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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  


Contents   4

Vacancy and  the  city:  introduction


The imaginary  of  vacancy    


Vacant Central  Europe:  an  experiment  








Povazska Bystrica  










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.    





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.  




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  



Profile for KÉK - Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre

Vacant Central Europe: Mapping and recycling empty urban properties  

The Vacant Central Europe project aims at addressing the problem of vacancy in Central European cities, by mapping empty properties, by rese...

Vacant Central Europe: Mapping and recycling empty urban properties  

The Vacant Central Europe project aims at addressing the problem of vacancy in Central European cities, by mapping empty properties, by rese...