Saturday, 4 May 2013
When it comes to warehouses, like many artists we imagine the possibilities of having access to large, flexible and open space. We know that having space to maintain can be hard work, yet with the right plan, amazing results can be accomplished that benefit whole communities. Although large spaces may be vacant for years with no commercial applications, the results of temporary access to builders, artisans, inventors and entrepreneurs can create effects that ripple outward and support the entire region!
See these wonderfully awesome projects below for some examples of what inspires us about adaptive re-use of vacant space. It’s not just about getting the shoppers back… it’s about large scale cultural transformation contributing to economic change.
The city of Nantes in France financed sculptors to establish a massive public art project, using disused factories to manufacture giant mechanical devices including the famous steam powered elephant.
Even when these sculptures are on tour throughout Europe, the workshop itself attracts a huge amount of tourists. Big thumbs up to the City of Nantes for investing in the seemingly insane but ultimately genius vision of their artists. It’s incredible, spectacular, crazy, unique, and has firmly put Nantes on the cultural tourism map. We want to go back!
PAF is an ex-convent in France, run as a multi disciplinary performance space. It is essentially a huge, run down building with empty rooms, rented very cheaply as artist work spaces.
While we were working there, we met artists from around the world who had traveled to stay and work there – everywhere from Russia, to America, even Australia.
PAF was made possible thanks to the vision of one man, who bought the property, set the basic principles in place and established the residency as a benefactor to global performing arts.
A great example of how a building project can be turned into a tourist destination.
The Guedelon dream is to build a medieval castle using only traditional 12th Century methods. It is a multi decade project run as a very successful tourist park, where the only exhibit is watching the castle being built. The artisans live on site in a village which had to be built first, using tools that also had to be made first… all very authentic!
The most inspiring aspect of this project is the vision of a group of people to work on something that will take their lifetime and beyond, and the capacity and viability of a community working together over many many years to realise a dream that is bigger than any one person. Big thumbs up to the French for vision and commitment – verily inspiring in this day and age when so many projects, brands and products have an inbuilt obsolescence of mere months.
798 in Beijing is a huge factory complex handed over to artists to run as galleries, workshops, and studios.
Artists travel from around the world to create work in residency there, and because of the cultural vibrancy and interesting location, it has become a major tourist destination.
Big thumbs up to the City of Beijing for the confronting and risky act of entrusting real estate to artists – and to the artists for making it work. There is vacant industrial space of similar scale in Australia – imagine the possibilities for cultural tourism.
Background references provided by Dillon McEwan and Craig Laurendet.
Well, if we even come close to any of these incredible accomplishments with our own access to vacant space, we’ll be very proud, but just having access to flexible and open space to create new work is deeply rewarding in itself!