented several plans for commercial development in the area, some of which have included high-‐density high-‐rise development. Thanks to a change of political representation in the district the building has finally been declared a cultural heritage site. While the northern part of the brownfield will likely soon undergo oversized commercial development (already being opposed by the public), its considerable part in the south now has a potential to serve something more beneficial for the city. It is nonetheless interesting and paradoxical that the most prevalent vacant spaces are the ones that are being built now or have been erected in the most recent era. The capitalist economy is prone to overbuilding, and post-‐communist urban environment was hungry for development. With the approaching turn of the millennium, Prague called for new up-‐to-‐date offices and retail spaces, as well as modern residential dwellings, etc. Somehow, this development boom still continues despite the fact that the offer now exceeds the demand, and many spaces remain vacant. This can be attributed to multiple mechanisms that take place in contemporary Prague. Over the past 20 years, many citizens have fled to the suburbia, accomplishing their “American dream” and leaving their crowded dwellings in the peripheral high-‐rise housing estates behind. The outskirts of the city are covered by countless warehouses, wholesalers, supermarkets and shopping malls, out of which some have already gone out of business as newer ones are being built closer to the city centre. Despite the 2008 economic crisis, or maybe because of it, the unfettered development continues, producing masses of 60
built environment that one day will be completely redundant -‐ or, hopefully, available for new, alternative uses. Figure 1: Overview of 15 large development areas in the capital city of Prague
Source: Útvar rozvoje města (City Development Authority) 1.1 The right to a creative use of vacant spaces As regards the possibility of creatively reusing vacant spaces, there is a considerable difference between public and private space. What they share in common is the fact that none of them can be legally used for cultural and innovative purposes without permission. The use of public space is managed by individual municipal districts, out of which each has a department that deals with transportation and other related issues. This department has a special section which deals specifically with the occupation of public space (“zábor veřejného prostranství”). Any kind of use, be it commercial or non-‐commercial, has to be reported and granted permission by the municipal district. The use is not free of charge –users must pay a fee to the 61
municipal district as well as rent to the owner of the space, which are usually authorities responsible for transport communications or greenery. Free of charge use of public space is allowed only for busking, although there are some restrictions on cultural production in the historical core. To understand the use of nonpublic vacant space one must first review some basic information concerning vacant spaces and their legal (but partly also mental) relationship to their owners. Ownership here plays a crucial role, since in the context of the Czech capital, private ownership quickly became one of the most preached and professed values of the new political-‐economic regime. Unrestrained accumulation of private ownership is seen as the symbol of freedom and democracy by many Czechs, while other forms of ownership and various regulations tend to be perceived as attributes of the totality which nobody wants to come back. As a result, there is no such thing as “an abandoned property” in the current Czech law. All property in Prague belongs to an owner (in fact, public space too), be it a private owner, the municipality (and related authorities), or the state. Private owners have a full and free right to dispose of their property the way they want to, including leaving the property dormant to decay. Due to this fact, any kind of alternative use of a vacant space strictly depends on the will of its owner, and all uses of property unauthorised by the owner are treated as trespassing. The current Czech law does not operate with the term “squatting” and squatters have therefore never had any legal protection under Czech law. Private owners on the other hand enjoy a very efficient, almost sacrosanct protection. As a result, negotiations with private owners regarding alternative uses of their property are typically very unequal. Cases where negotiations result in the owner’s consent to an alternative/creative/innovative use are usually only the ones which are in favour of the owner and his interests. Alternative uses of vacant spaces are typically agreed upon only if the owner is for example currently unable to find a more profitable use (wealthier tenants or investors) for his/her property, or if the prospect of alternative use comes with other incentives, such as the protection of the building from thieves or unwelcomed occupants, improvement of the building’s (or the owner’s) image and reputation, or the owner’s hidden intention to accelerate the building’s decay or the tenants’ displacement. Most negotiations between “alternative users” and private owners take various forms of temporary barter, which give the owner a significant proportion of control over the use of his/her property and the ability to dispose of it on the basis of his/her current needs (e.g. the ability to displace the tenants in case of an unexpected business opportunity, etc.) People interested in alternative/creative/innovative reuses of vacant spaces in Prague, or various activists who criticise the lack of affordable housing in Prauge, often challenge the fact that private owners in the Czech Republic have 62
almost unlimited rights and very low responsibility for the social context of their ownership. Extremely low property taxes further facilitate their ability to accumulate private ownership without contributing anything to the community. The owners’ only duty is to ensure that their property and its use do not threaten other people (e.g. when their building is in bad condition and crumbling). In such cases the municipal construction authority can demand rectification, such as the installation of safety nets that prevent walls from falling on pedestrians. In cases of buildings under heritage protection, inappropriate care can also be fined by the Prague City Hall Heritage Department. Unfortunately, fines are typically not high enough to encourage certain private owners, especially companies that dispose of large capital assets, to take proactive steps in improving the condition of their property. There is also no legal tool that can be used to force the owner to start using his/her property. Furthermore, frequent fines sometimes lead owners’ to resell their property, which further complicates heritage protection and negotiations with the authorities, as well as prolonging the building’s vacancy. The new civil code, which will apply starting January 1st 2014, will introduces the principle of the so-‐called „dereliction“, defining a situation where owners don’t care for their property (house or land) with an intention to get rid of it. According to the new civil code, such property can be taken away from the owner in favour of the municipality. In cases where the owner raises a claim upon his/her ownership, the court will demand evidence that the property has not been abandoned and that the owner has exercised his or her proprietorship. There is however no exact definition of the way proprietorship should be exercised or the date from which the length of vacancy should be measured. Legal proceedings concerning the “dereliction” will likely be lengthy and complicated. In cases of lucrative property in Prague, it may also lead to a multiplication of reselling and repurchasing of the property by its owners. Even if the municipality finally wins a battle over a neglected property, there is no guarantee that the building will be available for new creative reuses. In fact, even municipalities own a considerable amount of underused property. If such cases are to be challenged, it has to be proven that the owner (or commissioned administrator – municipal districts) does not perform the duties that result from the Act No. 131/2000 Coll. on the Capital City of Prague. Unfortunately, the description of these duties is not very specific. Also, “dereliction” in case of municipal property is relatively hard to prove (e.g. in cases of property that serve strategic purposes). The city nonetheless often speculates with its property just like private owners. This is another reason why the city is sometimes reluctant to provide the public with information about municipal property available for various creative reuses; not only does it have other schemes for a buildings’ future use, but it also 63
attempts to withhold information about the extent of idle municipal property from the public. Sometimes even municipally owned listed buildings can be neglected, in which case the city can be fined by the municipal heritage department. This system is, however, quite tricky. Despite the fact that the department exercises some state power, the city’s executive board has the power to change its organizational structure and to name its heads. As a result, bureaucrats responsible for heritage protection typically pursue the same political orientation and interests as the municipal leadership. Therefore the battle over heritage protection, use of vacant space, and creativity in the city still lasts and will likely continue for a long time. 1.2 The Praguewatch map of vacancies in Prague The idea to create an internet map of vacant spaces in Prague fit very well into the activities of the Prague based civil association Praguewatch. Since Praguewatch is concerned with a bigger internet mapping project which had been initiated prior to the Vacant Central Europe project, the map of vacancies in Prague is not an independent map that exists on its own but come into being as part of an already existing map (www.praguewatch.cz). The main objective of this map is to map all problematic issues and contested cases in Prague’s urban development and provide critical analysis, be it from architectural, historical, social, legal, environmental, or other points of view. The original mapping project, whose creation in 2010 was supported by the Open Society Fund Praha, uses the Ushahidi platform for crowdmapping. The map of vacant spaces was therefore created in the form of an additional category on the already existing map that is categorized by a variety of issues. Along with the category of vacant spaces, the map includes the following categories: Praha ekologická (environmental issues), Praha občanská (citizenship issues), Praha politická a administrativní (political and administrative issues), Praha mobilní (transportation issues), Praha kulturní (cultural issues), Praha sociální (social issues), Pražské úřední aktuality (official updates), Z médií (information from media) and Pražská demoliční tour (damaged and demolished buildings in the Prague monument preserve). These categories can overlap with one or more other categories, for instance, when a building is abandoned, but is also on the list of cultural heritage sites and part of public debates, or if it is related to transportation, such as the Masarykovo railway station. Each issue/case on the map is accompanied by its description. New cases/issues and their descriptions can be added to the map by the public, however, each one of them has to be reviewed and confirmed by the map’s administrators in order to prevent the map from becoming a source of misleading information or disinformation, as well as 64
attempting to keep a certain degree of unity and comprehension in the form of all descriptions. Figure 2: The map of vacant spaces in Prague by Praguewatch
Source: praguewatch.cz 1.3 Case studies of vacant properties and creative and innovative reuses: Prague is full of vacant spaces and probably the most interesting are the ones that have been creatively reused or where attempts have been made for such reuse. 65
Squats: If we look back into the history of Prague, we cannot ignore certain projects from its golden era of squatting in the 1990s. Unfortunately, all squatting projects were violently terminated by the authorities, and the current atmosphere around squatting is very hostile. At the moment, there is only one semi-‐legal squat in Prague. In Czech history the most renowned squat was the Ladronka squat, a municipally owned farm estate in Prague 6 occupied by the members of the Anarchist Federation, and transformed into an autonomous socio-‐cultural and ecological centre. The project survived for seven years, but over time declined as the squatters got tired of negotiations with the Municipality. The negotiations surprisingly resulted in a contract concerning the squatters’ rights and duties in relation to the occupied building, but further cooperation ended in failure as the authorities never legalized the autonomous centre, fearing its political orientation. Accompanied by many protests and demonstrations, the squat was violently evicted in 2000, sold to a private company and rebuilt into a commercial recreational centre. Another significant squatters’ project was initiated in 1995 by a group called Medáci in the old part of Střešovice neighborhood in Prague 6. Receiving verbal consent of the neighbouring residents, a group of young people disillusioned by the unavailability of affordable housing occupied three abandoned historical working-‐class houses. The project extensively engaged in the grassroots development of the local community, nature protection, support for noncommercial culture, monument preservation etc. The occupied houses played the role of a local community centre, involving also children, seniors, the homeless and people with mental disabilities. The attempts to legalize the squat did now work out as the local authorities sold the buildings and evicted the squat by means of a security agency. The longest existing squat in Czechia (1998 – 2009) was the autonomous center Milada, an abandoned villa in the Trója neighborhood. The building did not officially exist due to its removal from the real estate cadastre, which came about as a result of a planned demolition of the building in the past. Although officially nonexistent and abandoned for several decades, the villa was administrated by the Institute for the Research of Information. The police raided the squat several times, finally succeeding in June 2009 when the building was again registered in the real estate cadastre. Contemporary Minister of human rights arranged temporary housing for the squatters in a half-‐empty building in the Truhlářská street in the historic core. The building was being speculated with and its owner was suspected of intending to get rid of the remaining tenants, as the building was planned for commercial redevelopment. For one year part of the house functioned as a lively centrally located communal centre known as Truhla, which served for grassroots cultural activities and community gatherings (involving bike repairs workshops, communal cooking, discussions, screenings, art and sports classes, exhibitions and 66
concerts in the basement [figure etc.), something very unique in the commercialised and touristified city centre. Not surprisingly, the squatters and tenants made friends, outsmarting the owner and his plans. The squatters nonetheless had to leave after their one-‐year contract ran out. Figure 3: Exhibition in the basement of Truhla
Photo: M.Pixová The one year period of the squatters’ residence in the city centre was very important in terms of developing and testing new ways of gaining access to a new vacant space. In one year, the squatters had zero success in negotiating with various private owners. They also tried to raise awareness about the high number of underused buildings in the city by organizing a spectacular protest occupation of the historical building of the former steam spa in Apolinářská Street in Prague 2. The building had long been (and still is) in the state of disrepair. The occupiers were consequently evicted by a special commando and charged with trespassing. After a more than 15 month proceeding, the city court decided that the occupation could not be considered a criminal act, also recognising that the building had not been taken care of by the owner for a considerable period of time. Currently, a number of former occupiers of the squats listed above have found a refuge in Cibulka, a historical baroque mansion in Košíře neighbourhood in Prague 5. In this case the owner, which is a travel agency Autoturist, fails to fix the property according to the demands of the preservationists. The squatters are now 67
allowed to use the property (according to some opinions the owner is hoping it would speed up the dereliction) in consequence of several events. The agreement between the squatters and Autoturist was achieved thanks to the involvement of the civil organization A2 and its initiative Oživte si barák (Enliven Your House), whose aim is to raise public awareness of the number of decaying historical buildings in Prague. Under the squatters’ administration the building has served as an independent cultural centre with a regular weekend program. Figure 4. Festival Semeno dobra (The Good Seed) in Cibulka
Photo: Michal Ureš Vacant space and the creative class: In comparison to the squatters, members of the creative class in Prague have a much easier access to vacant spaces. In that sense Prague is no different from other major cities. Artists, creative professionals and students are willing to pay rent and do not challenge the status quo of the society in the same way the squatters do. Some of them even welcome the possibility of cooperating with commercial interests. And there are others, that don’t demand anyone’s permission for their spontaneous activities in various vacant spaces. Here are just a few interesting examples of creatively reused spaces in Prague, divided into two groups: longer-‐term projects and one-‐off projects. 1. Longer-‐term projects: Trafačka is an alternative cultural and art centre with gallery spaces and art studios, established by a group of artists in a dilapidated former electrical transformer station on Kurta Konráda street in Libeň, Prague 9. The industrial space is especially suitable for large-‐scale art pieces and occasional cultural events, including performing art. Trafačka is also connected to an old residential corner building, which mainly serves as studios. Both spaces belong to the PSN, a company engaged with property investment and management, which is currently 68
unable to use the property in a more profitable way. The space is ran non-‐ commercially, although the barter between the owner and the artists is clearly very mercantile – the artists play the role of custodians and their presence and activities significantly improve the local disconsolate neighbourhood. It is likely that the project won’t last much longer, as the owner does not invest into its’ repairs and in fact plans to demolish it in the future. Karlín Studios is an art centre in a building within a former factory complex of ČKD in Křižíkova steet in Karlín, Prague 8. The space is leased out by the development company Karlín Real Estate Group, which is responsible for the gentrification of the centre’s surroundings. In order to function as an art centre, approximately 80 000 Euro had to be invested into the building’s reconstruction. Currently it contains two galleries and several art studios. The artists have to pay rent, but part of the rent is also paid in the form of art pieces. The co-‐owners are aware of the creative potential of art for the economy and development and Karlín Studios is probably the best example of culture-‐led redevelopment in Prague, although most people in the area don’t know about it. The building is still planned for future commercial redevelopment; the artists are only temporary “custodians”. Figure 5. Karlín Studios
Klubovna is a non-‐commercial independent student club located in a municipally owned building of a former nursery on Generála Píky Street in Prague 6. The club is operated by a student civil group Povaleč, who managed to gain the right to use the derelict building in a selection procedure launched by the Municipality of Prague 6. The program of Klubovna is focused on art youth music, theatre, film screenings, workshops, flea markets etc. Despite the club’s benefits for the local youth community, the approach of the local authorities towards the club is very biased. Most of them don’t really approve of it; the students won their lease only thanks to the support by a few young councilors at the city hall. Bubenská is a huge heritage building of the former electricity company next to a busy junction of the expressways Bubenská and Nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše in Holešovice neighbourhood, Prague 7. The building belongs to Orco Real Estate Group, which now leases the building to artists and other creative professionals. In 2009, after the building got vacated by its main lessee, the Česká Spořitelna bank, Orco was unable to find a new lessee, supposedly due to low standards unsatisfactory for rich clients and outdated aesthetics of the interior. The building could not be updated due to its heritage protection. The functionalist style on the other hand appealed to the creative professionals and Orco reoriented its focus towards this new type of clientele. Nowadays many offices in the building are rented out to various NGOs, architects, artists etc., the ground floor also serves for the publisher of an art magazine and cultural events, including exhibitions, concerts etc. The owner is allegedly pleased by the fact that his creative lessees have upgraded the image of the building on the market; on the other hand it is obvious that these current lessees will be displaced in favor of a richer client interested in leasing the space. 2. One-‐off projects: 4+4 dny v pohybu is an annual festival of contemporary art, each year held in various different premises, typically a combination of official cultural venues and other unusual spaces, typically various underused buildings or industrial spaces. The festival consists of performing arts, exhibitions, games, discussions, guided tours etc. During almost 18 years of its existence, the festival has used the premises of the waste-‐water purifying plant in Bubeneč, industrial halls ČKD in Karlín, former brewery in Holešovice, a former brick factory in the Šárecké valley, or a former dental clinic in Jungmannova street and others. Each year, the organizers have to look for new spaces and negotiate with new owners, both private and municipal. Despite the good tradition and professionalism of the festival, the negotiations tend to be quite challenging. CODE:MODE is a fashion fair of independent designers and artists. It was held several times in the Karlín Hall, one of the former industrial ČKD halls, which unfortunately recently underwent redevelopment. The fair has also been held at 70
the riverfront, on the Střelecký island on the Vltava river, in the Bubenská space (described above) and in an empty residential building in Karlín. Figure 7: CODE:MODE fashion fair in the Karlín Hall
Photo: M.Pixová Festival Květy zla (Flower of Evil) was an event held at the freight train station Nákladové nádraží Žižkov in May 2011 as part of an exhibition Veřejný zájem (Public Interest). The organizers of the festival arranged an improvised stage on one of the railway platforms within the complex of the freight station. The unauthorised and spontaneously held set of concerts was attended by approximately one hundred people. The message behind the concert was a critique of the possible demolition of the whole industrial complex. 71
Figure 7: “Pop-‐up” festival Květy zla in the freight station Nákladové nádraží Žižkov
Photo: Archive of Ferdinand Baumann Gallery 1.4 Proposals for innovative reuses of vacant properties Prague is big city with a huge creative potential. There are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands people with a sense for creativity, innovativeness and experimentation. Lots of people have countless ideas and ambitions. The city certainly does not suffer from lack of ideas in terms of creative reuse of various vacant spaces. But Prague mainly lacks the following: political will and bureaucratic flexibility; less regulations and obstacles for the creative public, and more regulations and requirements for the private owners; bigger transparency of the way the city handles municipal property. On top of that, the city would benefit from a much bigger involvement of culture in strategic planning and more financial support for various local initiatives, including the pop-‐up ones. If some the above listed aspects of the use of vacant space undergo certain reform, a huge variety of changes could happen. To give a few examples, the freight train station in Žižkov could for instance serve as a film archive, (which has already been proposed by the National Film Archive itself), the brownfield in Hradčanská metro stop could be turned into a food market, or the steam spa in Apolinářská street could become a communal cultural centre. The few remaining old factory buildings in the city should be saved and kept for cultural events which require grimy industrial aesthetics, such as art exhibitions, site-‐specific theatre, or alternative music shows. 72
Empty window shops in the city could be used as pop-‐up shops or a democratic space for sharing grassroots information, messages, statements etc. Instead of being redeveloped into a luxurious residence, the former brewery in Nusle would be more useful as a university campus with dormitories, student clubs, canteens and a library. Smaller-‐scale vacant spaces all around the city could turn into rehearsal rooms and local community centres. Plots of vacant land and various ruins should be, at least temporarily, used for guerrilla gardening, or turn into more official community gardens and outdoor exhibition places. Some dilapidated buildings might be used as graffiti walls, skate parks, or festival sites. In order to enhance the local community in Prague, which in fact does not quite exist, all available and easily accessible vacant spaces should be used for different kinds of communal and social services, such as bike repairs workshops or various low-‐ cost eateries. Sometime all that is needed is an alternative little corner to sit down and hang out for a while – maybe onto a thrown out sofa, or improvised seats, accompanied by a pile of books that someone put away. Sometimes all that a vacant space needs is a bit of original decoration – it can be decorated with all kinds of spare materials, clothing, old furniture, toys, tires, newspaper etc. The fact that we cannot do these things already is mainly due to structural reasons. But big part of it is also due to people being lazy – lazy to deal with the authorities. And often also confused – not even sure where to start. This is what the following chapter will be about! 1.5 Ideas for a toolkit So what exactly should we do first in case we want to use a vacant space for creative purposes? 1) We should think about the project we want to do and then look for an ideal spot for such project, or the other way round. We should also know what materials and equipment, or how much money we will need for our project. There is no point in trying to find a suitable space unless we have thought about this. 2) Once we know what we are doing and where we are doing it, as well as where we are going to find everything else we need for our project, we should know whether we want to do the project spontaneously without anyone’s permission, or whether we need our project to be authorised by the owner or the authorities. It is good to remember that squatting is generally highly repressed in the Czech Republic, even a short unauthorised occupation will be regarded as trespassing. 3) In case we decide for a spontaneous activity, we must think about our strategy – how can we do it so that we don’t get arrested or fined? How do we do it 73
so that people don’t notice us or do not get the feeling that we are doing something illegal? Or how do we do it so that people actually support us? 4) If we decide for a more permanent use or something more official, we must find out who is the owner of the space. Remember! In Prague people worship the ownership!!! 5) In order to find the owner, we use the cadastre of real estate in the Czech Republic, called “Katastr nemovitostí“. The register of the cadastre can be found at the website of The Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre (Český úřad zeměměřičský a katastrální): http://nahlizenidokn.cuzk.cz/. 6) In order to find the property we are interested in, we must know its address – the name of the neighbourhood and the building’s registry number. Buildings (or entrances) in the Czech Republic have two numbers: the smaller one that goes by twos is usually the orientation number and the bigger one is often the registry number (číslo popisné). If we know the address, we click on “vyhledat stavbu” (search building) at the cadastre website, than we fill in the name of the city, the name of the neighborhood, and the registry number of the building. After pressing “vyhledat” (search), we receive the name of the owner. 7) If the owner is private, we have to try to find him/her/its contact via google. If we are not successful, we visit the building and try to look up the owner. Than we try to negotiate about our idea for a creative reuse. We must be prepared that in most cases the owner is not even interested in talking to us, not to mention meet our wishes. For that purpose it is always a good idea to have an attractive plan that the owner might find appealing and potentially beneficial for his own interests. Not that this is cool, but somehow we need to be convincing. If we get refused, we repeat the whole search again. 8) If the building we want to use is municipally owned, we should find out what institution of municipal district administers the particular building. We try to contact them – generally it is much better to pay a personal visit to the head of the institution. In case of municipal districts, it is probably advisable to pay a visit to the department that deals with municipal property (majetkový odbor). 9) If we want to use public space, we have to remember that no public space belongs to nobody. In fact, even though the space is considered public, it often has to be leased out by the institution in charge of its management and keeping. For this purpose we should visit the town hall of the respective district and visit the office that deals with the occupation of public space (zábor veřejného prostranství), typically it is part of the transport department, sometimes connected also with the department of land-‐use planning. In some districts organizing cultural events is for free, in others a fee has to be paid, on top of paying a rent to the institution in charge of the premises we are interested in using. 74
Warsaw’s Empty Spaces Szymon Żydek Walking around Warsaw one cannot but help notice the empty locales left derelict after stores, restaurants and workshops have closed down. Disused properties can be found both in the downtown Śródmieście and in other districts. At present in Warsaw there are about 1000 empty communal buildings, although their rate of growth has been slowing recently. Almost one third of them are in Śródmieście, in the centre of the city. Over 100 derelict buildings are in the southern bordering Mokotów district and on the right side of the Vistula in Praga Południe and Praga Północ. That is not all of such urban remains. Others are found among private locales, others belonging to cooperatives. Some of the capital’s derelict buildings are waiting to be let, others – as in the case of many communal housing buildings – are not allowed to be let by the law governing inheritance, a legacy of the so-‐called Beirut’s Decree. These latter ones cannot be let on the commercial market, and Warsaw still does not have solutions for temporary cheap lettings. Such derelict buildings that are unused remain a rich resource for Warsaw. Every empty locale, offensive due to its simple state of temporariness and decay, could be a living space animated for several hours, days, weeks, even years. All we need to find is a new formula in which cheap rentals or free use would be possible. Revamping derelict buildings would benefit both the city’s life and help the budget. Non-‐profit initiatives unable to cover commercial rents could also benefit from such initiatives. The ownership and land-‐use decree for the area of Warsaw -‐ popularly known as Beirut’s Decree – is responsible for the existence of a large part of Warsaw’s empty properties. The legal act on communalizing land within the city’s th pre-‐war borders was voted into force on October 26 1945 by National Council (KRN) under the leadership of the then president of the country, Bolesław Bierut. Under its terms the commune of Warsaw became the owner of all land within the pre-‐war borders of the city. The aim of the decree was to make it easier to rebuild the war-‐destroyed city. Buildings on land covered by the decree were to remain the ownership of the existing owners. In practice, however, owners had their land and buildings taken away from them – this was mainly in the central districts, with the most valuable land (Śródmieście, Mokotów, Ochota). The decree foresaw the possibility of returning the requisitioned property to its pre-‐war owners. But despite this much land and many buildings were taken unlawfully, contravening the then legal norms and the decree itself. Often the fact of communalization of property was not even signed into the property registry. This decree, established 75
under circumstances characterized by an abuse of power, errors and willful neglect led to a wave of court cases connected with returns of property against the City of Warsaw well into the 1990s. Due to the lack of legal regulations for the process of undertaking reprivatization, each case was held on an individual basis by the appropriate court in each case. Cases took years, with the unclear property laws for each case often meaning the empty buildings remain so, unrenovated and unused. Due to budget restrictions, the city has sometimes decided to settle and return property out of court to avoid paying high damages. This practice has led in turn to many damaging and controversial situations, especially in the cases of residential property whose tenants are often hit with huge rises in rent overnight or other forms contraventions of their rights. The value of the property potential damages is estimated at PLN 40 million (about EUR 10 million). Warsaw’s emptiness has often had a planned character. The most spectacular examples – in the vicinity of the Palace of Culture and Science – are found in the heart of the city. The topic of how to manage this space has for many years been a main subject of public debate in relation to Warsaw’s empty spaces. In this case the empty space has a planned character – it was carved out with premeditation, in mind being representative and propaganda functions, mainly large-‐scale gatherings and organized marches connected with the grand state occasions. Along with the change in system this space lost is raison d’etre in a rather obvious way, becoming immediately swallowed up by temporary and emergency commercial structures. The Open Air Bazaar on Defilad Square and Jarmark Europa became, on the one hand, oases of multi-‐culturalism (traders working there mainly from Asia and Africa) in a homogenous society, and on the other due to their central and representative location also an embarrassment requiring rapid action. The situation meant that for the last 20 years the discussion over the meaning and potential of empty space in Warsaw has been dominated by urban planners preparing more land-‐use plans in the very centre of the city and developers preparing more visualizations for possible construction of skyscrapers in this area created with maximizing rates of return their main concern. In the recent period one ever more increasingly hears talk in Warsaw of the societal potential of empty space in the city. Rental traffic analysis indicates there is a large volume of communal housing, alongside a simultaneously large need for such housing. The campaigns of urban activists show the possibility of using empty locales for social / economic activity. Often this is initiated via locals’ willingness to reinvent such a locale, temporary -‐ as in the case of Bar Prasowy at ul. Marszałkowskiej 10/16, and permanent – as with Przychodnia at ul. Skorupki 6a. Residents do not always want to wait until the authorities find solutions and do it themselves. The concerted campaigns of using empty spaces show that social dialogue about how to use such empty space goes on. There is little information on the state of derelict housing and even less good practice – even if it is appearing 76
slowly. It is necessary to change that. Especially given that the possibilities of using the empty space effectively demands the cooperation of many actors: city authorities, social groups, and often also private owners. In the framework of our project we are mapping the city’s empty space, informing about its state of ownership and the possibilities for renting or temporarily using such space.
Vacant Katowice Workshop May 10-‐11, Katowice, Poland Organized by Pawel Jaworski, http://naprawsobiemiasto.eu Vacant Brno Workshop May 16-‐17, Brno, Czech Republic Organized by 4AM Forum for Architecture and Media Vacant Považská Bystrica Workshop May 18-‐19, Považská Bystrica, Slovakia Organized by PBlog Vacant Budapest Workshop May 27-‐31, Budapest, Hungary Organized by KÉK – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre
Pawel Jaworski Peter Lenyi Bradley McGregor Julia Oravecz Daniela Patti Michaela Pixová Levente Polyak Jaroslav Sedlák Šárka Svobodová Szymon Żydek
The Vacant Central Europe project aims at addressing the problem of vacancy in Central European cities, by mapping empty properties, by rese...
Published on Jan 25, 2014
The Vacant Central Europe project aims at addressing the problem of vacancy in Central European cities, by mapping empty properties, by rese...