by Valentin Schipfer
It all began at Vienna’s Ur3anize! Festival which lasted for a week in October this year. There I attended an evening discussion on temporary use of abandoned or vacant urban spaces. The two guys and discussants from Bremen/Germany impressed me the most. Why? Only some years older than me (probably around 30-35) they are leading Bremen’s new public agency for temporary use, the so called ZwischenZeitZentrale. Apparently there are no bounds to their imagination. The book, which will be reviewed in this short entry, sheds light on the young trend of temporary use – also including vivid examples from Bremen.
The relation between the concrete grey book cover of Second Hand Spaces and its colourful examples is similar to the industrial waste land and its new uses. Holding this book, you feel that it’s heavy. Reading it, you feel that there is so much more to activate in cities. The bilingual publication (Ger, Eng) leads you through the emotional debate of temporary use of vacant or abandoned buildings, factories, public spaces etc. Challenges, obstacles and problems of the temporary users are shown on the one hand, the projects’ sustainable effects for a social and ecological urban development on the other.
The first part defines constructional stability and administrative flexibility as basic requirements for a conversion of use. After a short back-in-time-travel of vacancy management, you directly follow project initiators into the field: from Mediaspree Versenken!-demonstration to the slowing down of real-estate developments, conflicts due to the planning law, to the point of public financed agency for temporary use.
The second part is dedicated to the users. Together with researchers like Bastian Lange, you take a look behind the scenes and reflect about the transformation of ways of working, which raises new demands on space. Together with initiators you gain insight into Hamburg’s former Frappant projects, into Basel’s nt/Area and projects in Copenhagen. The reader finds himself in different situations: Some users had to move in favour of moneyed interests, others could repel them through specific tactics, and still others had come to an agreement about a certain time for use. What all of them have in common, is an enormous degree of self-commitment.Sustainable effects on the city become topics of the third and last part.A vacant DDR-prefabricated high-rise in Bremen is turned into an area for ecological subsistence economy, while the Prinzessinnengärten and the RAW-area serve as role-models of social-inclusive projects on local level.
To great extent Second Hand Spaces is written in an easy readable language which certainly will attract readers beyond disciplines like architecture, spatial planning and urbanism. Actually every city council should buy this book, take an example from these project pioneers and install a cross-departmental agency for temporary use. As I mentioned before, there is so much space to activate in many big cities craving for a use beyond shopping, office, living or car parking use. Its examples from Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands can be seen as healthy inspiration for cities not knowing what to do with their vacancies. Let’s get inspired!