Page 1

VACANT CITY Experiments in inclusive urban transformation Netherlands Hungary


VACANT CITY Netherlands

Hungary


v a

C c


a

n T

i

Experiments in inclusive urban transformation Netherlands Hungary

t

Y


co lo p h o n 4

Published by kék – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre, Budapest 2015 Edited by Levente Polyák &Júlia Oravecz Interviews by Júlia Oravecz, Judit Schanz & Levente Polyák Translation and proofreading: Emese Polyák

©

Graphic design: Ádám Albert &JM ​isbn 978 963 12 3322 3 A project funded by the With additional support from: ERSTE Stiftung, Wus Austria, Norway Grants, Municipality of Budapest, The Kingdom of the Netherlands Special thanks to Művelődési Szint, Kesztyűgyár Community Centre, Roeleveld-Sikkes Architects, Prezi hq, Art Quarter Budapest, Gólya Presszó, Kaptár Community Office, Eutropian Research & Planning


ta b l e o f co n t e n t s 5

Colophon Table of contents 6. Introduction Discourse 12. raaaf Arna Mackic 19. Lakatlan kék History 26. Failed Architecture René Boer and Mark Minkjan 32. Transmodern Dániel Kovács Temporary use 36. anna Vastgoed + Cultuur Willemijn de Boer 42. Nyitva! kék Aggregation 46. Space&Matter Marthijn Pool and Tjeerd Haccou 54. Community Living Development 57. Stipo Hans Karssenberg 63. Land+Civilization Compositions Merve Bedir 68. Müszi Community & Art Level Júlia Bársony Creation skar Yvonne Wieringa 74. 81. Eleven Blokk Art Foundation Péter Mátyási Cultivation 86. Eetbare Rotterdam Paul de Graaf 92. Community Gardens Monika Kertész Policy 96. Office-space Intermediary Paul Oudeman 103. Paul Krugerlaan Manish Dixit 107. The Municipality of Budapest Sándor Finta 111. Hungarian summary / Magyar összefoglaló 119. Events


i n t r o d u c t i o n 6


i n t r o d u c t i o n 7 Levente Polyák

Vacant City: Experiments in inclusive urban transformation 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 has been counted among the leading industries in many Western cities, accounting for a significant proportion of their economic activity. 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 and shared spaces. 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, millions of square meters of vacant office space were reported, many of which without any prospect to be rented again because of their obsolete spatial organization or disadvantageous location. 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.

Project space of the Rögtön jövök! (Coming Soon) program, 2013. Photo © Szabolcs Nagy


i n t r o d u c t i o n 8 This phenomenon is by no means specific to the Netherlands. If the urban landscape of Amsterdam and Rotterdam is damaged 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 Benoît Felici’s documentary film “Unfinished Italy” remarks, “the most important architectural style of post-war Italy is the Un­ finished 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. 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. Urban actors across Europe respond to the problem of empty pro­ perties in various ways: the lack of financial resources leads go­ vernments and municipalities to re-interpret their existing infrastructure and to reactivate it by involving new functions and new actors. In many cities, 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 an opportunity, design professions were also helped by new considerations of the limits of


i n t r o d u c t i o n 9 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 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 the exhibition “Vacant nl” at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, in which the agency inventoried about five thousand empty public buildings across the Netherlands, they took position in support of a new architectural paradigm. Instead of serving large-scale developments and investments targeting fictional users, the new paradigm gives preference to the reuse of existing buildings and infrastructural elements with helping them to gradually adapt to 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 Dutch architecture, planning and development scene has been at the forefront of this professional transformation. Accepting the notions of temporary use and conversion as legitimate planning instruments helped Dutch cultural organizations together with municipal and private development agencies in providing local cultural and creative industries as well as social enterprises with infrastructure and resources. In the meanwhile, Dutch designers, architects and landscape architects have also played a key role in the development of models for interim use and in the establishment of temporary spatial possibilities, turning many architecture offices into quasi real estate agencies promoting conversion and temporary use. This role of Dutch experts experimenting with approaches to vacant buildings and pioneering structural innovation in design, policy and planning addressing the problem of vacancy, turned them into well-studied and copied models for initiatives across the world. This is the expertise the kék – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre aimed to introduce in Budapest, a city looking for tools


i n t r o d u c t i o n 10 to address its vacancy problem. By inviting a great variety of Dutch experts of vacancy to present their work and engage with local stakeholders around Budapest situations, we attempted to bring change into the Hungarian culture of planning, developing and managing the city. The selection of speakers reflected this ambition: instead of bringing to Budapest the superstars of Dutch architecture, we invi­ ted practitioners who were ready to engage with their audience and with site-specific problems, highlighting specific segments of professional and institutional practices addressing the problem of vacancy. Some of our guests were engaged in expanding the discussion on vacancy towards new principles and territories. The work of Arna Mackic and Rietveld Landscape, already mentioned, was crucial in bringing the issue of vacancy into the national and internatio­ nal discourse; after the success of Vacant nl, Rietveld Landscape (renamed Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances) has specialized in the refurbishment of abandoned buildings, and got engaged in teaching a Master program organized around this theme. René Boer and Mark Minkjan, as members of the discussion platform Failed Architecture, opened an international debate about the malfunctioning of certain buildings and built environments, generating analyses of buildings that are standing vacant because of a complicated mix of economic, social, political and physical circumstances. Merve Bedir from Land+Civilization Compositions has been engaged in the revitalization of a vacant school building in Istanbul, bringing a new development model to the Turkish city and elaborating detailed economic and organizational mechanisms to gradually bring back life in the building. We also had speakers from public institutions: as the ‘office-space intermediary’ of the Municipality of Amsterdam, Paul Oudeman has worked on encouraging and helping property owners to convert their vacant office properties to alternative uses. Ir. Manish Dixit, working for The Hague Municipality, was leading the transformation of Paul Kruger Avenue, a  commercial street struggling with problems of vacancy, a poorly functioning shopkeeper’s association and declining number of visitors.


i n t r o d u c t i o n 11 A third group of our visitors consisted of professionals from the architecture and planning field, or the cultural sector, all creating new frameworks for the better use of urban spatial resources. Hans Karssenberg from Stipo has been engaged with developing new forms of ‘public development’ through regenerating dozens of vacant buildings, including the Central Rotterdam area of ZoHo. Marthijn Pool and Tjeerd Haccou from space&matter have experimented with new ways of bringing together owners and potential users of abandoned spaces, and launched the regeneration of several iconic buildings in Amsterdam themselves. Yvonne Wieringa from skar has been working on opening and managing studios for professional artists in Rotterdam, thus helping the city’s art scene with affor­ dab­le working spaces. Paul de Graaf, member of the Edible Rotterdam collective, has been exploring the possibilities of urban agriculture in Rotterdam and other cities, opening new possibilities in reusing vacant urban land and leftover spaces. Willemijn de Boer, founder of anna real estate+culture, has been helping municipalities and go­ vern­ment agencies to temporarily rent their buildings in periods of expected vacancy. The objective of the series was not limited to frontal presentations: we aimed at matching Dutch practitioners with their Hungarian counterparts, in order to help elaborate new concepts for community-led urban development and to strengthen alliances between the public, the private and the civic sector. The lectures, workshops and the encounters around them helped not only in expanding the discussion on unused urban properties towards politicians and decision-makers, but also inspired a number of Budapest-based civic initiatives, architecture offices, developers, legal experts and muni­ cipal officers to start looking into new ways of developing the city. This book is the result of these experiences, but not the only result: the series, besides offering inspiration to many professionals and citizens, also contributed to the creation of new networks, exchanges and collaborations. And it certainly taught us that transferring good policies and development practices into the Budapest context first of all necessitates trust and a better culture of co­ope­ ra­tion between the public, private and civic spheres.


di s co u r s e 12

If creative pioneers are given access to this sea of vacancy, it challenges them to a range of experiments

www.raaaf.nl

raaaf – Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances is a design and research office based in Amsterdam, working on the crossing borders of architecture, science and art. raaaf makes location- and context specific work and has developed the design approach of ‘strategic interventions’, which derives from the respective backgrounds of the founding partners: Prix de Rome Architecture laureate Ronald Rietveld and philosopher Erik Rietveld. They form the core design team together with architect Arna Mackic. At the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale raaaf exhibited Vacant nl, a groundbreaking statement on vacant public buildings across the Netherlands that generated an international discourse on vacancy and the new role of architecture in operating in already-built environments. We talked with arna mackic in Budapest, at the occasion of her public lecture in November 2012.

Vacant nl, 2010. Photo © Rob ‘t Hart


d i s co u r s e 13

In Holland, and much of Europe, your 2010 exhibition Vacant NL opened the discourse of mass vacancy as a result of the economic crisis. What was your trajectory to arrive to this topic? For us every project is a manifesto in itself. Our interventions are the result of an independent attitude and research agenda, starting from our own fascinations while confronting them with urgent societal issues. What interests us is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. What could be the new


di s co u r s e 14 thinking models if we lived by a different set of rules? Showing these visions is the aim of each project. Vacant NL started with our own fascination for these unique vacant buildings dating from the se­ven­teenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries that include churches, convents, airports, palaces, prisons, water towers, lighthouses, fortresses and bunkers. We wanted to research what new possibilities could be available for these 10,000 vacant public and government buildings in the Netherlands. At the same time the economical crisis started, and architects were losing their jobs. Our installation was an appeal to government, architects, urban planners and other designers to use the huge potential offered by these inspiring vacant buildings in this crisis time. What novelties did the exhibition bring to the public? The exhibition showed the public that we could implement the go­ vernment’s ambition on the scale of a single vacant building. It is the Dutch government’s ambition that the Netherlands should be at the forefront of the world’s knowledge economies. We take this political goal seriously: we advocate the temporary use of vacant public and government heritage sites. After all, achieving the government’s goal will require not only excellent education and research but also specific spatial conditions. Until now, this has received little attention, partly as a result of a one-sided focus on traditional economic parameters. But the value of reusing vacant buildings and sites cannot be expressed in numbers alone; certain effects, such as an improved quality of life, a friendly climate for foreign businesses or a vibrant nightlife, only become obvious in the long term. Economic growth as well as the complex societal issues that our society currently faces, such as an aging population, healthy living and sustainability, all require innovation – a  great deal of innovation. In fact, they require a  culture in which design skills and collaboration between designers, scientists and creative pioneers play key roles. An important question here is how we can deploy the efforts of numerous talented individuals with both theoretical and practical backgrounds, using the unique qualities and spatial conditions of vacant heritage sites.


d i s co u r s e 15 What was your message to the government? The government, as owner, all too often opts for anti-squatter measures and other forms of defensive occupancy of vacant buildings with the sole aim of securing them. These buildings could often be put to good temporary use from the moment they become vacant until they are renovated, redeveloped or demolished. In short, we advocate a more societally relevant way of dealing with these public – and often unique – buildings. Being government property, thousands of vacant buildings are in fact collectively owned. It is often forgotten that their vacancy costs the taxpayer a great deal of money – the unused Radio Kootwijk transmission station in Apeldoorn, for example, costs some 200,000 euros a year. In 2010 Fons Asselbergs, a former Government Adviser on Cultural Heritage, estimated that in every one of the Netherlands’ approximately one hundred medium-sized municipalities, fifty to eighty public and government buildings are unoccupied. This amounts to thousands of vacant buildings, and this number does not even include the approximately one thousand military buildings and the hundreds of government-owned sites lying waste. The statistics make it clear that this vacancy is increasing rapidly: one farm per day, two churches a  week, and one convent a  month. Temporary use can create interesting test beds for innovation, funded with the money that the community is now losing anyway as a result of ‘public’ vacancy. The vacant buildings include a great variety of spaces as they were once designed for specific purposes. These unique buildings were constructed in different eras, with their function, the crafts and materials used being time specific. These buildings therefore are non-reproducible. Thanks to this diversity, the vacant properties provide exceptional ‘affordances’. The irreplaceable possibilities for action offered by vacancy will invite all sorts of experimentation from entrepreneurs (or, more broadly, initiators) with innovative ideas when they are given access to this reservoir of resources. Your exhibition was accompanied with the Dutch Atlas of Vacancy. What was the purpose of this book?


di s co u r s e 16 With the Dutch Atlas of Vacancy we wanted to show that all these vacant buildings are not uniform but in fact very diverse because they were once designed for specific purposes: lighthouses, hospitals, water towers, factories, airports, hangars, offices, rehabilitation centers, fortresses, bunkers, schools, prisons, swimming pools and so many more. The Atlas, which was designed by Studio Joost Grootens, shows the infinite range of possible temporary uses for these unique places. The buildings are often situated in very good locations in city centers or in the countryside. If creative pioneers are given access to this sea of vacancy, it challenges them to a range of experiments. The atlas presents an extensive and specific analysis of these buildings on different scale levels. What is the solution to bring these buildings back to life? Experience has shown that redevelopment takes a  great deal of time, as zoning plans need to be changed, which can involve endless bureaucratic meetings. This is an unnecessary loss of time: there is, as it were, a ‘waiting period’ for the buildings and a ‘waiting period’ for young initiators in search of inspiring locations, often with limited means and networks. This is why we focus on ‘the interim’: the period between the moment a building becomes vacant and its renovation, redevelopment or demolition. With the right people in the right place, even a temporary use lasting only a week can have a great impact. Also, buildings and landscapes from a past era provide unique facilities and opportunities thanks to the way they were construc­ ted. The original socio-cultural practices for which buildings were erected have often changed or disappeared – think of Gothic churches, or castles. Buildings such as these provide surprising opportunities for experimentation. The temporary and experimental use of buildings can also provide valuable insights for their future function, as was the case with Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek: after about three years it became clear that the temporary use was also the best final use. Who was the target audience of Vacant NL?


d i s co u r s e 17 Because we wanted to make an installation that is both successful as visualization and political statement, our target group was the art and architecture public as well as politicians. What was the impact of Vacant NL and the Dutch Atlas of Vacancy? Vacant NL led to worldwide media attention– in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Architectu­ ral Review – and is proof of the international importance of this issue; the temporary use of buildings is clearly also a global challenge. Besides this, our vision about dealing with vacancy has been implemented in the Dutch national spatial agenda. This gives architects and designers the chance to work on this issue. What implications does Vacant NL have for the architectural profession? Designing for societally relevant issues such as vacancy requires a new approach. We have developed a design approach called Strategic Interventions that can be deployed in a great variety of assignments, and also in assignments dealing with vacancy. Strategic interventions are precisely chosen and carefully designed interventions in a city or landscape that set a ‘desired development’ in motion – in this case, the use of vacancy for innovation. This requires a new location- and context-specific way of thinking and looking. The key is to link opportunities on a regional or national level with local qualities. Standard recipes for design are not the goal here. Every vacant building/site should be approached at the interface between architecture, art and science, and seeking the expertise of specialists and craftsmen according to the requirements of each building. The interplay between research and spatial experiments is the very thing that can generate new concepts and perspectives. After all, over the next decade the massive scale of vacancy means the usual spatial task will be inverted: ‘program seeks building’ will become ‘building seeks program’. The exhibition led us to start a number of follow-up projects and initiatives where we tried to implement this design approach, both in real life and education, with a collective of designers, scientists,


di s co u r s e 18 artists and specialists on novel horizons for vacancy. At the instigation of Jurgen Bey, director of the Sandberg Instituut, we set up the Vacant NL Master’s program. The program is a world first, aimed at training participants from different disciplines as specia­ lists in the temporary use of vacant buildings and sites. Besides developing ‘temporariness as a strategy’, Studio Vacant nl is known for its one-to-one testing of the ambitions and development of tools for sequential temporary use: the constant moving from one building to another. We have compiled the knowledge we have gained since the exhibition in the book Vacancy Studies with the aim to equip designers as well as teachers and students in design education with new insights and tools to carry out this novel design task. Vacancy has become a new professional field of study.

Opening of the new community and office space of Cargonomia, one of the projects Lakatlan assisted to find an empty building, 2015. Photo © Eszter Walton (kék)


d i s co u r s e 19

We advocate the community-oriented re­ use of vacant properties across the city


di s co u r s e 20

lakatlan.kek.org.hu

Lakatlan is a program of the kék – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre. Lakatlan was launched in 2012, aiming at finding innovative solutions for the community-based regeneration of vacant urban properties. The program brings together initiatives that contribute to the city’s social cohesion, life quality and local economic development with pro­perty owners who are willing to make alliance with community energies to revitalize their spaces and neighborhoods. Daniela Patti interviewed La­kat­lan members julia oravecz, judit schanz & levente polyák in June 2015.

How did KÉK engage with the issue of vacant properties? kék itself was born in a vacant building: in 2005, a  group of architects, urbanists, journalists and artists, determined to launch a  space for discussing architecture and the city, gained access to a  former warehouse in the backyard of a  museum. The building was a catalyst in kék’s story: it did not only give form to the organization but also determined many of its activities, helping the construction of an identity, sometimes against our plans. How did the building influence your activities? Our program was created around the building: the warehouse enabled the organization of both conferences and parties. The process of bringing a  new cultural space in a  low-income neighborhood also inspired thoughts about kék’s potential roles in urban regeneration. Two years later, we moved to another location: the 7-storey, 6000m2 downtown office building offered very different


d i s co u r s e 21 possibilities. Here we did not invest extensively in the building: we opened the premises for the public as a “found space”, adapting their events to the building’s peculiar, 100-room layout. What did you learn from using these buildings? The experience of using two radically different buildings in distant parts of the city taught us about the importance of space in the life of an organization, and about the possibilities and obligations brought along by running a space. It also inspired us members to think about potential multiplications of the experience: how to help civic organizations, cultural initiatives as well as social enterprises experiment in spaces and learn about their spatial needs, capacities and costs, by creating temporary presence in a physical space.  How did you address this issue? We had been, since the foundation of kék, organizing walks to unknown spaces in Budapest and beyond, revealing some of the city’s unused resources. We also organized several workshops about architectural possibilities in vacant lots and attic spaces, and launched our first community gardens in 2010. Based on these experiences and informed by our travels to many other cities in Europe, we began a structured research into the phenomenon of vacancy, to understand the causes, patterns and potentials of empty shops, offices, schools, hotels, department stores, cinemas and theatres all across the city. What do you mean by structured research? First, in the autumn of 2012, as part of a university course at the Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design, we organized a weekly public lecture series in the freshly opened Müszi, to bring together a  diversity of approaches to vacancy. We called the series “Lakatlan” (Hungarian for “Uninhabited”) that at the time seemed to be an appropriate way to simply describe our concerns. We had a  variety of international and local guests: architects, planners, sociologists, shopkeepers, and activists from Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Zagreb. To our surprise, the topic, never addressed frontally and at the scale of the city, attracted a lot


di s co u r s e 22 of interest: more and more people joined the event each week, and we generated a lot of new knowledge and exchange between our guests and the public. In the meanwhile, we were looking for tools to engage a wider audience and looked at the possibilities in Budapest. Therefore, in parallel with the lecture series, we developed an online community map, using Ushahidi’s Crowdmap platform, inviting people to participate in mapping vacant properties. Launching the map in December 2012 was a highly mediatized event: we were featured on some of the main tv and radio channels, and this clearly demonstrated that vacancy was not only our concern. How does the map work? Anyone, with or without registering, can upload descriptions, photos, links related to a  vacant property, and can indicate it on the map. The maps allows you to filter entries according to, for instance, building types: in this sense the map allows you to understand structural issues underlying vacancy, why in certain neighborhoods there are many vacant shops, while some areas are full of vacant office buildings, and where the various vacant educational buildings are located. We also intended the map to create a dialogue around certain buildings: the platform enables users to comment on each other’s entries and to accumulate information concerning any property. In the meanwhile, we cannot aspire for a completely accurate and up-to-date map of vacant properties in Budapest. Our goal is to highlight the issue, bring visibility to properties with important potentials, and to mobilize local energies to invest in some of the pro­ perties. It’s a tool that is meant to support our advocacy activities. What activities did you continue with? We continued with site visits to like-minded organizations across Europe, and a  series of workshops we organized in Budapest, as a  continuation of the 2012 lecture series. In May 2013, together with the Vienna-based Wonderland Platform for European Architecture, we invited architects from Helsinki, Sheffield and Rotterdam to work together with residents on a neighborhood plan for the temporary use of vacant properties. The workshop generated questions that opened the way for later phases of the Lakatlan pro-


d i s co u r s e 23 gram: How to think about vacant spaces as elements of a neighborhood-scale ecosystem where certain activities and functions can support each other. We also realized that there are many things we and our architects, developers and municipalities can learn from more elaborated institutional and bottom-up practices: with the help of the Dutch Creative Industry Funds, we invited Dutch professionals including architects, planners, developers, artists and municipal officers, to run with us a  series of workshops focusing on Budapest situations and to elaborate development scenarios with the participation of local stakeholders. How did all these events contribute to you advocacy undertakings? We advocate the community-oriented reuse of vacant properties across the city; the workshops helped us elaborate our methodologies, expand our professional and institutional networks, and bring together many actors from municipalities and the civil society who normally don’t communicate with one another. In September 2013, with the help of Norway Grants, we began working with civic organizations, social enterprises and cultural initiatives, mapping their spatial needs, organizational means and co-operational capacities, and connecting them with owners of longtime unrented spaces. In this process, we established working groups, comprising municipal officers, real estate professionals and civic organizations: focusing on various sites of potential intervention, from streets concentrating vacant shops to school buildings and large open spaces, we embarked on elaborating frameworks for municipal policies as well as for multi-actor co-operations. More concretely, we help organizations find empty spaces, get in touch with property owners, negotiate affordable prices, draft rental contracts, renovate their premises, create a sustainable organizational plan and communicate their results. What are the tangible results of your activities? We have been initiating a  variety of participatory planning processes related to vacant buildings and green areas. We collaborated with the Municipality of Budapest in developing a temporary use


di s co u r s e 24 program involving various public properties. We have been engaged with dozens of organizations looking for affordable space, and we helped 5 of them find a long-term location. This work also led to the Open! Festival of Vacant Shops, organized in 2014 with the support of the Municipality of Budapest, that opened longtime vacant shops for a dozen initiatives ready to install themselves in a ground-floor space for a month, testing the advantages and disadvantages of physical presence and constant availability. At the end of the month, about a fourth of the initiatives engaged in negotiating a long term contract with their landlords, building on mutual confidence and a growing understanding of each others’ positions. What are your plans for the coming years? We are in touch with an increasing number of private property owners who want to do something meaningful with their vacant buildings, and with municipalities who see vacant properties as an opportunity for urban regeneration programs. And we have been increasingly invited to participate in international cooperation projects: we advised an urbact policy transfer project focusing on the temporary use of vacant properties (tutur.eu), and we are contributing to elements of the eu’s upcoming Urban Agenda. In Budapest and abroad, we continue creating alliances between different segments of the society and exploring funding possibilities, organizational models and legal formats for the cooperative renovation, management and ownership of vacant urban spaces.


d i s co u r s e 25 Preparation for a kék event at Szervita square in Budapest, 2008. Photo © kék


h i s to ry 26

Creative solutions and dedicated people will be key in dealing with Budapest’s vacancy issues

fa – Failed Architecture is a research platform that aims to open up new perspectives on urban failure – from what it’s perceived to be, what’s actually happening and how it’s represented to the public. Supported by a website, traveling workshops and a series of lectures, FA seeks to develop ongoing and open conversations with experts and the public at large. This article was published at the Failed Architecture platform by rené boer who co-ran with mark minkjan a workshop in Budapest, in November 2013.

www.failedarchitecture.com


h i s to ry 27 The timeline of Skála Metró, an outcome of Failed Architecture’s workshop in Budapest, 2013 Photo © Dániel Dorkó (kék)

Architecture built under ‘socialist’ regimes suffers from stigmatization. It is often perceived as built without consideration for the urban context or it is argued that its physical appearance does not match contemporary taste. Office space built in those societies is generally seen as unsuitable for modern business, which often leads to vacancy and decay. However, to further our understanding of the architecture built under ‘socialism’, more nuanced approaches are needed that also take into account how its spatial legacy has evolved over the years in many complex ways. As the kék - Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre is keen to improve knowledge of this legacy, especially in relation to the rampant vacancy problem in the city, the center has invited Failed Architecture to conduct an intensive four day research workshop on a striking example of architecture from these times. Budapest’s Skála Metró was built during the last few years of ‘socialism’ as a department store and office complex and is centrally located next to one of the city’s main train stations and a metro station.


h i s to ry 28 The workshop kicked off with a thorough exploration of the building and its surroundings, after which the participants started their analysis in the Coming Soon! (Rögtön Jövök!) gallery in central Budapest. This vacant shop space will in the near future become the main base for the Lakatlan vacancy project of the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Center, and was brought back in use for the first time in years for the Failed Architecture workshop. The participants, mostly students and early career professionals in architecture, urbanism and related fields, worked for four days using the Failed Architecture research methodology. Following this methodology, participants were divided over 5 groups, each of them conducting an analysis of the building and its surroundings from a different perspective. These perspectives are the built environment, the social context, the economical situation, political conditions and the reputation of the building. Every bit of information gathered by the groups was put on a  five meter wide, physical timeline, which at the end of the workshop provided a detailed and nuanced image of the development of the Skála Metró over time. The location where the Skála Metró is standing nowadays became available after the London Hotel was damaged in the 1956 uprising. In the years that followed, the ‘socialist’ regime worked on consolidating their power, which from the 60s onwards included the introduction of a New Economic Mechanism. In this climate the first state owned ‘Skála’ department stores were opened all over the country. Plans for a new franchise on Marx Square in central Budapest were made in the late 70s, for which György Kővári made a striking design. This Hungarian architect had worked on various train stations across the country before and as the headquarters of the Hungarian Railway Company (máv) were to be located in the same building as the shopping mall, Kővári was asked for the job. In 1984 the nine-floor, dark-glass building was officially opened in the presence of the president János Kádár and various foreign officials. The complex contrasted with the urban fabric as it was clearly taller than adjacent buildings and as its widening lower floors flowed over into terraces hovering over the surrounding public space. Right from the start, the Skála Metró was famous for its


h i s to ry 29 wide range of unique luxury goods on offer, which were widely advertised on radio and television. It also provided more affordable products and housed a grocery store, which made it become a place to go to for virtually all Budapestians. After the regime change in 1990, the department store section of the Skála Metró was privatized and sold. At the same time, shopping malls built with foreign investments were allowed to open their doors, and did so from the mid-90s, which quickly led to the decline of Skála’s status. By the time máv left the offices of the upper six floors in 2006, the shopping mall was run by Chinese retailers and not much was left of its 80’s heydays. Marx Square, in the meanwhile renamed to ‘Nyugati Square’, saw an influx of homeless as well as commuters from the new suburbs. A year la­ ter, with only 55% of the building occupied (with all office space vacant), the real estate investor and business man Ákos Balogh bought the place. He didn’t set out to develop a holistic plan for the entire building, but started with allowing a club to open on just one of the empty office floors. While this was an instant success, its regular nights came to an abrupt end after three people died in a stampede not much later. The floors above the shopping mall were empty again, but not for long. In 2010-2011 the owner started to renovate the office floors and moved several of his own enterprises in the cultural sector to the building, such as a publishing house and various music websites. Recently, also a  small theme park called Mini City (“for creative kids”) was opened on the third floor, attracting a more diverse crowd of families to the building. Clearly, the building is undergoing a  ‘process of revitalization on the inside, but not on the outside’, as one of the workers of the publishing house told the participants of the workshop. Indeed, to passers-by it is unclear which changes are taking place behind the light-absorbing façade. The terraces of the first few floors, for exam­ ple, are currently closed, suggesting the building is still empty. In particular the terrace leading to the overpass is in a bad shape and offers a dreary sight from the street level as well as from the building itself. The immediate surroundings of the building find themselves in a  problematic state as well. The terraces offer shelter to large group of returning homeless people and the traffic situation is


h i s to ry 30 chaotic. Also the wild assemblage of small kiosks, food stalls, the octagonal concrete structures for greenery, the stairways to the metro station and the large advertisements make the square in front of the building a messy and confusing place. A soon to be realised redesign of the square and a new, local ‘law against homelessness’, although in itself a problematic development, will probably give the area a totally different feeling in the years to come. The Skála Metró is not only a very young building, turning only 30 next spring, it appears that in many ways it is actually a rather good building. Although the aesthetics of its exterior might not please fans of Budapest’s more traditional architecture, its structure as well as all technical installations are in a good shape. Also, the interior has proved itself to be highly flexible, as every floor can be easi­ ly converted from one kind of use to another. Furthermore, its location on a main traffic and public transport junction in the center of a major European capital is excellent, and the size of the building makes it suitable for a wide range of possible uses. However, more than getting some high scores on various characteristics, the Skála Metró has just been very lucky with an investor that seems to appreciate the building and is willing to put energy and money in an incremental, adaptable redevelopment scheme, while respecting its original principles. A small foot note here though is that due to current planning regulations only a much smaller replacement would be allowed after demolition. Still, a highly interesting and striking piece of late ‘socialist’ architecture, that otherwise might have been written off after years of vacancy, is currently finding new use as a thriving cultural business location. This makes it also a  great example of the fact that creative solutions and dedicated people will be key in dealing with Budapest’s vacancy issues.

Building the timeline of Skála Metró with Failed Architecture, 2013. Photo © Dániel Dorkó (kék)


h i s to ry 31


h i s to ry 32


h i s to ry 33

A major part of our buildings were created for a different society dániel kovács is an art historian and architectural critic. From 2007 to 2013 he worked as the editor and chief editor of the architecture and design magazine hg.hu. He worked as a project manager at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest. He joined kék in 2010, where he co-curated artur.org.hu, kék‘s Wikipedia project and Transmodern, investigating the legacies of post-war modernism. We interviewed him in July 2015.

North Pest Hospital, 2014. Photo © Dániel Kováts (kék)


h i s to ry 34 How do you think post-war modernism is seen today? How does the profession and the general public relate to these buildings? I see significant progress, but my optimism is overshadowed by the lack of scientific research and the widespread misconceptions. The number of protected monuments is very low, and publications are hard to find. Meanwhile, there is a certain growing interest, partly thanks to the internationally popular retro and vintage. Yet, a common canon is missing, there are dozens of important architects whom we do not know enough, and with a  few spectacular exceptions, buildings of the sixties and seventies rarely receive respectful treatment from today’s architects. In this sense I miss both institutional and civic intervention. Why are several, at the time award-winning buildings vacant now? A major part of the building stock was created for a different society. There was only one leading party here, and spending the summer at the Balaton lake was available for almost everyone. Party headquarters and edifices of mass tourism, however, lose their purpose in the multi-party system of a capitalist democracy. A slow demise also awaits the countrywide network of cultural centers. Other buildings fall into disuse because of structural or functional reasons, such as the infamous 84 meters tall apartment tower of Pécs, constructed with state-of-the-art Yugoslavian methods and emptied 13 years after because of the weakened structure. Cities themselves change as well: some areas become more valuable, other, formerly representative neighborhoods – such as the worker’s villages – turn into slums. As a matter of fact, the lack of proprietary responsibility is also a reason for demise. During the communist era, the idea of common property was mostly interpreted as ‘not-my-own’ – unfortunately, this approach lives along with us.


h i s to ry 35 Are there specific building types that have dropped vacant since the regime change, and cannot find new functions? What is the reason for this? Buildings that can be easily transformed are usually reused – party headquarters mostly turned into office buildings or municipality centers. In Hungarian cities, housing shortage is not peculiar either, and unlike in some parts of Western Europe, most religious buildings are also in use. More and more educational buildings fell out of use, which were formerly used by the children and grandchildren of the Ratkó era – the effects of the 1950-1956 abortion ban and tax on childlessness are still to be seen on Hungary’s population pyramid. The dilapidation of cultural centers, caused by reducing central funds, was brilliantly depicted in Andreas Fogarasi’s ‘Kultur und Freizeit’, awarded with the Golden Lion of the 2007 Venice Biennale. A number of commercial buildings and hotels also stand empty, partly on the hands of the state, because of the changing habits and objectives, but this is probably not a particular Eastern European phenomenon. And obviously most of the former military complexes also fell out of use. Which buildings are the most famous among these? The best known examples of such buildings were formerly poli­ tically prominent, such as the former main resort at Balatonaliga, which received guests like Fidel Castro, Yuri Gagarin or Leonid Brezhnev, and the party headquarters at Budapest’s Köztársaság (today John Paul II) Square. On the latter’s facade, one can even spot the red star on the top terrace’s railings – a rare sight in the capital... As an architecture historian, I could also mention a few lesser known but valuable buildings, such as Antal Lázár and Péter Reimholz’s 1974 Domus Furniture Store, modeled after Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum. Another example is Tamás Tomay and Levente Varga’s surgery building for the Pestújhely Soviet Military Hospital, inaugurated in 1985, awarded with the prestigious Ybl Prize, and left to its fate in 1991.


t e m p o r a ry u s e 36

We add value: it’s better for the property and the area if a building is used, also makes it easier to rent it out again or to redevelop it anna Vastgoed & Cultuur is a  temporary use agency that works together with housing corporations, private owners and municipal departments to help the interim use of buildings in periods of expected vacancy. Together with Stipo (a team for urban development) they founded Tussentijd Rotterdam (Meanwhile Rotterdam) to help cities develop with empty real estate as a tool. In Tussentijd’s work, temporary use is considered both as a short-term solution and a basic for longterm strategies. In June 2015, willemijn de boer, founder of anna, presented the organization’s work in Budapest.

www.annavastgoedencultuur.nl www.tussentijdrotterdam.nl


t e m p o r a ry u s e 37

What is meanwhile use? In Holland there is this way of filling empty spaces in the meanwhile when a building is not rented out or when it’s empty for redevelopment. Instead of leaving it empty, or paying a  security company, they often call an anti-squat company in it. In the beginning, there were only corporate businesses doing this work, that didn’t help social initiatives to find space. We’re one of the few parties who do it differently, we try to communicate with the owners, find out what the developments are, and also try to help organizations that are more vulnerable and maybe more hassle to have as tenants but who really add value to a building and a neighborhood. anna Real Estate & Culture is basically an anti-squat company, but instead of minimizing the use in a building, we are maximizing it, in a legal way. Is there a government policy that makes your work possible?

The former Europol building at Raamweg47, in The Hague, 2015. Photo © Sacha Grootjans Fotografie


t e m p o r a ry u s e 38 In the last couple of years, different laws and regulations have been changed to better facilitate the redevelopment of vacant buildings; different lobby groups have been working on that. One of them is the H-team (redevelopment team) of which I’m part since 2015 (www.herbestemmingsteam.nl). But for anna, the internal policy of the government is the most influential and gives a good example for municipalities en private owners. The government is selling many buildings because they have to cut down expenses. They also looked at how much space is needed per person: with the “new working” model, people are more flexible and forced to work from home more, therefore they need less space. It’s a cycle: every now and then, they’re reorganizing the administration and it’s shocking to see how many square meters become available. They are also selling prisons, airports, and many other facilities. It started before the crisis but the crisis made it more urgent, and selling also became harder. As it’s quite a bad timing to sell during a crisis, they look very carefully in the process, deciding what to sell and what to not sell. The policy is that when a building becomes empty, they call organizations to take care of the buildings’ temporary use. But they often estimate that the timeframe is very short so they think they don’t need the hassle to call in an anti-squat company. It could happen that an asset manager makes a different choice but the general policy is to do something of temporary use. They’re not calling us just for security reasons, because they feel that our way of temporary use should be more for a building that they expect to be empty for at least a year. How did you start? When we got our first building, it was being prepared for the French Embassy to be moving in, but there were still some negotiations. They hoped to be done in 3–4 months. We ended up staying there for 4 years. The building was about 3400 m2, spaces varied from 20 m2 to 80 m2: we organized flexible workspaces, meeting spaces, closed working spaces, private offices. The building was quite “seventies”, and we enhanced it with the wallpaper and se­ cond hand furniture from old office buildings. We only had a 2000 euro budget for the whole building, but everybody really liked it. It was really nice to see how much effort people put into customiz-


t e m p o r a ry u s e 39 ing the space for their own use, knowing that they might have to leave on a 4-week notice. There were architects, graphic designers, painters, sculptors, and jewel makers, a real variety of people. Why is temporary use beneficial for property owners and what does it bring for the city? We unburden the owners: we make sure that the maintenance is done, the heating system works, we open the door, clean up, and the owner doesn’t have to come to the building anymore. We’re also cheap security because it’s occupied; it’s also cheaper insu­ rance for the owner than when it’s empty. We add value: it’s better for the property and the area if a building is used, also makes it easi­er to rent it out again or to redevelop it. Some owners don’t really care but most of them do. We also program the buildings: seeing what happens in an area or in the city, we try to see how we can accommodate groups that have problems finding space. What is the agreement with owners? We usually work with 1-month notice and we can offer the space really cheap. The agreement is that we get the building for free and move out as soon as the new tenant or owner is found; this can be within 4 weeks. The contract says that we borrow the building and we can loan it out to third parties. For instance with students who need an atelier or a working space, we give them a contract where we say, “you can borrow this space from us for very cheap, 150 euros a  month, including the use, the gas, electricity, everything. But you have to move out as soon as the owner finds a new tenant or a buyer for the building.” Sometimes it happens within two months, but sometimes it takes 5-6-7 years before they find a  new purpose for the building. Thus we can accommodate creative groups in the city but also various social groups. If you have the money, then the risk of moving out can be a reason not to choose this format. For others, it’s perfect. But increasingly, we are trying to find ways to see how temporary functions can somehow become more permanent or make better use of the energy that has been built up in a temporary time frame, for instance by relocating initiatives that thrive by temporary use.


t e m p o r a ry u s e 40 What is the most interesting building you are managing nowadays? It’s an old school from 1935, to which a bunker was added in the war, and in the nineties new additions were constructed. It’s a 14,000 square meter building that the government wants to sell. But before selling they have a  long procedure, so they knew it was going to be empty for at least a year or a year and a half. They didn’t want the building to get in a worse state. They feel responsible for the building, it’s a common good, we all pay for it with our tax money, so they want to maintain it in a  good state and also want it to be there for the neighborhood. The area is also important: many ex-politicians, lawyers are living here and they are really keen on what is going on in the neighborhood and they have a strong network. If they’re against you, it’s really hard to do a  project here. So the government wanted a  temporary use that is not too active in the neighborhood but with open doors, so if they wanted to they could still see what was happening. They also wanted the building to stay nice and neat. They were looking for a party who could do that but with 1-month notice, because you never know what is going to happen: they always want to have the option that another government agency can use it. So we had to write a proposal with a few criteria, short notice, limited use of the building complying with the fire department’s regulations, social, cultural and business destination. We also made a proposal for long-term development, but they preferred flexibility. We’ve been in this building for almost 4 years. Why does it take so much time to sell these buildings? The area is so complicated that they are still not sure if they are actually going to sell it or look for an international organization, as we’re at the edge of the international zone of The Hague. They are thinking now whether it’s a good idea to dump this property on the market or it’s better to keep it for a while. As the designation of the building was “special police”, they also knew that they had to change the designation with the city and it would also take a while.


t e m p o r a ry u s e 41 It’s a whole game between the government and the city: the city can determine what functions can be in the building in the future and the function determines the price. Before selling it, they want the biggest range of possible functions to increase the price. How did you find tenants for this building? We have been doing this kind of business for almost 9 years now, so when we started this building, it was already 5-6 years, so we had a reputation. We have a waiting list of about 100-150 organizations that goes up and down. In this building, we are allowed to put in 50 parties: we have foundations, a political party, and small entrepreneurs; the biggest group is 5 people working in a company. It’s full now. We also have some income from business meetings; corporations really like to organize events in what they call “empty buildings.” We facilitate their events and they pay quite well. We communicate to the outside as well, promoting our tenants: it helps the surroundings to know what is happening in the building and also looks professional. There is also a bar, built from reused materials from other buildings. Because of the fire regulations, we’re not allowed to use upper floors for regular use, but for events we can apply for special permission to use the whole building. We also organize open days when we invite the whole neighborhood to come and visit the building. We also created an urban garden around the building. Do you only work in public properties? They are mostly buildings owned by the government and housing corporations. We also have a couple of private parties but we have just started to explore that market, out of the 15 buildings we have had, only 2 were private. We have 10 buildings now: they are bet­ ween 14,000 and 4,000 square meters. We will get more as a lot of governmental and municipal buildings are sold, and they feel responsibility to do something more with them than just leaving them empty. They are also more realistic about the possibilities of selling them, so that combination makes it a good market for us.


t e m p o r a ry u s e 42


t e m p o r a ry u s e 43

What we are trying to create on this square is not just for ourselves. We want it to survive us by decades, we want the created value to be self-sustaining, and we want a system that will work even 50 years from now The Open! Festival of Vacant Shops was founded in 2014 by KÉK, connecting the owners of long-time unrented store units with upcoming initiatives looking for a space in Budapest. Participants can experiment in the stores for a month without any particular commitment. Participants occupy the shops for a month, which increases the properties’ visibility and covers their maintenance costs. After this rent-free period the parties agree on the terms of continued cooperation, and the shops can find a new, potentially long-term function. We interviewed one of the property owners present at the first Open! festival in July 2015, Budapest.

www.nyitvafesztival.hu

One of the participating shop owners is having a rest at the opening of the festival, 2014. Photo © Dániel Dorkó (kék)


t e m p o r a ry u s e 44 As property owners you have been experimenting for a couple of years with leasing your store units around Kamermayer Square provisionally or at initially reduced rates, searching for new functions. What motivates you in this? Do business interests dominate your specific decisions or are you interested in creating value in the long run? Both of these are important for us. We cannot let our capital or assets go to waste, but it is also important to create a certain universal value that makes our activities sustainable in the long run, so we do not focus exclusively on the return on our investment. You definitely have to distinguish between non-profit and for-profit activities. With the former we support a cause, but we approach the latter from a business perspective even if it creates added value, because this is the only way it can be managed properly. Whether we rent out a property for free or with a discount, it is important that the user knows the market value of this deal. If the users know that somebody is basically paying the rent for them, thus supporting what they do, it motivates them in their approach and in realiz­­ ing their goals. As we are already present in the area with certain functions, creating an exchange of values, developing of a synergic effect between the units is important for us. For example, a furniture store had a one-month pop-up shop in the area, and arranged that when it was closed the local Kamermayer Association could use it to organize events related to the renovation of the square. How do you choose your tenants? We find it important that our choice should not necessarily be dominated by what we find valuable, by what we think about the world. Spontaneity is also important. Once we provided space for a pop-up art exhibition where I did not even ask about the artwork to be put in the shop window. When we decide on a tenant, it is important that the function can be understood at various levels, from specific through wider to even international interpretations. Our basic idea is to encourage the tenant to stay, to be integra­ ted in the area, therefore we do not overwhelm them with a mar-


t e m p o r a ry u s e 45 ket-priced rent straight away. We give them a period to figure out whether it is feasible, whether it can be successful, so that they get to know the possibilities. If we did not do this the fluctuation of tenants would probably be higher, because the area is still not dynamic enough for this period to be too short, and most businesses do not have enough capital to last through this period. What we are trying to create on this square is not just for ourselves. We want it to survive us by decades, we want the created value to be self-sustaining, to become second nature, and we want a  system that will work even 50 years from now. What role do you think a mediator like KÉK can play in this process? First of all it conducts a conceptual pre-screening, develops a framework and sets standards. Everybody has numerous ideas, it is hard to judge which is feasible, which creates added value, and it would be unmanageable if we had to deal with all this. Pop-up schemes are profitable for us in the long run if we sign a contract for a set amount of time with someone who will undertake accounting, financial and contractual tasks besides managing the pop-up functions. This is the direction we will go now if there is a suitable applicant, and this is the model used for the gallery that just opened: we rent it out to a company for a longer time period with a significant discount, and we have little to do with it for that time.


Ag g r eg at i o n 46

Bridge building in Amsterdam, 2010. Photo Š space&matter


Ag g r eg at i o n 47

We can have relevance in our projects if we are capable of more precisely targeting user groups; or maybe user groups should be able to organize themselves and provide us more specific demand


Ag g r eg at i o n 48

Space&matter is an architecture and urban design office based in Amsterdam. Using community networks and existing resources, they create new spatial situations, buildings, and entire neighborhoods. In their architectural, urban planning and cultural projects, the office makes an innovative use of social media, often focusing on the opportunities of abandoned or underused spaces. Space&matter is a  successful example of the emerging new role of architects: instead of settling for executing design tasks, they  generate commissions themselves. tjeerd haccou & marthijn pool, founding partners of space&matter were kék’s guests in May 2015.

www.spaceandmatter.nl

Your office was born straight from the crisis. What were your initial thoughts when establishing space&matter? 2009 wasn’t a very good year to start the office; there were very few commissions. Being an architecture and urban design office at the start of the crisis helped us acknowledge that architecture and urban planning have grown apart from society. We framed ourselves a mission: How can we add more relevance to our projects, how can we make our projects more socially and culturally specific? At some point, we thought, “Why don’t we initiate stuff ourselves? We have a lot of ideas, a lot of concepts, maybe it’s just a  matter of finding the right people who also like our ideas to get them done.” We established space&matter in the office of a real-estate developer whose company was shrinking and therefore had some desks to rent. This co-presence taught us that architects had much less effect on defining the spatial realm than developers: they were laying out the blueprint and asking architects to pro-


Ag g r eg at i o n 49

vide a spatial answer. Looking through the lens of the developer, we realized that if we wanted to add relevance to our projects, if we wanted to go deeper than just providing a spatial answer, we should be the people to frame the answer, to provide the blueprint, the DNA structure of the actual question. Many of your design projects are inspired by the Internet: how can you bring online principles into the physical world? In society we’re all different individuals, but there are many similarities. With the help of the Internet, we are capable of organizing ourselves and finding our like-minded peers. At the same time, we see that there is a schism between our behavior online and in physical space: when living in an apartment building, you don’t know your direct neighbors, but at the same time, you’re more connected than ever with your friends, interest groups and professional networks. While being disconnected in a  physical sense, you’re very well connected in a virtual sense. If we want to provide a more inclusive environment, could we not use the internet as a tool in itself to organize collective interest and embed this interest into projects

Bridge building in Amsterdam, 2010. Photo © space&matter


Ag g r eg at i o n 50 to become socially and culturally more specific and inclusive? We can have relevance in our projects by making them more specific if we are capable of more precisely targeting user groups; or maybe user groups should be able to organize themselves and provide us more specific demand. We’re helping them in framing the question for a spatial demand, which eventually makes the outcome more interesting than a generic architectural question and answer. How does it translate into concrete design projects? We see the potential of online tools to look at what people want and also to see how to fill vacant buildings up with new and fresh ideas. This is why we launched the CrowdBuilding platform (www. crowdbuilding.nl). In the Netherlands, we have quite a  lot of vacant buildings, around 9 million square meters of vacant office space but also many monument buildings that are just empty. And at the same time, we have a  lot of people who are actually looking for a house but cannot find one or cannot afford one. So we asked, “why is it so difficult to match these two together? Why is it so difficult to use those vacant buildings to give those people a  space to live?” If you’re browsing online, looking for a  house, you can only find a little house, but as an individual, you cannot buy a large building because you cannot afford it. You would need a whole group of people with you to persuade the owner to talk to you. But where can you find such a group and where can you start talking to these building owners? There is no place for that. So we thought, “what if we created an online platform where actually this is happening, where the owner of a vacant building can put his building as a case, and people looking for a house can see the opportunity and see people who share the same ambition to live in it, and then form a group, so they actually find their new neighbors online. And if this match is made, a project initiative is kickstarted, a potential for developers emerges, design opportunities for architects, for builders, and together they can pick up such a case and start developing this initial vision and focus on expressed demands. Maybe that’s the way to kickstart the transformation of the vacant office space in this case. It’s quite a challenge to get buildings


Ag g r eg at i o n 51 for our platform because private owners don’t really like to show their issues online. Fortunately we have municipalities who are also dealing with these issues and they are more and more willing to put their vacant building stock on our platform. It has become kind of a Kickstarter for office transformation. In some of your other projects, you deal with vacant buildings that most of the people don’t know about. What makes them inspiring for you? In Amsterdam we have a  lot of vacant buildings, including very small structures, like service buildings near the rail tracks, often very cool places to do something with. We also have a couple of design hotels, where each room is designed by a different designer and where you can come back every year and find another room around you. We thought if we combine the design hotel idea with all those little vacant spaces in Amsterdam, we have the city as a design hotel: the streets become your corridor and the local bakery becomes your breakfast restaurant. We called the project “Sweets” and made a booklet about how we thought about it and went to one of the most creative hoteliers in Amsterdam, the Lloyd Hotel: they have a design hotel so we thought those are the people to convince that we should do this. They were enthusiastic right away. We went to the municipality together and asked if there were spots available. And to our surprise there were quite a few spots available. For instance, as opening and closing of the bridges on the Amsterdam canals becomes digital and remote controlled, bridge operator houses are becoming vacant. There are 28 bridge houses spread around Amsterdam, made by quite famous architects over a time span of more than 100 years. We saw there 28 little hotel rooms that we can use and expose their cultural historical values to a broad audience, while providing a new function. When the project plan was published, people told us, “it’s so cool, now I see what I’m biking past each day” - they weren’t aware of those buildings and what their function was. “Sweets” is about vacancy and the possibility that it can give to a city. We’re in the trajectory to start developing this hotel, but realizing such an idea takes a long time: we’re still working on it, although we began 4 years ago.


Ag g r eg at i o n 52

Besides creating a network of small spaces, is it possible to bring the idea of reusing buildings and recycling resources to a larger scale? De Ceuvel, one of our most famous projects, is a good example for that. A shipyard in the North of Amsterdam had been empty for 10–15 years, and the municipality wanted to do something there, they wanted to turn it into a creative cluster. They asked creative companies in the Netherlands to come up with ideas how to deve­ lop that. But there were only two entries including ours, as there were quite a few difficulties there: there is no building at the site, the soil is polluted, and if you won the competition, you could only use it for 10 years, after that you had to leave the area. That they wanted a creative cluster means that you can’t put commercial rents there, you have to keep rents very low, meaning that you can’t spend a lot of money. The winner of the competition would get 250,000 euros to develop it, which is very little for creating 15,000 square meters of space.

Building De Ceuvel, 2014. Photo © space&matter


Ag g r eg at i o n 53 How could you build so cheaply? From another project, we knew that houseboats in Amsterdam have no value if you have no permits to sock them. All the permits are already distributed: if someone wants to get a new boat, they have to get rid of their old boat. They cannot just sell it, as it has no value: they have to pay a company to demolish it. We thought, “why not take those boats and put them on land in this new garden we made? And we would make a boardwalk, in-between the boats, so that people could go to them and after 10 years, when we have to leave, we could just put them on water and go to the next spot.” This was the idea, and we also had people joining us: a whole community formed while entering the competition; people who would actually want to rent such a boat. We also teamed up with a landscape architect office, Delva Landscape, which was dealing with research on polluted soil and working with plants that can suck up pollution from the soil. We decided to plan the whole site with these plants. Together with 16 prospective creative tenants we handed in our entry. We won. The next day it was in the newspapers in Amsterdam that we won this competition and that we were looking for boats to put on this land. The phone was ringing all day long, people were calling who wanted to donate their boat and see them revived at De Ceuvel (www.deceuvel.nl). We promised the municipality to make it a very sustainable place, so we made new skin and new installations to all boats. We also had a  sustainability office, Metabolic, joining us, making a  plan for making De Ceuvel an off-grid, self-supportive piece of the city. There are solar panels on all the boats, there is a biogas installation and we have compost toilets, so all the loops are closed. Usually sustainability is a technical thing, but we didn’t have any money, so this sustainability firm was giving workshops for the people that were renting the boats so that they could build their sustainable tools and techniques themselves, including the greywater system and the heat exchange equipment. This low threshold approach to high-tech installation was a very cheap way to attaining our goals.


Ag g r eg at i o n 54

Community Living was founded in 2012 with the aim to gain comprehensive knowledge of the cooperative housing models initiated by civil groups, or co-housings, so widely used in Western European countries, and to promote these models in Hungary. The initiative regards co-housings as potential instruments for improving the current housing situation in Hungary and resol­ ving related social problems, and it is searching for ways to create bottom-up co-housings from planning to long-term maintenance. We interviewed the representatives of the Community Living (Közösségben Élni) initiative, pet­ ra horogh, bence komlósi & péter koncz in July 2015, Budapest.

Community and cooperative living or co-housing is not likely to become institutional in Hungary in the near future. What conditions do you think would be necessary for creating one or more exemplary models here? What do you do to achieve this? We live in communities – the extent to which we do is up to us. This notion has not found its way into the public mind. We function primarily as a knowledge center, this is how we identify our role. We talk about the possibility of community living models, we do research, we are building a network of people who, like us, want to go beyond the usual ‘hello-how-are-you’ neighbor relations. There are various reasons why co-housing as a living model

www.kozossegbenelni.blogspot.com

We live in communities – the extent to which we do is up to us


Ag g r eg at i o n 55 has not become widespread in Hungary. Real estate properties are our biggest assets, therefore we are cautious with commitment as both tenants and owners. A supportive legislative environment and the socio-cultural factor of trust play equally important roles in bridging this gap. There are numerous co-housing models: in some all members are owners who have their own housing units, but community spaces and functions are also important (the Metropolitan Research Institute is researching this model for example). In others everybody is a tenant, and there is of course the system of cooperatives as well. Each model can function well, although experience shows that a mix of owners and tenants in a building does not necessarily work out. In Western countries the usual process involves someone purchasing a piece of land and posting an ad for cohabitants. The major Dutch housing development companies invest mostly (95%) in average apartment buildings, but it is worth experimenting with the remaining 5% because every tenth expe­ riment is successful and creates a market trend, becomes fashionable. Until we can show a market niche evidenced with figures or a concrete client pool to investors and banks, we can hardly expect any significant support from them beyond openness to the idea. The main scare factor for them is the lengthy and arduous process of community building and participative planning. There are two options in Budapest: either we can find 20 committed middle-class couples who have yet to start a  family, who can collect enough money to buy a piece of land together, or we rent property at a discounted rate with support from the local government, and only then find the people to live in it. The advantage of the latter option is that it can develop flexibly, but it would be less exemplary. How can such a community develop? Is it better when there is an existing property where people can move in and create a community, or when an established community starts renting or constructing together? It is definitely a very long process. In Northwest Europe it is a huge success if a co-housing can be set up in 4 years, but the average is 6 to 8 years. In terms of group dynamics, the smallest functioning


Ag g r eg at i o n 56 unit is 8 to 10 people, so for larger buildings we should calculate with several times that, e.g. 80 people. We recently launched the Grand Home Budapest project operating with the smallest unit, i.e. 8-10 people who rent a large apartment together. The goal is to create several small co-housing units with different profiles, and to form a network of these. It started as a research project but we have had our first ‘tenant meeting’ by now. Although we are still looking for the right apartment, a meeting like this can bring the participants a little closer to finding a common goal. It is important for a community like this to know why they are moving in together. The members must be in agreement from the very start on the preferred extent of sharing spaces, responsibilities and experiences. It can also be important to create an identity: in many living communities abroad are based on the members’ desire to live more environmentally consciously. Co-housing projects developed from friend circles are usually not long-lived; heterogeneous communities brought together through common values work better. We do not use such buzzwords for the Grand Home Budapest project, instead we search for those who will find their own common goals and may become initiators of their own smaller co-housing projects. We will help and support them with advice, optionally also in finding the right apartment, using our experience and knowledge in this field. Your base team consists mainly of architects, although what you do now is not considered a classic architect role. What challenges does Community Living pose for you as architects? Co-housing can generally bring various exciting architectural challenges, such as designing the ratio and relative location of private, shared and community spaces, the process of participative planning and its realization, or the repurposing of buildings originally constructed with a fundamentally different logic. The architect is often also a manager – this may be even more emphasized at the stage Community Living is currently at –; we connect actors, and balance the process to achieve social and economic sustainability.


d e v e lo p m e n t 57 The restaurant Gare du Nord at ZoHo, 2014. Photo Š Stipo

We wanted to create a community, not only a renter here and a renter there


d e v e lo p m e n t 58 Stipo was founded at the University of Amsterdam in the early 1990s and became independent from the university in 1995. In the following years, Stipo developed its own methodology to tackle spatial and social problems, focusing on value-based regeneration models based on linking physical, social and economic components, and experimenting with networking, temporary events and differentiated rental agreements. Cooperating with housing associations and members of the creative industry, Stipo regenerated 40 buildings in the past years, including the Central Rotterdam area of ZoHo. We spoke with Stipo co-founder hans karssenberg in February 2015, in the framework of kék’s lecture series. www.stipo.nl How would you describe Stipo? Stipo stands for ‘strategy, innovation, process design and open source’. We are not architects; we are an interdisciplinary team of urban planners but also psychologists and economists. We take action ourselves, we don’t only work on commission but also take initiative in the role of what we call ‘public developer’. We work for ci­ ties, municipalities, civic initiatives, private partners and ngos, but also run our own initiatives. We are trying to develop knowledge on one side and act in practice on the other side, and create exchange between those two. We think this is what the city needs nowadays. You work at many scales. What brought you to think about how streets function? We are very interested in the connections between buildings and the outside, the hybrid zone, the first meter outside the facade: if somebody puts out a chair, it’s a signal that it’s a trustworthy area, a  human area. In Rotterdam we created a  plinth strategy. Plinth means the ground floor, not only the facade but also what’s behind it. The reason we find it so important is that it is the most critical part of the building when it comes to the relationship with the street. A building can be very ugly but if it has a great plinth, the street will be wonderful. If the building is very nice from a design


d e v e lo p m e n t 59 point of view, it looks nice in a book, but the ground floor is closed then it kills the street. It led to us writing a book “The City at Eye Level” that we also published online. Stipo has also become well known for the revitalization of the ZoHo area in Central Rotterdam. How did this initiative unfold? Zomerhofkwartier or ZoHo is a former inner city business area in Rotterdam, right next to the Central Station, at the border of the WWII bombardment area: most of the buildings there were built in the decades after the war. By the time we started working there, it had gradually become a dead zone with a lot of vacancy; about 12,000 square meters of empty, lifeless ground floors, with real safety problems. People didn’t dare to cycle through. Havensteder, the housing corporation that bought most of the buildings there and the surrounding neighborhood believed that the area should be demolished, that it was out of date, old-fashioned, and there was no use for it anymore. But then came the crisis and demolition never happened. For us, the crisis provided a great opportunity to reinvent what should be happening in this area. When the housing corporation decided to not demolish the area but do something in the next 10 years, they called for ‘slow urbanism’, inviting us to help them with our ideas. We accepted the invitation with the condition that we could help determine who would come there. Together, we decided that it should be a makers’ area: it’s not only about the creative economy, we shouldn’t only have people who think, but also people who work with their hands, who make noise, who create objects. It is a wonderful area for this because it’s right in the heart of the city, but there are very few people living there. We set ourselves to revive the place, create a new economy, create spaces for makers, and open the ground floor places to bring more life to the streets. How did you find tenants for the buildings? We were very selective about who can rent here. We invented a system of pitches: people had to come in front of a jury, pitch their idea and say why they wanted to rent here. We said “no” to


d e v e lo p m e n t 60 half of the candidates, which sounds like a crazy idea in Rotterdam, full of vacant offices. But we wanted to create a community, not only a renter here and a renter there. The area quickly became known. For instance, we got an upcoming artists’ platform here, and on their opening night they had 2000 people standing in the ZoHo streets. From that moment we didn’t have to do a lot of marketing anymore. It all developed slowly and organically, following our shared vision but without any master plan or design. After a year all the 12,000 square meters were full. We never anticipated this; it went much faster than we thought. Did you have a precise idea of what kinds of tenants you wanted in the area? There were many surprises. Frank, for instance, who had been working in African countries before, decided to launch a  social enterprise here. He found out that Rotterdam owns 3000 sheep because it’s cheaper to maintain green areas with sheep than with electric equipments. If you have sheep, you have to shave them and you have wool. But as the city didn’t know how to use the wool,


d e v e lo p m e n t 61 they threw it away. Frank asked the city to give him the wool – he decided to rent a very cheap space and invite unemployed people from the neighborhood and train them to make felt out of wool, which designers would turn into hip iPhone cases to be sold at high prices. This generates money to support the whole process. Or there was a chef who lived in the neighborhood who wanted to start an organic-vegan restaurant. He got himself a former gdr restaurant wagon and asked if he can put it inside ZoHo. This is our new restaurant there: you have to book weeks in advance, it became a big success. Some designers organized an association and started a print club, opening a screen printing place in ZoHo, renting a garage that we didn’t think anyone would want to rent. We like to think of this area as a place with 100 investors, rather than one central investor: it’s a networked idea. What is the economic rationale of your involvement in ZoHo? We did all this with many passion hours: we learned this expression at a  government meeting. We did all the process because we wanted to invest in these areas. As the housing corporation couldn’t just hire us for all our hours, we agreed on getting into the idea of ‘the economics of sharing’ with them. We suggested to them to rent some of their vacant property to us so that we can sublet them and make money through this process, to finance our work. Our building, for instance, a 3000 square meter building, is completely full now. We began to think about buying the building and started talking about it with Havensteder. Then we discovered that we should have done this two years ago. The value of the property is not only calculated by the amount of rent that it collects (the rule is that a building’s value equals 6 times the annual rent of the building). If there are more renters in the building, the building becomes more expensive. But there is a  double effect: as the building is fuller, this multiplier goes up as well, and it becomes 8 or 9 times the value of the annual rent. We should have said two years ago, “ok, we will do this, but we will measure the value of the property and we will measure it again 3 years from now, and let’s agree that we split the value gain in half.” This is one of the mis-

Revitalized building at ZoHo, 2014. Photo © Stipo


d e v e lo p m e n t 62 takes we made. One of the problems is that many building owners bought their properties for high prices when times were really good, and have these prices in their books, which is not always a realistic market value anymore. A housing corporation would always say us that “you can buy the building but you have to buy it for the price we bought it for.” How do you see the role of this kind of development process in today’s urban planning? We were all brought up for decades after the war with this idea that urban development means that we’re building houses in a greenfield area, we buy cheap land from farmers and we develop it. This is what was called urban development, something that is done by people on the physical side of the planning spectrum, without social or economic competences because they complicate the process. This is what we had been doing for 40 years after the war. Reinventing areas like ZoHo, you cannot work like this anymore. It’s so networked, so split up into different property owners and existing parties already there that you’re not dealing with five people but with a hundred people. Because it’s so networked, there is no one party that has a big enough role to be the leader of change. This is why many of these areas remain untouched. We need a new role, what we call the ‘public developer’, the role we decided to take: the person who takes the initiative, who manages to mobilize the network and start actual change, combining different interests in the area. In ZoHo, we can work really fast because we don’t have one public developer, but we have 3: the housing corporation and the city district both have the attitude of public developers. Do you see ZoHo as a unique experiment? We see that what we can tell about ZoHo, you can find also in other cities in Europe. It’s good to know that it’s not just an incident, it’s not something we invented, but it’s happening everywhere. We are trying to bring these initiatives together with the Re:Kreators network and present them at the occasion of the Dutch presidency of the eu in 2016. We should slowly start to consider this the new way of urban development.


d e v e lo p m e n t 63 Temporary rooftop terrace at the Galata Greek School, 2012. Photo Š Levente Polyåk

The idea was to test the building with different uses to see which one works the best


d e v e lo p m e n t 64 Land+Civilization Compositions is a Randstad [NL] and Istanbul [TR] based office that works and collaborates on issues related to built form, with a portfolio scope from research to design. Merve Bedir is a partner at L+CC. Graduated in architecture from the Middle East University of Technology in Ankara, she has been involved in a variety of regeneration and reuse projects in Turkey, Egypt, Georgia as well as in Salzburg and Copenhagen. She writes regularly on urban transformation, sustainable development, and user behavior and energy consumption. We talked with merve bedir, who co-run a workshop with Jason Hilgefort in Budapest, in March 2014. www.landandcc.com

How did you get involved in the Galata Greek School’s revitalization? I was working as a freelance curator for the Netherlands Architecture Institute in 2012, when nai, together with the Galata Greek School Foundation, commissioned us to develop a reuse scenario for a vacant school building in Istanbul. Why did this building receive so much attention? It’s a building that was recently returned to the Greek community, after being confiscated in the 1950s, and being empty since 2002, a  decade of emptiness. The location is quite central in Istanbul. The school building was taken from a community that was quite prominent before but decreased massively in population between the 1950s and 2010. This was the first building to be returned to the Greek community after the reconciliation, to become a representation of the community, this was one of the reasons to reuse it as a public building, as a cultural institution and to make it non-profit. These were the only known factors about the building when we began to work on it. What challenges did you face when beginning to work with the building?


d e v e lo p m e n t 65 One of the main challenges was the question of Greek identity, somewhat invisible, unseen and unrecognized by the state and many locals: the project had a strong ethnical-political dimension to it. The local Greek community, decreased in population from 2 million to 2,000, was quite old, with very few young, engaged members. Another challenge was posed by the typical architec­ tural features which relate to the original design and the changes of the building over time as well as to the evolving building regulations: at the time of its construction, there was no official need for a fire escape and escalators or elevators, but now those are necessities. Issues ranged from multi-dimensional, complex problems to very simple, pragmatic ones. And it’s protected: a second-degree monument building, which causes further complications. It is also located in a strong network of cultural institutions in the neighborhood, with salt, other art institutes and newly opened art galleries. At the same time, being empty for 10 years, the building gradually disappeared from the mental map of local inhabitants and citizens of the city. What was the program you conceived for the building? Based on a symposium and several workshops, we came up with a programmatic concept to make the building attractive to everyone: How can we bring here people from all kinds of backgrounds? We came up with a  motto: by the Greek for the city! Since we wanted to use the building ‘starting from tomorrow’, we had to think about how to manage maintaining the building at the same time as using the building and making it sustainable. We designed a process that is organized in loops. Based on mapping the potential stakeholders and audience, we came up with ideas for the program, identifying elements more related to the cash flow, to identity or creating a spatial interaction. We elaborated plans, for example, for the main hall, where we planned an agora or performance space, emphasizing the three-dimensionality of the space, or for the courtyard to work as an incubator on each floor, as well as for the roof and the street. We also worked on turning the fire escape and the staircase into programmatic elements, while we were connecting


d e v e lo p m e n t 66 all floors to each other spatially. The program also included planning in time, indicating what to start tomorrow and what to help unfold over time, matching the activities with the relevant groups, giving an idea of whom to reach at which point of the timescale. Wouldn’t it be easier to find regular tenants for such a well-located building? The idea was to not immediately rent the building, bonding it to specific users for a long time, which would be risky, because we wanted to test the building with different uses to see which one works the best. Renting out smaller pieces was more advantageous because this way we didn’t get ourselves bonded to anybody for a long time. We rented out only the shops that could work separate from the building, allowing us to decide on the vision and on what direction the building wants to go as a cultural institution. As we were just testing, without expecting profit, it was manageable. What was your vision for financing the building’s transformation? In Turkey there are not many examples of cooperatives or collective ownership: you are either the owner or the tenant. In terms of financing, there isn’t much public funding available: the project had to sustain itself. How do you turn the building into a production space and a consumption space at the same time, so that it can become self-sustainable? We suggested to start with renting the two shops. With renting them, they were able to do small maintenance work on the building. With the elevator done, they were able to set up a cafe or restaurant at the top floor, and with that profit they started to make further renovations. They also hosted two Biennials and other programs whose rent started to bring in even more income, enabling them to host ngos and other collectives in the building. We organized the financial model of the establishment in three parts: in the first phase, the maintenance and housekeeping, that you have to do whether you run activities or not, can be covered from renting out the shops and opening the roof. In the second phase, you look into trials and errors: in this temporary phase you experiment with various activities, establishing yourself

Event at the Galata Greek School, 2012. Photo © Levente Polyák


d e v e lo p m e n t 67 and making yourself known. In the third phase, you can decide if you want to continue with the temporary phase or want to become permanent, picking a functioning program and continuing with it. We are now in the second phase and will see how it continues. Acknowledgement: Merve Bedir would like to mention here and thank everybody included in the organization process and workshops: Netherlands Architecture Institute, Galata Greek School Foundation; Meri Komorosano and the administration board; Chris Luth and Ole Bouman from the Netherlands Archictecture Institute; consultants of the administration board: Osman Kavala, Korhan Gümüş, Laki Vingas, Makis Bachtiar, Nikos Kalogeras; contributions during the process: Eva Şarlak, Görgün Taner, Han Tümertekin, Nevzat Sayın, Aykut Köksal, Foti Benlisoy, Edhem Eldem, Elçin Macar, Ari Çokona, Hasan Kuruyazıcı, Kyriakos Koutsomallis, Agathoniki Tsilipakou; the workshop team: Group A, Doepel Strijkers, Arkizon, AboutBlank, ZuMimarlık, Dafni Mimarlık, Eva de Klerk, Per Plek City, Studio Iris Schutten. And also Hera Büyüktaşcıyan for updating us about the current situation.


d e v e lo p m e n t 68

Exhibition at Müszi, 2015. Photo © Krisztina Horváth


d e v e lo p m e n t 69

We knew that we needed to create an independent and safe place Müszi (Community & Art Level) is a cultural centre operating on the 3rd floor of a department store. Besides hosting events from concerts to theatre performances and film screenings, Müszi also accommodates artists, ngos and start-up companies. 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. We talked with Müszi founder júlia bársony in January 2015.

www.muszi.org


d e v e lo p m e n t 70 What was the motivation behind launching Müszi? Müszi was born from the ambition to revive the tradition of the ‘house of culture’, a community space giving room for a variety of activities, an open-for-all public space where consumption is not required. In the winter of 2011 all the alternative cultural institutions of Budapest got shut down, those that did not only give space for entertainment but also for creation and artistic work. At the same time we also lost our building that we used for 5 years for artist studios and wood workshops. I was teaching a theatre class at the Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design; we were approaching the end of a  seminar, before the rehearsals in December and the performance in January, when we found ourselves on the street. Müszi is located at a very unusual site: the formerly vacant third floor of a socialist-style department store, right at one of the busiest squares of Budapest’s historical center. How did you find this place? We found this space when it had already been empty for 6 years. The owner didn’t really want to rent it out: it was complicated to adjust the building’s infrastructures and provide a staircase to the floor, especially since the rooftop bar occupied all of them. I got in touch with the owner and told him that we would like to use the space for 6 weeks, but we have no money. He told me that we could use it if we cleaned it up. We moved in, cleaned up in 3 days and began to work. After the preparations in December, the performance took place in January 2012, lasted 5 days and attrac­ ted over a thousand spectators. It brought a lot of visibility to the floor: suddenly everyone discovered this space, everyone felt that something is beginning here. How did you decide to remain in the space after the events? The owner of the building, who liked our presence, offered us a rental price. We decided to move ahead with renting the entire space of 2800 m2. We realized that we had nothing to lose, and we


d e v e lo p m e n t 71 negotiated a progressive rental agreement, starting with only the utility costs for a half year, then half-price for another 6 months, then full price. It was essential for us to find a  privately owned space to avoid political pressure. Was private ownership really necessary for this project? From the beginning, we were in a  political situation where we decided to go ahead with developing Müszi because we didn’t see the possibility that the theatre we’re doing would receive any subventions in the coming years. We had to create the circumstances within which we can work. We wanted to build a theatre for ourselves, and we built it, even if we haven’t really been able to harness it. When we came here, we decided to stop applying for grants, in order to avoid supporting the system with paying application fees, and to avoid time limits as well as accountancy and reporting obligations towards the institutions. In this way, the whole project can develop at its natural pace. It was important to reassure ourselves, because we wanted to create long-term possibilities. For instance, we installed an intercom in order to oblige the authorities to announce their visit. We knew from the beginning that we needed to create an independent and safe place, by all definitions. To open Müszi, you needed many tenants. How did you find them? Our business model is based on the recognition of the large demand for affordable workspaces both within the fields of art and activism. Looking for tenants, we made a  call for applications, where the criteria for selection included the candidates’ activity, their willingness to contribute to the community, and their capacity to pay rents. Through the application process, we got familiarized with the precise needs of the prospective tenants, and this informed the design of the whole floor. Müszi’s spatial structure had continuously evolved throughout the construction, reflecting the changing needs. We knew that we needed to make as much space available for offices and artist studios as possible. And we also knew that artists and NGO workers needed small spaces, as


d e v e lo p m e n t 72 they couldn’t afford large ones. In the meanwhile, we also wanted to create spaces for events: for performances, presentations, and dance – we were thinking in mobile spaces. How did you organize the renovation works? We began by collecting all available materials from the recently closed venues (Tűzraktér, Merlin, Sirály, Gödör, Kossuth Mozi), as well as from a nearby Chinese restaurant. In parallel, we left flyers everywhere announcing that we’re looking for furniture, and we received many items. Besides this, we had all the sceneries of Harmadik Hang’s theatre pieces, the collection of 8 years’ work. And there was a double ceiling, made of wood, covering the entire floor area. We used these to build walls later. To a large extent, the first phases of the construction work were done by prospective tenants.


d e v e lo p m e n t 73 To motivate the volunteers, we accommodated many of their ideas in the organization of the new spaces. This is how many originally unplanned services, like the children’s room, took shape. Were there architects helping you? The construction was led by Péter Gyenei and assisted by a young architecture collective, Studio Nomad, who were already part of the performance that inaugurated the space. In this sense, the performance already anticipated how the space could be used. We asked them to build each structure first, to test the chosen material in the given space, and to draw the plans only afterwards as we had neither materials to waste, nor teams to build according to drawn plans. With this low-cost construction process, how could you respond to safety regulations? It would have been very expensive to upgrade the space from being a department store’s display level: we adapted to this function and use the floor as a continuous space, even if it is partitioned into smaller volumes. You can dismantle the interiors with a  screwdriver, because everything is built like a scenery: none of the walls reach the ceiling. How did Müszi evolve in the first years after opening in September 2012? During the first two years, the financial model of the space, based on renting out artist studios and NGO offices in order to refinance the public space maintenance and its activities, had been stabilized and we began to expand to new floors, also into the nightclub above us. In addition to our cultural functions, we also started to offer social services, solidarity rent and short-term shelter for those in need. Our long-term ambition is to become a node in an emerging network of independent cultural and welfare providers. The next task is to create our social net. Not only to expand the services of Müszi, but also to be able to direct people to the services present in the neighborhood, to distribute clothes to the homeless, as well as hot tea in wintertime. We envision this as part of an independent social welfare network, as part of an independent reality.

Workshop at Müszi with Hans Karssenberg, 2015. Photo © Dániel Kováts (kék)


c r e at i o n 74


c r e at i o n 75

For a healthy society, it’s necessary that artists can also do their contribution www.skar-ateliers.nl skar, the Foundation for Art Accommodation Rotterdam was established in 1987 in order to create the right conditions  for artists of all disciplines, by offering them  affordable and adequate workspace. Managing both permanent and temporary spaces,  skar  enables cooperation between visual and performance artists by bringing them together in specific work and production areas. Working closely with the Urban Development department and mediating between the municipality, private owners and artists seeking space, skar manages almost half of the permanent communal workspaces for artists in Rotterdam, among them many formerly vacant buildings. In May 2015, skar’s yvonne wieringa was kék’s guest in Budapest.

What was the reason for SKAR’s creation? For artists, it’s traditionally difficult to have a place in society, because it’s difficult to value their work. We think that for a healthy society, it’s necessary that artists can also do their contribution: they might not have the answers to all the questions we have, but they help us ask questions. skar was created in the late 1980s to address the necessity of workspaces for artists, responding to a policy created by the local government to take care of them. Back then, all cultural and educational buildings were the property of the govern-

Artist studios managed by skar, 2015. Photo © Levente Polyák


c r e at i o n 76

ment. At a certain moment, the city created separate commissions to manage its properties, and some buildings didn’t belong to any commissions, in particular, the old school buildings where artists were working. The city created skar in order to take care of those buildings that didn’t belong to any other supervising bodies. Is SKAR still using those buildings? We use more by now, but we cannot grow too fast because we don’t have money for that. It’s a slow process. Currently we have 26 buildings, most of them in the center or around the center of Rotterdam, where artists have their studios. We have also temporary spaces, but we use most of the spaces on a  long-term basis because we think artists really do need a  place where they can work for a longer time without risking to leave on a short notice. Most of our places are old school buildings that we transformed into studios for artists: they respond to specific needs. Dancers, for instance, need high ceilings; school buildings from the 19th century are perfect for this, they have 5 meters high ceilings. We have 23 of those school buildings, we own 11 of them, and rent the others from the government.

raum - Office building at Stadhuisplein managed by skar, 2014. Photo © skar


c r e at i o n 77

How could you manage buying the buildings you own? Until a few years ago, the local government used to give us guarantees and this enabled us to work with a special bank that gave us loans with lower interest rates than other banks. This way we could buy 11 buildings, out of the 26 we use. We pay off these loans in 10 or 20 years, depending on the building. The deal with the bank also included arrangements that when one building’s loan was paid off, we began to pay higher loan for the others, to balance our costs. We do all the maintenance and everything with the rent artists pay. As skar is non-profit, all profit has to be turned back into the studios. What are the conditions for the buildings you rent? For the buildings we rent from the local government, we have contracts for 10 years. The city is happy with us because we keep their buildings in good conditions, they cannot maintain their buildings for a lower price. It happens, though, that after those 10 years, the government wants the buildings back. At this moment in Rotter-

Interior Space used by the Rotterdam Collectief, 2012. Photo © skar


c r e at i o n 78 dam, old school buildings are very popular with young families: the government’s policy is to sell all their buildings, including those they rent to us. City officials often see the buildings we rent from them as vacant spaces, even if they want to provide space for artists. What is the time period for which you’re interested in taking over a building? When it comes to new spaces, we rent them if we can use them for at least a year. In some of the vacant buildings we use, artists work for over 7 years, so it’s not that temporary. We didn’t know before that it would take so long: the buildings were planned to be demolished, but it didn’t happen because of the crisis, as there was no money to build something new. We have agreements with the local government that we keep buildings in a  certain shape and they come and control it. We make every studio fireproof and bring them water and electricity. So there are many costs to make the building comply with all regulations: the last building we opened needed an investment of 200,000 euros to make it ready. This is also a problem when we have to leave a building, moving into a  new one is very costly. Moreover, when we have to leave a building and rent another one, the rent is almost always higher. This is why we try to buy them. Do you always rent from the municipality or also from private owners? We rent one building for temporary use from a private owner, but the rest is all public properties. It is difficult to deal with private owners because in Holland we have difficult fiscal regulations. I give you an example: when you have 10 buildings, and rent out 8 of them, you can calculate the remaining 2 vacant buildings as a negative income. You can deduct them from your fiscal income. This is why private owners rarely give buildings away for free or for low rents. They don’t want the value of their buildings to be downgraded. At the same time, renting the building out to us can be attractive because the building doesn’t deteriorate, it is maintained, and we, of course, pay a contribution towards the costs: the owner earns money.


c r e at i o n 79 What kinds of artists do you accommodate? Most of our artists are traditional artists. Lately, however, more disciplines have been coming over, including architects, product designers, dancers, musicians, all kinds of artists have their studio at our place. We have over 300 studios, but also over 300 people on our waiting lists. At the same time, some artists grow out our studios: for instance, Mothership was a small organization when they started renting at our place very near to the Central Station of Rotterdam. They are art producers; their latest big project was the painting of the new Martkhall that all tourists in Rotterdam go to visit. They’re now growing too big for this studio but this is normal: it’s good that they go on and find a more suitable and maybe also more expensive space, thus making this studio available for others. What is the selection process for the newly available spaces? We only work with professional artists: they have to prove their professionalism. We have a committee that takes a look at the submitted work and decides if we can offer space to the applicant. We try to put the right people together because we think that even in a building where all people have their own studio, you should have a good mix so that people can work together when they want. And more and more, artists ask also for community spaces to meet and socialize within the buildings. What is your price policy? We have a fixed square meter price for all our buildings that we have for a long term, about 50 euros per square meter for one year. We have the same price in all the buildings, both in the center and at the periphery. It means that it is more difficult to find people for more peripheral buildings. But we think that every place can be suitable, we try to keep every studio in good shape and we believe that everyone should pay the same price. How can you afford to rent out buildings at a low rent?


c r e at i o n 80 Our prices are low for the artists because they cannot afford much. We can offer cheap rents because for both the buildings we own and the ones we rent from the government, the maintenance is done by ourselves. We fix broken windows, toilets, renovate roofs, and paint walls: we do everything. And we do it cheaper than the government or a private company would. Every year, our expert goes to all the buildings, and checks the state of the buildings. For each building, we make a  5-year plan of what we’ll do in terms of maintenance, but when there is suddenly a bigger problem in a building, for instance the heating breaks down, which costs us a  lot of money, then we are able to delay certain maintenance works in another building, in order to spread the costs over years. What are the perspectives for SKAR’s work? In Rotterdam, there are still many vacant spaces. Most of those vacant spaces go to three big companies: they are not for artists, and they don’t care about how a  building can be used to make a neighborhood nicer or more attractive. In the same time, many other spaces are already used by creative people, working with the purpose of doing good for their neighborhoods. There is an explosion of creative industry in the city, but for traditional artists, it’s much more difficult. We have to make the local government aware of this problem. What are your next plans? Recently we started a project, which could be interesting for skar’s future enterprises. For a period of six months skar rents a complete empty floor in a vacant department building. During this period the space is invaded by 35 performance artists. In collaboration they develop a unique festival in which the whole neighborhood is involved. I think this could be an interesting model for future partnerships in which skar could play a facilitating role as a provider of flexible spaces for creatives of all kinds.


c r e at i o n 81

We love the Cultural City Center concept, but its essence will only come true if it gets close to the locals, and makes their daily life more comfortable and colorful The Eleven Blokk Art Foundation is working on establishing in inner Újbuda an incubator area, which will bring new cultural, art and community activities to the district. The founders of the initiative, Péter Mátyási, Dániel Ong jerth and Lénárd Pap have been converting local government-owned, mostly below-ground properties that have been vacant for a long time, into art incubator spaces since 2011. We interviewed péter mátyási in Budapest, in July 2015. How did Eleven Blokk start? What was the problem you were seeking an answer for? I graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2009, and started looking for a studio: during this initial period it is very important to have a certain continuity in the creative process, leading one from the university’s incubator environment into the real world. In the same year I received the Újbuda Maecenas scholarship for starting artists, and began teaching at an art school in the district. These were all factors in my decision to approach the local administration, telling them that the greatest support would be helping me find a studio. After looking at several properties, mostly below-ground apartments, I found one with potential. I success-


d i s co u r s e 82

Work at Meetlab, one of the basement studios opened by Eleven Blokk and Lakatlan, 2015. Photo Š kÊk


d i s co u r s e 83


c r e at i o n 84 fully applied for subsidized rent to the Cultural Committee and I could move in the same year, and now I am working here with three other painters. The Local Government of Újbuda launched its Cultural City Center (Kulturális Városközpont) program around 2009. This was precipitated by the Allee mall siphoning shoppers off Bartók Béla Avenue, and the expectation that the construction of metro line number 4 would move all traffic underground. As a result of these events, small shops in the area went bankrupt, moved away or closed their doors. The local government wanted to counter this process with this program, offering reduced rent rates to enterprises with cultural activities that can complement each other and attract people, which would stop the area’s depreciation and give an image to Bartók Béla Avenue. That’s when Dániel Ongjerth came into contact with the issue and the area, and in 2011 we joined efforts to find out how we could solve our problems while participating in resolving those of the district. What were your first steps to achieve these goals? I knew a lot of people from the university and knew how hard it is to find a studio when you start out, and the local government has a lot of vacant below-ground properties; thus we created Eleven Blokk in 2011 with Dániel Ongjerth and Lénárd Pap as part of a previously started joint project. We became a foundation a year later. Our goals included representing young artists on an organizational level and providing units for their creative work at favorable conditions. The name refers to the 11th district and to the fact that we operate in a small area that you can walk through within minutes. A map emerged soon, containing properties we thought could be suitable for studios. We had a flagship project involving the below-ground property at 6 Lágymányosi Street, where four painters moved in. When we saw that it still worked one year la­ ter, we started looking for further properties in three stages. Today we have six locations: two studios in Lágymányosi Street, one in Kende Street, Bertalan Lajos Street and Vakbottyán Street each, and the recently opened MeetLab in Stoczek Street. We hope we can reach residents of the area with our activities in the long run, so


c r e at i o n 85 we closely co-operate with restaurateurs, service providers of the area and the local government. We love the Cultural City Center concept, but its essence will only come true if it gets close to the locals, and makes their daily life more comfortable and colorful. What does your co-operation with the owner of these units, the Local Government of Újbuda entail? The local government has recognized that our activities are important and useful for the district as well because we utilize pro­ perties that have been vacant for many years. They acknowledge the importance of our work by renting out the properties at very favorable prices. It is essential that the local administration feels that our partnership is mutual. Eleven Blokk has a rather extensive network of contacts, so if the district is organizing an event and is looking for artists for it, we can suggest people who are good in that particular field. This is good for the artists as they receive work, and unburdens the local government. These small gestures are important in conveying how much we appreciate having a suitable space for our creative work. What are your plans for the future? We would like to provide a financial basis for the large amount of administrative work. Spatial expansion is only possible in my opi­ nion if we begin approaching other districts with the concept and talk about possibilities there. We are happy if our activities prompt other initiatives here in Újbuda to start a cooperation with the local government and open studios and workshops, which has already begun. And we have numerous ideas for involving locals, teaching them about what an artist is doing. We organized studio walks, and the unit at 24 Bertalan Lajos Street has hosted several cultural prog­ rams (workshops, performances, exhibitions) for all ages. We talked with the Szövetség’39 group about creating concrete objects for inner courtyards in the framework of the regular concrete workshop. In the long run we may provide art agency services as well, helping artists who work in the district to find commissions, assisting them in building their professional career, and exhibiting their portfolio.


c u lt i vat i o n 86

Closing the food cycle, putting it in the city and making crossconnections: this is the reason of existence of urban agriculture


cu lt i vat i o n 87 paul de graaf is an architect and system thinker interested in the relationship between architecture, landscape and ecology. He investigates possibilities for designing the human habitat as a sustainable socio-ecological system, reintroducing natural processes and ecological principles in the human-made environment. He combines his international network and expertise with strong local engagement. A founding member of the Dutch expert group in urban agriculture Eetbaar Rotterdam, he is the initiator and main author of the study “Room for Urban Agriculture in Rotterdam” and an expert on the sustainable integration of urban agriculture and other multifunctional living systems in the modern city. We discussed the potentials and limitations of urban agriculture after his lecture in Budapest, in June 2015. www.pauldegraaf.eu www.eetbaarrotterdam.nl www.rfgn.nl

How did you, as an architect, turn towards agriculture? I found it a major challenge as an architect to work with something as general as sustainability and to turn it into something concrete you can really work with. Sustainability is a very vague term, everybody knows that we have to become more sustainable but what is it then? What is the role of the designer? What have designers to do with sustainability? At some point I came across the work of Canadian biologist John Todd, he created something called the ‘living machine’, an eco-system in a box. Wanting to purify water without the use of large equipment, he created a series of containers allowing plants and microbes to develop in a  way that they can feed off the system, turning waste into a beautiful garden, and producing clean water. It was nature in a box, if we look at this from a design viewpoint, it raises the question: how can we, within our fixed built environment, allow boxes – space – for nature to develop in ways that are beneficial to us?

Rooftop hydroponics farm, 2015. Photo © Paul de Graaf


c u lt i vat i o n 88 How do these eco-systems work at an urban level? We can consider Earth as one big eco-system. Life on Earth actually creates the conditions for life on Earth. It’s a complex adaptive system that responds and adapts to changes. This is called resilience and finally this is what we want to achieve with sustainability: that we can sustain our society in more or less the same fashion as it has done, in the face of the changes and challenges that inevitably are ahead of us. It works at the global level and also at the local level: even a garden might be designed as a resilient eco-system. The next level is organizing human activities according to the way eco-systems do. You can start thinking in making connections instead of separate processes, making exchanges of streams, for instance of money. For example, a  man in Chicago started with growing vegetables and connecting them to fish tanks, so that the fish would defecate in the tanks and it would feed the plants and then the bacteria of the plants would clean the water so that the fish could continue living there. It’s a  very interesting approach but the danger is trying to design the perfect scheme: of course, things change, so you have to be able to adapt. Which leads us to another very important property of eco-systems we want to mimic in an urban context, and this is self-organization: it’s not so much about fixing a scheme and designing everything, but you have to think in guiding processes. Of course if you start looking like this at the city you’ll find a lot of this already happening in some form, especially on a social level. How much is this eco-system thinking rooted in the Dutch agricultural tradition? Holland is often seen as an example of a very successful, intensive and productive agriculture – and it is. And at the same time you see strange things happening: while having one of the most fertile soils in Europe, recently reclaimed from the sea, part of this soil was covered with greenhouses most of which are off-ground, that could stand on any soil. What is produced here is peppers, for instance, with nutrients that come from mineral sources that


cu lt i vat i o n 89 have been mined somewhere else. This dependency on external inputs is the one potentially big flaw with the Dutch system. In Holland, there is a tradition of technical innovation: becoming increasingly industrialized, precise and efficient, that forces farmers to become managers and the landscape to become quite monotonous. But there are other ways of doing this: could we do agriculture in a more ecological way, working with natural processes, with a more diverse agricultural production? Agriculture for me is a combination of culture and nature: we can’t do everything ourselves, the plant has to grow, it’s a natural phenomenon and we can help it by creating the right conditions, the right ecosystem around it, and technology should only be used as a means to that end. How did you start working with these issues? I have a one-man office but I work together with other people, forming groups to work around specific subjects. The basis of my work is research and design, looking at tools to work with eco-systems and helping people understand it. In 2007 I met a few people at a meeting about urban agriculture. There were farmers, scientists and architects: people thinking about food and sustainability in different ways. We created “Edible Rotterdam” and began to work on a vision for urban agriculture for the city. We talked a lot about the food cycle: growing food, eating it, reusing the nutrients from its remains, bringing it back to the land and using it to grow food again; it’s a basic natural cycle. But modern society broke this cycle and replaced local natural resources with minerals. We suggested closing again this food cycle, putting it in the city and making cross-connections: this is the reason of existence of urban agriculture. Because if you do it in the city, you have a lot of the benefits that all these activities offer, in terms of cleaning water, purifying and cooling air, producing heat when needed, and social benefits like education, experience, recreation, therapy, community building, jobs. And at the centre of all this stands the urban farmer. Ideally, being an urban farmer is a job, with an economic benefit and recognition. What are the specificities of urban agriculture in relation with rural agriculture?


c u lt i vat i o n 90 Urban agriculture is something for the city, but it has a link to the whole agricultural discussion. The special thing about it is that it’s in the city: close to all the people who eat what you produce. While it lacks in size, it can still create an impact. You should not try to replicate the agriculture of the countryside in the city, but you should get people to think about agriculture differently. Urban agriculture is an activity that can enhance the city. It cannot compete with other functions in the city, especially not with housing: agriculture simply doesn’t give so much money that you can compete financially with other functions. You have to look for uncultivated and underused space: rooftops, basements, temporarily available land, parks that are not really used and a part of which you can turn into edible greenery. Instead of large stretches of agriculture around the city, you can have many small gardens, help them inter­act, and have so many that it doesn’t matter if some of the gardens come and go. You can create interactions with other functions as well, using buildings’ waste heat, for instance, for growing plants in winter. It should be an intricate network woven into the urban fabric. How did you apply these ideas on Rotterdam? The “Room for Urban Agriculture in Rotterdam” project was about looking at the city as a landscape, taking the ideas of urban agriculture and creating a spatial vision out of them. The idea was to have a mutually beneficial relationship between city and agriculture. For instance, you can mitigate heat islands with certain kinds of plants. Or use plants to create a ‘sponge’ keeping rainwater in instead of overwhelming the sewing system. You can use rainwater, if you can store it seasonally, to grow things in the summer, also humidifying the air and cooling the city in the summer months. The concept also includes agriculture integrated in the surroundings: food production on top of buildings, for instance, makes the most sustainable sense if it has an interaction with the building, using the heat or the waste products. If you start looking at the city from this perspective of urban agriculture, you can make a map of different milieus, different areas with different characteristics. Based on this, we created a  typology including housing areas, working


cu lt i vat i o n 91 environments, industrial zones and different types of urban green spaces. We connected each of these milieus to a type of agriculture. What types of urban agriculture did you distinguish? One of these types is forest gardening: a way of making an eco-system that looks a  bit like a  half-open forest. Once you design it and let it grow and put it in place, you hardly have to maintain it. It self-organizes. The only thing you have to do is to harvest. You don’t use annual plants here but perennials, in different layers, so you get a  park-like setting throughout the year. This is very different from the image most people have of urban agriculture; but it’s also a form of urban food production. Forest gardens can be almost architectonically designed: the moment you start understanding the relationship between the different plants, like those that absorb nutrients from the soil and then redistribute them through their fallen leaves, you can organize them spatially, into up to seven layers. Another type is greenhouse hydro-culture on roofs where you can think of nutrients not coming from a mine but being regained from the building, from household wastewater, thus creating an interesting loop. And there are other types of urban agriculture that can use different spaces in the city, thus complementing each other. Urban agriculture as a whole is more efficient if you have different types, each of which can take its own role in the system. What was the impact of the “Room for Agriculture” project? The impact is hard to measure as we are part of a larger wave of pioneers, but many of the things we proposed have come to reality in one way or another. In the past years, it all turned into a movement, and there are many things happening now. People do things at the most unlikely places: growing mushrooms on waste coffee residue, for instance. There are rooftop farms across the city. Even housing corporations that own public spaces between residential buildings began to introduce small farms.


c u lt i vat i o n 92

Many people got into one of our gardens without even knowing which end of the hoe to hold. A little later they had flower-boxes in the open corridors of their apartment buildings. One year later the whole corridor was filled with flower-boxes The kék – Contemporary Architecture Centre has been engaged in Hungary since 2009 in establishing community and urban gardening, practices with decades of tradition worldwide. kék’s goal is helping gardeners to evolve into a self-organizing movement by establishing model gardens and creating a comprehensive knowledge center. We interviewed monika kertész, head of the Community Gardens program at kék - Contemporary Architecture Centre in Budapest, in August 2014. www.kozossegikertek.hu


cu lt i vat i o n 93 KÉK opened Lecsós Kert, the first garden in 2012, but it has been dealing with community and urban gardening since 2009. What happened in these four years? From the beginning, our goal was to establish the legal background, knowledge basis and feasibility of community gardening in Hungary through realizing a couple of model gardens. The first years were mostly about spreading information and recruiting people on both residential and administrative levels. There was no legal precedent for renting out a plot even provisionally at reduced rates, and community gardening was not a  household term, therefore we were often faced with incomprehension and lack of trust. The latter issue was the main obstacle in using the first plot we chose, the so-called ‘Block 15’ in central Erzsébetváros. Aside from lobbying, we were looking for suitable pieces of land: we biked around districts with volunteers, wrote lists and visited local government offices in order to find the right plots for the first model gardens. We began negotiations with TriGránit Zrt. in 2010 about a  plot reserved for WestEnd II, an expansion of the existing mall by the Ferdinánd overpass. We named the place Fügés Kert (Fig Garden) because of a fig tree on the premises, but unfortunately the owner eventually backed out. Prior to this, we ordered 1200 tomato and pepper seedlings from Corvinus University’s teaching bio garden. We were busy looking for new locations and organizing professional programs when the university called that the plants had arrived. At the Sustainability Day held at Millenáris, we planted an area with the seedlings, and auctioned off the rest symbolically in recycled boxes – these could be tracked later so it created a green network in Budapest. This project was such a success that Millenáris agreed to be the home of Lecsós Kert. By the time we opened the first community garden of the capital, several thousand people followed our activities, and when we started recruiting the first gardeners there were 4.5 times more applicants than plots. Has there been a significant shift in mentality from the population, local governments and market players since the establishment of the


c u lt i vat i o n 94 first model garden? In the first year following the creation of Lecsós Kert, three more gardens were founded in Budapest: Leonardo Kert was established by us, Grund Kert was a bottom-up initiative, and the local government-owned Első Kispesti Kert was founded by the Urban Gardens Association (Városi Kertek Egyesület). We have been providing advisory and lobbying services to people who want to open other gardens, such as the garden in Székesfehérvár and Zugkert, and from the second year on, we have been working on the integration of urban and community gardening into the education. Today we receive commissions even from local governments and market

Gardening and construction at Leonardo Community Garden in Budapest, 2012. Photo © Viktor Oszkár Nagy (kék)


cu lt i vat i o n 95 players. Many people got into one of our gardens without even knowing which end of the hoe to hold. A little later they had flower-boxes in the open corridors of their apartment buildings. One of these gardeners told me that the soil was always wet by the time he arrived home – it turned out that his neighbor was secretly watering his plants. One year later the whole corridor was filled with flower-boxes. This is a very nice example of how the movement is spreading. The most important feature of the gardens to me is their power to create communities. When we began, the whole issue was surrounded by mistrust. The level of trust and supportive connections is very low in Hungary, both of which would be essential for genuine ‘well-being’ and the development of livable cities. I can see progress in this aspect. Opening a  new garden now involves much fewer ‘emotional problems’. Another boost to the cause was the TÉR_KÖZ call for tenders announced by the Municipality of Budapest, which mentioned community gardens specifically as an instrument of revitalization and community development. We can, however, state that the process is still in its infancy. Gardens are not opened as frequently as expected, and all gardens have one or more charismatic locals who are initiators and can be followed. The idea where a  few dozen residents join their efforts around a vacant plot and visit the local government together saying they want a garden there, is still not a reality. An exception to this happened in Kecskemét where 15 families with young children came together and started managing the garden as a community. What are the limits of utilizing property as a community garden? How temporary can it be, and how long before it becomes profitable for the parties? Grund Kert, for example, has moved to a new location twice, the core of the community migrates every year, so the concept is flexible to a degree. But as a garden manager I can see that it is not feasible to invest in a garden for less than three years. This takes significant burden off the owner of the plot, but the money and energy invested by the organizers, the users and the owner at the start of the process must also yield a return.


p o l i c y 96

Visiting underused office buildings with Paul Oudeman during his Budapest workshop, 2014. Photo © Péter Székács (kék)


p o l i c y www.amsterdam.nl/ondernemen/investeren/kantoren/kantorenloods/english-deutsch/office-space

97

We want to make the city competitive by focusing more on the demand of users than on the demand of financial products paul oudeman worked between 2009 and 2014 for the Amsterdam Development Corporation as the office-space intermediary of the Municipality of Amsterdam. His role was to encourage and help property owners to convert their vacant office properties for alternative uses, including residential pro­perty, hotels, space for creative endeavors, start-up companies and incu­ bators. As part of the transformation process, he brought property owners in contact with those looking for property and helped them navigate the munici­pal process, procedures and regulations. We interviewed Paul during his visit to Budapest, in June 2014.

What is the office vacancy situation in Amsterdam? In all of the Netherlands, the office vacancy is about 8 million square meters, but many people say that there is a lot of hidden vacancy: there is probably about 16 million square meters vacant office space in the country. Amsterdam has by far the largest office


p o l i c y 98 vacancy problem among Dutch cities, with 16–17% or about 1.3 million square meters vacant office space. Within the city, the vacancy problem is quite uneven. In the city centre there is a healthy office market, vacancy is 4–5–6%. When you go out of the city, especially in the areas built in the 1980–90s, where most of the offices are actually concentrated, there are areas with more than 70% vacancy, these areas are literally dead, with grass growing out of the concrete: it’s quite strange for a country like the Netherlands. What was the economic background of the office-building boom? In the 1990s, we saw commercial real estate becoming a real asset, more and more a financial product. It was very interesting for investors to put their money into offices. About 10–15 years ago, as the economy was booming, a lot of cheap debt came into the Dutch market, especially from Germany. The demand for assets was so huge that we started building more and more. A lot of areas across the city were turned into office areas. But this demand didn’t come

Visiting underused office buildings with Paul Oudeman during his Budapest workshop, 2014. Photo © Péter Székács (kék)


p o l i c y 99 from the users of offices. It came from the financial markets that needed good offices to put their money in. It was a booming economy with long-term rental contracts, 10–15 years and with growing companies, carrying almost no risk. The supply of cheap foreign equity and loans, together with very ambitious local authorities - because we allowed people to build offices - brought us into the situation that we had just too many square meters of offices. When offices become an asset, there is no owner-user relationship anymore, it’s just a pension fund, for instance, that owns the building and rents it out to people to use it. How did you become aware of the crisis of demand for offices? Around 2003, some of my colleagues were looking at the figures, and recognized that something was going wrong. The total stock was about 6.5 million square meters and we had another 3.5 million square meters still in the plans for the next 20 years. So we started to reduce the office space in our plans, introduced building


p o l i c y 100 permit restrictions to allow no new office buildings, and brought back planned office spaces from 3.5 million to less than a half million square meters for the next 10 years. At that time we also recognized that some parts of the office areas will never be used as offi­ces anymore, especially monofunctional office areas in the outskirts of the city, that had been vacant for about 5 years and everybody agreed that nobody is going to use them as offices anymore. Why is office vacancy the problem of the municipality? In the short term, it’s the owner who has the problem. This is what we thought in 2006. In a longer term, it’s the financiers’ problem: nowadays we see more and more banks that are calling us and ask us what they can do about their offices, because all their debt is in those buildings. We have to get rid of the mess. It affects the investing climate; vacancy reduces the willingness of especially foreign investors to invest in the city. And where you see properties going down, it’s also a socially undesirable situation. When they see that the vacancy problem is under control, investors are coming back. Our goal is to restore the balance, a healthy office market and the good investment climate. We want to make the city competitive by focusing much more on the demand of users than on the demand of financial products. We are now going into a new development policy and also help the transformation of vacant office buildings. What are the conditions for transformation? If you transform a former office building, you need a business case. It means a substantial impairment of the value of the property. So the value of the office has to go down at least 50, maybe 60, pro­ bably 70, and in many cases 80 or 90%. It means that a lot of investors put about 1500 or 2000 euros per square meter in the property, and it is now worth about 200 euros per square meter: property in Holland is now, in fact, sold for 200 euros per square meter. What is the role of the municipality in all this? If you have the business case and the investor, you need a  city council that works with you and not against you: thinking along


p o l i c y 101 instead of checking the rules. All our laws, all our policy is based on new development, all our manuals are focused on new buildings: we’re very good in turning greenfields into new parts of the city. Transformation is different: now we’re rewriting our manuals for redevelopment. It also means that we need civil servants that can think along. Further on, we try to accelerate the process because time is money. We have the same goal: we want to make something else with the building; we work together with it, and we need to be flexible. Since 2007 we help investors who want to redevelop vacant buildings. In 2009, the municipality decided to have one civil servant who could completely focus on transforming offi­ces into residential uses or hotels, or anything else that is needed. This transformation has been going on since 20092010, when this policy started. Since 2012, we have a vacancy bylaw that prompts office property owners to notify municipalities about their vacant property. In about 10-20 years, we will have a healthy office market. What are the results of the municipality’s intervention? In the past years, we transformed about 350,000 square meters, that is, between 1/3 and 1/4 of total vacancy in Amsterdam. At the same time, however, the same amount of office space became vacant, but at least we can manage to keep vacancy at the same level. It’s quite easy in the city centre, but we managed to proceed also in more peripheral areas. An interesting example is a 40,000 square meter office building on the West Axe, built by a bank, owned by the ikea family who have a lot of real estate investments all around Europe. They were quite honest about this building: they knew that they weren’t going to rent it anymore, it’s not going to be an office building anymore, it’s not the right location, it isn’t near any train or metro stations. Accessibility by car is not enough anymore to compete with other office buildings. So they brought the price down by about 50% and started investing in it to make a 4-star hotel. At the same time, a hotel school went in, using 10,000 square meters. It made the area very lively. In the beginning, the local district wasn’t very happy with this plan, but we convinced them to go along with


p o l i c y 102 it and everybody is very pleased with the transformation today, the school even invested in the area and the public space around. What did the transformation policy restructure in the real estate market? The most important lesson for me was to learn that the real estate is very diffused. The commercial real estate market dealing with the office spaces, and the noncommercial market dealing with social housing and other types of real estate, don’t speak each others’ language, they don’t use the same spreadsheet, they have different ways of working and living. They have their own networks: they don’t meet each other. If you want to transform an office building into housing, you have to go from one market into the other market. It has become easier with time, as they started understanding each other. For transformation, you need people with knowledge of all the different markets. For instance, most of the office buildings that are vacant are larger than 10,000 square meters. While there is a lot of demand for smaller spaces by creative start-ups, the match is very difficult. Was it easy to get property owners on board? We compare this sometimes with the briefing process. First you have shock and denial: this was really happening in 2008. Everybody we called said, “There is no problem.” In 2009, when the crisis really came in, they all got very angry, blaming the municipality that we let people build too many offices. They tried to survive but had many bankruptcies. Since 2012, everybody was getting easy again, they started to revalue, started to experiment, taking transformation as a serious option. 5 years ago everybody thought it was impossible to make houses out of offices: complicated financially, in terms of the area and also architecturally. But then some people started calculating and looking at what was possible, how we can make it cheap. It turned out to be quite simple to adapt office buildings into student housing, or short-stay apartments, for instance. And nowadays they even talk about demolition and starting it all over again.


p o l i c y 103

Instead of a general policy, you have to go from shop to shop, you have to know the owners and they should know you and know where to reach you ir. manish dixit started his career as a real estate developer. He has been responsible for several large-scale developments in housing and commercial real estate. In the past eight years he has been involved in the development and implementation of strategies for transforming poorly functioning urban areas. He was leading the transformation of Paul Krugerlaan in The Hague, addressing problems related to the physical appearance of the street, its diversity, low quality of entrepreneurship, poorly functioning shopkeeper’s association and declining number of visitors. Based on a participative approach and emphasizing the socio-economic vitality of the area, Paul Krugerlaan’s regeneration helped the street quit its vicious circle of decline and attract new entrepreneurs. Manish was kék - Contemporary Architecture Centre’s guest in Budapest, in November 2014.


p o l i c y 104 What was the diagnosis that prompted the municipality to intervene in Paul Krugerlaan? In 2009, Paul Krugerlaan was very different than now. The economic climate was not very good in the neighborhood and the whole area was declining. You could see many shops that were closed or were in very poor shape. In 2007, the street had 140 shops owned by 101 different owners. This meant that to make change, we had to negotiate with 101 property owners. The owners were not at all involved in what was happening in the street, they were not maintaining their properties, and this resulted in very run-down shops. At the same time, there was the perception that you can earn a lot of money at Paul Krugerlaan, and therefore rent rates were very high, 30–40% above of what a realistic price would be. Entrepreneurs were even willing to pay a lot of so called ‘key money’, often 50,000 or 100,000 euros just to get the keys of a shop. People have bought those properties for very low prices in the 1980s and were now renting them out for enormous amounts and not doing anything about the properties. And there was no diversity: there were 10 bakers, 10 barber shops, 10 kebab shops. Some shops were catering to the local community, but for certain others customers came from Germany, France, Belgium and the whole of Netherlands: bridal shops, for instance. How did you approach the street? When looking at a  street, we have to understand how different elements are in competition with each other, how the street is in competition with other streets, how a neighborhood and a city competes with others. At all scales, we have to understand the economic fiber of the city, by understanding the society, how it works, what kind of skills people have, how they can be economically productive. Paul Krugerlaan is in The Hague’s Transvaal district, a very dense urban fabric with only a few green areas, low-quality housing, poverty problems and safety issues. It is a very ethnically diverse area with about 180 nationalities and a  very interesting history. The street was built in the early 20th century by real estate entrepreneurs, each of them built about 5-6 apartment buildings, and together they added up to a street of nearly 1.5 kilometers. It


p o l i c y 105 was built as a residential area, but in the first 10-15 years the ground floor changed into a very lively shopping area. In the 1970s the first immigrants arrived to the area: it took about 10 years for the shops to change, the street’s commerce became more ethnic, and in the 1990s also property ownership shifted to the new immigrants. What was the municipality’s vision of transforming Paul Krugerlaan? Our ambition was to have a more diverse area, attracting different kinds of target groups. We put a lot of emphasis on economics and social cohesion, building up communities with which the municipality can work. In 2009, we established a 3-step program. As the physical appearance of the street was very bad, we started with the shops and the public space. Once that basic foundation was there, then we could work on the economic enforcement, changing the economic environment of the street. And only after that could we start repositioning the street, changing its bad reputation. We were focusing on three things: winning back the trust of the entrepreneurs and inhabitants, building a strong and stable economic structure and cracking down on illegal activities in the street. What were the steps to achieve all this? First, we renovated more than 60% of the shopfronts and reconstructed the surrounding public space. We cooperated with schools and shop owners to create internships so that shop owners could experiment with what it is to have somebody working for you in the shop. Because all the shops were family-owned, everybody was working for themselves, they were not creating jobs for others. We invited the entrepreneurs and coached them to get interns and work with them for 3 months. Another step in enforcing the economic structure of the Paul Krugerlaan was to improve cooperation among the entrepreneurs, to renew the association of shopkeepers. It already existed, but nobody paid their membership fee, so the association couldn’t do anything. There is a law in The Netherlands which allows mandatory payment of membership fee provided a  certain percentage of shopkeepers choose for this law implementation in their shopping area. In Paul Krugerlaan the


p o l i c y 106

amount was fixed at 180 euros per year. The municipality collected that money from all the 140 shopkeepers and gave it to the association: suddenly the association had 25,000 euros on a yearly basis to do all kinds of activities for the promotion of the street. We also started looking at all the shops that were empty: as there were no decent places to sit and eat in the street, we attracted restaurants. We brought in entrepreneurs with over 5 years of experience. How did you involve so many stakeholders in the street? One of the key elements of the intervention was the ‘door-to-door fighting’: this means that instead of a general policy, you have to go from shop to shop, all the 140 shops, you have to know the owners and they should know you and know where to reach you. Our project office was in that area itself: shopkeepers didn’t have to call a  complex number or search for whom to talk to in the municipality, they could just come to us and we solved the problem right away. Another very important element was creating ownership within the municipality and with all the different stakeholders, so that people are co-creators, they all own a part of the solution and therefore they feel involved, they feel proud that they were part of a process, which led to the change. If you co-operate together, there is a special value created by that. We also understood the importance of trust between the neighborhood and the municipality: we made sure that when we promised something we delivered. Beauty contest at Paul Krugerlaan, 2014.

Exhibition opening in the project space of the Rögtön jövök!

Photo © Manish Dixit

(Coming Soon!) program, 2013. Photo © Dániel Dorkó (kék)


p o l i c y 107

Cooperation with the local private sector and non-profit organizations enables investments to be realized in accordance with local needs

såndor finta is an architect, founder of the design office sporaarchitects and the kÊk – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre. He was nominated chief architect of the city of Budapest in April 2012. In the first three years of his tenure, he introduced a variety of municipal programs to tackle vacant and underused public properties, in cooperation with district administrations, ngos and young entrepreneurs. We asked him about the results of these programs in July 2015.


p o l i c y 108 Right at the beginning of your tenure as Buda­pest’s chief architect, you introduced two programs that were directly engaging with the problem of vacancy: what were the objectives of the TÉR_KÖZ and the Coming Soon! (Rögtön jövök!) programs? The Municipality of Budapest announced the tér_köz urban rehabilitation tender for its districts with the aim of improving the quality of urban life and filling unused, underprivileged areas with life. Our most important requirement was that applying districts should develop their projects in cooperation with the local private sector, ngos, religious and other non-profit organizations, and share with them the tasks of realizing and maintaining the projects. This was important to us because it enables investments to be realized in accordance with local needs, and when a community becomes responsible for an area, maintenance issues drop to a minimal level. The Municipality spent a total of 5 billion forints on subsidies for the tér_köz project, and district governments contributed some funds as well, making it a city-level public space renovation program with a total budget over 5 billion forints. The Coming Soon! program is also an initiative of the Municipality of Budapest, conducted in cooperation with the kék – Contemporary Architecture Centre, established with the aim of handling with a complex approach the issue of long-time vacant, mostly central, ground-floor storefront properties owned by local municipalities, and of encouraging the ‘recycling’ of these units. The local governments’ asset management scheme currently favors long-term market-based utilization because this is the option provided by the legislation. The aim of Coming Soon! is providing information on and motivating the practice of typically short-term, reduced-rate pro­ perty utilization, provisional utilization between lease periods, or interim use in the practice of district governments. Coming Soon! provides an opportunity to prevent or stop the negative effects of increasing vacancy (depreciating state of buildings, vandalism, decreased sense of public safety, deterioration of public spaces in the area, plummeting real estate prices), and to reintegrate vacant properties into the city’s economic life. The utilization of proble­matic,


p o l i c y 109 long-time unrented properties can only be successfully realized with a new approach. The program first and foremost sensitizes local governments to the issues, aims to provide practical solutions to them, and attempts to harmonize the work of all participants. What were the difficulties you encountered during the realization of these programs? The tér_köz tender is basically successful as professionals, district officers and urban residents were all enthusiastic about it. The goal was not to create projects initiated at city management level, but to start initiatives generated by local communities. This caused problem during realization, however, because each local government interpreted the notions of ‘community’ and ‘community spaces’ differently. There was no precedent for such large-scale investments involving local communities, therefore we could mostly show examples from foreign countries to local administrations, and tried directing them towards good solutions during regular consultations. The fundamental problem was that local governments did not involve ngos as much as they should have, therefore in some instances the civil parties had to approve, maintain and bring life into projects that were already partly or fully developed. Furthermore, the participants did not have practical experiences in terms of cooperative projects limited by deadlines, financial and legal restrictions, which is something to be taken into account if we were to continue this program. The Coming Soon! tender also suffered most from the program’s novelty: it handles the issue of vacant properties with provisional solutions and new legal constructs. However, local governments are not prepared for such solutions as the rigid Act cvi of 2007 on State Assets stipulates very strict conditions for renting out vacant properties to market players. Regulations are not flexible enough, therefore they cannot adapt to novel concepts and new demands. The budget of district governments cannot handle rent below a certain amount, thus rates of zero or very low rates cannot be approved in compliance with the law, even if the adminis­ tration gains more overall through preservation than the losses it incurs due to vacancy. This limits the district governments’ ca-


p o l i c y 110 pacity to allow activities of potentially great social benefit in their properties. These stringent and often unrealistic financial and legal restrictions clearly need to be rephrased so that the underutilization of these properties can be dynamically reduced. How do you see the results of Coming Soon! and TÉR_KÖZ? The Coming Soon! program can be considered a success because we could raise awareness among local governments, and some even rented out their retail units within the given legislative framework. With the support of the Municipality of Budapest, the KÉK – Contemporary Architecture Centre launched the Open! Festival that ‘tests’ some of the principles of the Coming Soon! program through offering the vacant shops to pop-up businesses for a few weeks. In exchange these young enterprises give a  glimpse into their lives and catch the attention of passers-by: you could taste cookies made by the Naspolya Nassolda, or watch physics experiments at KwakLab. Still, the greatest value of Coming Soon! was introducing the issue of vacant properties and retail units to the public mind, and now local governments are forced to improve their options and find working solutions. This was an important achievement for the tér_köz tender as well, raising awareness among the population and politicians on the usability of unrented properties and on the importance of community spaces, and introducing the non-governmental initiatives that maintain these spaces. I am very happy that eventually most local governments recognized the importance of these projects and tried to provide assistance, thus exemplary projects could be created for specific urban problems within the scope of the tender. Such projects as the skateboard and bmx track on a vacant plot below Petőfi bridge, or the Hullám Csónakházak project which fills with programs the forgotten boat-houses of Csepel on the Danube, or Kossuth Square in the 19th district, which was originally going to be a  parking plot but through planning and negotiations became a  multifunctional space that students from nearby schools can use as a place for sports and meetings during the week, and locals can use as a marketplace on weekends, while parking spaces are also available.


Hu n g a r i a n s u m m a ry 111

Az üres ingatlanok problémája és lehetőségei Polyák Levente

Budapesten egyre égetőbb kérdés az üres ingatlanok problémája. Miközben a lakáspiac egyre inkább magára talál a válság okozta bénultságból, az üzleti célú ingatlanok piaca nem követi ezt a tendenciát: a fogyasztási szokások átalakulása, a demográfiai változások és az elmúlt évtizedek politikai transzformációi nyomán üzletek és kulturális, oktatási, turisztikai, egészségügyi, katonai és közigazgatási épületek százai állnak üresen, ezzel jelentős terhet rakva tulajdonosaik – az állam, illetve az önkormányzatok – vállára. A legfrissebb adatok szerint Erzsébetváros és Terézváros földszintjén – a város legfelkapottabb kerületeiben – összesen mintegy 30 000 négyzetméternyi terület áll üresen: a budapesti kerületek gyakran évi több tíz (egyesek több száz) millió forintot fizetnek ki üres helyiségeik költségeire, amelyek állapota eközben tovább romlik. Budapesten sokáig csak művészek és kulturális szerveződések mozdultak meg igazán annak érdekében, hogy – gyakran bármiféle engedély nélkül, máskor átverekedve magukat a hivatali bürokrácia útvesztőin – kihasználják az üres ingatlanokban rejlő lehetőségeket. Elhagyott gyárépületek, szervizépületek, üzletházak és a városban szerteszét található üres kirakatok több művészgeneráció kiállításainak, performanszainak, koncertjeinek szolgáltak helyszí-


m agya r ö s s z e fo gl a ló 112 néül. Azok az önkormányzatok, amelyek – leggyakrabban kedvezményes bérleti díj fejében – átengedtek egy-egy ingatlant innovatív kezdeményezéseknek, általában sikertörténeteket hoztak létre: a Jurányi Produkciós Közösségi Inkubátorház a Főváros egyik üres iskolaépületében, a  Paloma-ház designer bemutatótermei egy V. kerületi épület belső udvarában, a Hellóanyu! családbarát közösségi tér egy egy évtizede kiadatlan VII. kerületi üzletben, vagy az Eleven Blokk műtermei (ld. interjúnkat Mátyási Péterrel), a  Kockacsoki autista fiatalokat foglalkoztató műhelye, vagy a kék galériája a XI. kerület üres helyiségeiben mind új tereket nyitottak a kreatív ipar és a társadalmi vállalkozások számára. Strukturált válasz azonban sokáig nem született az üres ingatlanok problémájára. A főváros 2013-as felhívása, a kerületi önkormányzatok és civil szervezetek szövetségei számára kiírt „tér_köz” pályázat kiemelt problémaként tekintett jelölte meg a kihasználatlan ingatlanokra: támogatandónak jelölte meg azok közösségi funkcióval való megtöltését. A  főváros ugyanazon év tavaszán meghirdetett, „Rögtön jövök!” című pályázatában az üres üzlethelyiségekbe olyan innovatív installációkat keresett, „melyek az utcakép esztétikai kialakítása, rendezettsége és tisztántarthatósága mellett a helyi társadalmi és gazdasági folyamatokra is pozitív hatást gyakorolhatnak, emellett figyelemfelkeltőek és elgondolkodtatóak”. A pályázatot követő „Rögtön Jövök!” program, amelyben a főváros – a Kortárs Építészeti Központ szakmai támogatásával – kereste a kerületek együttműködését a városszerte található üres üzlethelyiségek kreatív és közösségi célú hasznosításában, nem rázta fel igazán a kerületeket: a 23 kerületből összesen 2 ajánlott fel helyiségeket a  program megpályázható ingatlanokat összegyűjtő közös adatbázisába. Bár néhány kerület rendelkezik olyan mechanizmussal, amelyek civil, illetve társadalmi-közösségi célú kezdeményezések számára kedvezményt nyújtanak az önkormányzati ingatlanok bérleti díjából, ezek a mechanizmusok általában rendkívül nehézkesek, gyakran évekig elhúzódnak, és felőrlik a kezdeményezések energiáját és anyagi forrásait. Egy jól működő városnak szüksége van arra, hogy kihasználja erőforrásait, összekösse a tereiben mutatkozó keresletet és kínálatot. Arra is szüksége van, hogy szerves együttműködések szülessenek a köz-, a privát és a civil szféra között. A város kihasználatlan


H u n g a r i a n s u m m a ry 113 tereihez való jobb hozzáférés aktívabb, kezdeményezőbb városlakókat formál, akik a városvezetők és tervezők munkáját is segíthetik: az ő energiájuk nélkülözhetetlen egy fenntartható, élhető város megteremtéséhez. A kék - Kortárs Építészeti Központ Lakatlan programja egy ilyen együttműködési rendszer létrehozását célozta meg: a  program célja, hogy a  városban üresen álló magán- és köztulajdonú ingatlanokat átmenetileg hozzáférhetővé tegye olyan közösségi és szociális kezdeményezések, kreatív és kulturális vállalkozások számára, amelyek kedvező hatással lehetnek mind az ingatlan állapotára, a környék kereskedelmi és kulturális életére, szolgáltatásainak minőségére. Az átmeneti hasznosítás célja ugyanakkor az is, hogy a kedvezményes feltételű ingatlanhasználat a támogatott kezdeményezéseket is segítse kibontakozni. A program során a helykereső kezdeményezésekkel és szakmai partnereinkkel dolgozunk azon, hogy a projektötleteket fenntartható modellekké fejlesszük, és ezzel párhuzamosan megtaláljuk azokat a  jelenleg lakatlan tereket, amelyek kedvező feltételekkel fogadhatják be az innovatív közösségi kezdeményezéseket. A programban az elmúlt években hazai és nemzetközi szakértők segítségével, workshopok, előadások, beszélgetések keretében kutattuk az üres ingatlanok újrahasznosításának modelljeit, módszereit és eszközeit, megvizsgálva ezek hazai alkalmazhatóságának kérdését. A  munkánkat inspiráló gyakorlatok jelentős része Hollandiából származik, ahol az üres ingatlanok problémája az elmúlt években az építészi-várostervezői és a  közigazgatási diskurzus egyik legfontosabb kérdésévé nőtte ki magát. Ami az üres ingatlanokat illeti, Hollandia természetesen sajátos helyzetből érkezett a  legutolsó gazdasági válságba: az 1960-as évek ingatlanspekulációs folyamatait ellenző házfoglalások nyomán a  tartósan lakatlan épületek engedély nélküli használatba vétele egészen 2010-ig legálisnak számított. A  házfoglalásról és az üresen álló ingatlanokról szóló, 2010-ben megszavazott törvény (Wet kraken en leegstand), miközben kriminalizálta a házfoglalás (squatting) gyakorlatát, egyúttal kötelezte is az ingatlantulajdonosokat a három hónapnál tovább üresen álló magáningatlanjaik bejelentésére. A törvény emellett lehetővé tette azt is, hogy az önkormány-


m agya r ö s s z e fo gl a ló 114 zatok a több mint egy éve üresen álló, magántulajdonú épületekhez bérlőket jelöljenek ki, akikkel a  tulajdonosok tárgyalni kötelesek. Ebben az időszakban jött létre az „anti-squat” cégek jelentős része, amelyek biztonsági szolgáltatásokat nyújtanak az üres ingatlanok tulajdonosai számára, alacsony bérleti díj fejében költöztetve be az épületekbe bérlőket, akiket azonban a néhány hetes felmondási idő és a magánéletüket rendkívüli mértékben korlátozó szabályozások igen kiszolgáltatottá tesznek. Ezek alternatívájaként azonban megjelentek azok a szervezetek és kezdeményezések is, amelyek jobban alkalmazkodva a bérlők igényeihez a környék és a város számára is releváns funkciókat, szolgáltatásokat, munkahelyeket hoztak létre az időszakosan üresen álló épületekben. Miközben a  törvény által nyújtott teret kihasználva számos holland önkormányzat közvetítőként lépett fel az üres magáningatlanok tulajdonosai és a potenciális bérlők között (ld. interjúnkat Paul Oudemannal), a  városok saját ingatlanjaik kísérleti potenciálját is hamar felismerték. Miközben eladás előtt álló épületeiket gyakran adták bérbe rezsiáron a  kreatív ipar képviselői részére (ld. interjúnkat Willemijn de Boerral), más megüresedett ingatlanokban inkubátorokat hoztak létre – például az amszterdami önkormányzat Bureau Broedplaatsen programja eredményeképpen, amely közvetlen pénzügyi támogatással és alacsony kamatú hitelek biztosításával, valamint az ingatlan felújítását és üzemeltetését érintő tanácsadással egyaránt segíti a  kreatív inkubátorok kialakulását. Ebben a  kontextusban jött létre az a  szakmai ökoszisztéma, amelynek a középpontjában a megüresedett épületek közösségi és kreatív újrahasznosítása áll, és amelynek néhány szereplőjét ez a könyv bemutatni hivatott. Amikor a holland Rietveld Landscape tájépítész-iroda a 2010es Velencei Építészeti Biennálén bemutatta Vacant NL című kiállítását, amelyben az iroda tagjai összegyűjtötték Hollandia összes (mintegy ötezer) üres középületét, egy új építészeti paradigma mellett foglaltak állást. Ez az elképzelés a fiktív célközönség számára készülő beruházások és az ezeket előkészítő bontások helyett a már meglévő épületek és infrastrukturális elemek újrahasznosítását propagálja, új funkciókkal, az épület új funkciókhoz való fokozatos adaptációján keresztül. Az ilyen építészeti beavatkozások modellje


Hu n g a r i a n s u m m a ry 115 szerint egy-egy funkció tesztelése után a működőképesek megmaradnak, a sikertelenek pedig kikerülnek belőle. A Vacant NL kiállítás emellett a Hollandia területén található, mintegy ötezer üres középület feltérképezésére, leltárba vételére és megmodellezésére, illetve ezek szerkezeti adottságainak és urbanisztikai kontextusának elemzésére vállalkozott. A kiállítás és a katalógusaként néhány példányban kiadott Dutch Atlas of Vacancy valóságos bombaként robbant a holland építészeti diskurzusban, és igen határozott irányt mutatott az építészetpolitikának: új fejlesztések helyett elsősorban az üresen álló ingatlanokkal kell foglalkozni. Budapesti workshopjainkon, amelyek célja a  holland gyakorlatok bemutatása és a  legizgalmasabb holland újítóknak a  budapesti helyzetekkel és szereplőkkel való kapcsolatba hozása volt, a Rietveld Landscape tagja, Arna Mackic mellett számos más holland szakembert is vendégül láttunk. René Boer és Mark Minkjan, a Failed Architecture platform tagjai a Skála Metró épületének átalakulását vizsgálták meg sajátos módszertanukkal. Merve Bedir, a  Land+Civilization Compositions tagja az üresen álló budapesti iskolaépületek újragondolásához adott új szempontokat. Paul Oudeman, az Amszterdami Önkormányzat üres irodaépületekkel foglalkozó szakembere a  kiadatlan irodaépületek újrahasznosításának lehetőségeit vázolta fel. Ir. Manish Dixit, a  Hágai Önkormányzat kereskedőutcákra szakosodott szakértője a  Népszínház utca megújulásának forgatókönyveit állította össze a  workshop résztvevőivel. Hans Karssenberg, a  Stipo várostervezője az üres épületek és kihasználatlan utcafrontok új, sokféle használói csoportot befogadó rehabilitációs lehetőségeit mutatta be. Marthijn Pool és Tjeerd Haccou, a space&matter építészei az üres épületek tulajdonosai és potenciális használói közötti új kapcsolatteremtés módjait dolgozták ki, hálózatokat hozva létre mind a  használók, mind az épületek között. Yvonne Wieringa, a SKAR munkatársaként alapítványa munkáját mutatta be, amely művészeknek segít műtermeket szerezni üresen álló épületekben vagy használaton kívüli ingatlanok megvásárlásával. Paul de Graaf, az Edible Rotterdam kollektíva tagja a  városi mezőgazdaság és a  foghíjtelkek produktív használatának lehetőségeit demonstrálta Budapesten. Willemijn de Boer, az anna real estate+culture tulajdonosa pedig


m agya r ö s s z e fo gl a ló 116 azt a folyamatot mutatta be, amelynek során a kormányzati és önkormányzati szervek kiadják eladás előtt álló vagy üres épületeiket a kreatív ipar képviselőinek. A Budapesten bemutatott holland gyakorlatok számos tanulságot hordoznak számunkra. Az ingatlanok új funkció befogadását lehetővé tévő átalakítása, illetve köztes használata ebben az értelemben előnyöket kínálnak mind a  tulajdonosok (épületek állagmegőrzése, felújítása), mind a használók (olcsó, hozzáférhető munka- és lakóterek), mind a  városlakók (felélénkülő városnegyedek) és a  kereskedők (újrainduló kiskereskedelmi forgalom), és a  tervező szakmák (új munkalehetőségek, kiterjesztett perspektívák) számára. Mindez a  törvényi keretrendszer rugalmas kezelését, gyors döntéshozási folyamatot, lokális érzékenységet, a  tanulságoknak a modellbe történő folyamatos beépítését igényli. A magyarországi önkormányzatok jelentős része óriási üres ingatlanállománnyal és a belőlük adódó költségek akkumulációjával küszködik, de sokan nem ismerik fel, hogy az üres ingatlanok felújításában, üzemeltetésében és a  fontos helyi szolgáltatások biztosításában rendkívül fontos szerepe van a  civil szereplőknek, kulturális kezdeményezéseknek és társadalmi vállalkozásoknak. Az üres önkormányzati vagy magántulajdonú ingatlanok közösségi célú újrahasznosítását a következő feltételek biztosítása segítheti: 1. Transzparencia: az önkormányzati ingatlanokra vonatkozó adatbázisok, a bérleti díjak és az üres ingatlanok listájának feldolgozható módon való nyilvánossá tétele rendkívül sokat segíthet a leendő bérlők tájékozódásában és egy-egy városrész fejlesztésének stratégiai megtervezésében. 2. Hatékony ügyintézés: az üres önkormányzati ingatlanok kibérléséhez szükséges lépések általában hónapokat, néha éveket is igénybe vesznek; ez a  legtöbb potenciális bérlőt elriasztja, akik más kerületekben fognak üzletet, irodát, raktárat bérelni. A  bérletbevétel folyamatának átláthatónak és zökkenőmentesnek kell lennie. 3. Közvetítés: az önkormányzatok célja, hogy a területükön minél kevesebb köz- és magántulajdonban lévő ingatlan álljon üresen; legitim szereplőként az önkormányzatok segíthetnek a magántulajdonosok és a potenciális bérlők közötti tárgyalásokban, engedményeket kínálva bizonyos közösségi funkciók befogadásáért és biztosítva mindkét fél védelmét.


Hu n g a r i a n s u m m a ry 117 4. Társadalmi haszon: egy önkormányzat ingatlangazdálkodása nem redukálható a bevételszerzésre; ugyanennyire feladata a közösségi funkciók, illetve a társadalmilag releváns új piaci szolgáltatások feltételeinek megteremtése is, kedvezményes bérleti díjakkal bátorítva a  helyet kereső társadalmi kezdeményezéseket vagy kezdő vállalkozásokat. 5. Korrekt feltételek: egy-egy régóta üresen álló ingatlan használatba vétele gyakran igen sok energiával és anyagi befektetéssel jár; ha a bérlő terhei nem csökkennek például a befektetések lelakhatóságával vagy hosszútávú garanciával, az sokakat elriaszt a  bérléstől. A  szerződéses konstrukcióknak megfelelő védelmet kell biztosítaniuk mind a tulajdonos, mind a bérlők és az általuk létrehozott értékek számára. 6. Adókonstrukciók: számos európai példa mutatja az ingatlanadók és adókedvezmények kedvező hatását az üres ingatlanok újrahasznosítására; az ingatlanadó, illetve annak csökkentése hatékony eszköz lehet az önkormányzatok kezében a magántulajdonosok ösztönzésére, hogy üres helyiségeiket kedvezményesen kiadják. 7. Szabályozások: egy üres ingatlan rövidtávú újrahasznosítása teljesen más berendezéseket igényel, mint a  hosszútávú használat; az önkormányzat bizonyos feltételek enyhítésével, szabályok felfüggesztésével tudja segíteni a valóban közösségi célú kezdeményezéseket. 8. Támogatások: bár a legtöbb önkormányzat költségvetése nem teszi lehetővé az üres ingatlanokat újrahasznosító tevékenységek célzott anyagi támogatását, érdemes megvizsgálni a különböző támogatási formákat; az önkormányzati garanciával felvehető kedvezményes bankhitelek vagy az üres ingatlanokra költött összegek felújításra való fokozatos átcsoportosítása fontos segítséget jelenthetnek, és jelentős felújítási hullámot indíthatnak el egy-egy városrészben. Ezek mind szükséges, de nem elégséges feltételei a hatékony ingatlangazdálkodásnak. Ami az üres ingatlanok társadalmilag, gazdaságilag – és politikailag – hasznos újrahasznosítását lehetővé teszi Hollandiában, az elsősorban nem a  jó várospolitikák és a  szakértelmek megléte, hanem a  városok különböző szereplőinek fejlett együttműködési kultúrája és pragmatikus kíváncsisága, tanulni vágyása. Amikor a  kék delegációjával 2015 februárjában a  Stipo rotterdami szimpóziumán jártunk, a zoho egyik irodaházában (ld. interjúnkat Hans Karssenberggel) éjszakába nyúlóan hallgatták egymás tapasztalatait a különböző városok és minisztériumok, ci-


m agya r ö s s z e fo gl a ló 118 vil szervezetek és fejlesztő társaságok képviselői, akik azért gyűltek össze, hogy a holland eu-elnökség időszakára elkészülő Urban Agenda lehetőségeit megvitassák. Amikor 2015 júniusában – ismét a kék-et képviselve – az amszterdami Pakhuis de Zweijger konferenciáján voltunk vendégek, beszélgetőtársaink a  holland belügyminiszter és az athéni alpolgármester voltak: olyan szereplők, akik Magyarországon ritkán érhetőek el a városaink jövőjéről szóló párbeszéd számára. Az üresen álló ingatlanok közösségi hasznosítása – a közösségi energiák kibontakozásának strukturált elősegítése – bonyolult művelet, amelynek alapja a tulajdonosok és potenciális használók közötti kommunikáció megteremtése és a hálózatépítés: a társadalmi és kulturális szereplők és kreatív vállalkozások városformáló kapacitásának felismerése, és a  köz-, a  magán- és a  civil szféra közötti bizalom megteremtése a párbeszéd helyszíneinek biztosításával. A  kék – Kortárs Építészeti Központ 2006 óta egy ilyen helyszín szerepét tölti be. Ez a  könyv a  holland Creative Industries Fund segítségével szervezett előadás- és workshop-sorozat nyomán készült, bemutatást nyújtva az üres ingatlanok revitalizációján dolgozó holland építészek, várostervezők, művészek, és önkormányzati szakemberek, valamint hasonló megoldásokon dolgozó budapesti kollégáik munkájába.


e v e n t s 119

Vacant City Events

Arna Mackic (Rietveld Landscape): Vacant NL November 12, 2012. Művelődési Szint, Budapest 1085 Blaha Lujza tér 1. René Boer and Mark Minkjan (Failed Architecture): Rethinking the spaces of commerce November 14–17, 2013. Coming Soon! Project Gallery, Budapest 1053 Kossuth Lajos utca 14–15. Merve Bedir and Jason Hilgefort (Land+Civilization Compositions): Reusing empty school buildings March 5–6–7, 2014. Coming Soon! Project Gallery, Budapest 1053 Kossuth Lajos utca 14–15. Paul Oudeman (Municipality of Amsterdam): Underused offices, new approaches June 16–17, 2014. Coming Soon! Project Gallery, Budapest 1053 Kossuth Lajos utca 14–15. Manish Dixit and Hedwigis Verheijen (Municipality of The Hague): Népszínház utca, where does it lead? November 14, 2014. Kesztyűgyár Community Centre, Budapest 1084 Mátyás tér 15.


ev e n t s 120

Hans Karssenberg (Stipo): Vacant buildings in the center of urban regeneration February 12–13, 2015. Prezi HQ, Budapest 1065 Nagymező u. 54–56. and Művelődési Szint, Budapest 1085 Blaha Lujza tér 1. Marthijn Pool and Tjeerd Haccou (space&matter): Community as resource May 14–15, 2015. M56, Budapest 1016 Mészáros utca 56. Yvonne Wierenga (SKAR): Spaces of creation May 26–27, 2015. Art Quarter Budapest, 1222 Nagytétényi út 48–50. Paul de Graaf (Eetbaar Rotterdam): The city as an ecological system June 5–6, 2015. Gólya Presszó, Budapest 1083 Bókay János utca 34. Willemijn de Boer (ANNA Vastgoed & Cultuur): Flexible Spaces June 19–20, 2015. Kaptár Community Office, Budapest 1065 Révay köz 4.

Participatory workshop at Nyugati Grund, 2014. Photo © István Keresztes (kék)


Between 2012 and 2015, the kék – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre invited to Budapest a dozen Dutch prac­ ti­tioners, whose work is organized around the reuse of vacant buildings and areas. By presenting these practices, connecting them to their Budapest counterparts and creating situations of formal and informal exchange, kék opened new spaces for thought in the Hungarian architecture, planning and deve­ lop­ment culture and in civil society. Vacant City is the result of these encounters, assembling the key thoughts and experiences of the program’s 3 years.

kék – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre

lakatlan.kek.org.hu

​isbn 978 963 12 3322 3

The economic crisis brought about a new paradigm in architecture and planning. Instead of serving large-scale investments and targeting fictional customers, the new development logic gives preference to the reuse of existing buildings and spaces by helping them to gradually adapt to new functi­ ons and accommodate new users. Dutch practitioners were at the forefront of experimenting with new approaches to vacant properties and community-led urban regeneration. By pioneering innovation in design, policy and management to address the problem of vacancy, they established models that inspired like-minded initiatives across the world.


VACANT CITY

Netherlands

Hungary

Vacant City: Experiments in inclusive urban transformation. Netherlands / Hungary  

The economic crisis brought about a new paradigm in architecture and planning. Instead of serving large-scale investments and targeting fict...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you