Cultural conversion as an oppor­tunity for urban society

News I Image: 2023 Nikolaus Schäffler

47 Galeria Kaufhof locations are to be closed1) , yet municipalities have often been confronted with vacancies not only since the beginning of the insolvency proceedings of the department stores' chain. Closures of this kind result in large-scale vacancies, but by no means only in central city center locations, but also in peripheral urban areas. Here it is not so much large department stores or the retail trade as vacant industrial plants, warehouses, railway stations or power stations. These vacant spaces can offer new opportunities for cultural uses in two ways as an extension or facility of an institution and as a home for low-threshold mixed uses.

For cultural institutions such as theatres that are limited in their existing spaces or are looking to start up, such existing buildings can be an opportunity. The new spaces could be used, for example, as an additional venue, a rehearsal center or even for interim operations. At the same time, they often fulfil the requirement of serving sustainability goals and conserving resources. Depending on the building, the conversion of an existing building also offers prospects for attracting new target groups, as an abandoned building, especially one without a history of cultural use, can radiate a more low-threshold image. This is especially true in direct comparison to an imposing new building of high culture. There are already examples of such conversions. The Rheinisches Landestheater Neuss, for example, has converted the former Horten department stores into a multifunctional cultural and administrative center. Among other things, a new theatre hall with 450 seats was created here. Another example is the former municipal power station in Schwerin, which was used as an interim venue for the Mecklenburg State Theatre and the Fritz Reuter Stage, among others. The challenge in these projects was obviously to guarantee the functionalities of a cultural operation; only a few buildings can meet the requirements of a stage tower and sensible short path relationships in their basic configuration. If, for example, a substantial deconstruction is necessary, the previously "gained" symbolic power and sustainability effects of the conversion are likely to be diminished.

So it is not surprising that vacant buildings are becoming increasingly popular for less complex uses, especially involving the independent scene. These can also be permanent, such as the “Bunte Bahnhof” in Cottbus, which combines galleries, event space and social initiatives as well as gastronomy. In other places, interim use proves to be suitable, as with Sugar Mountain in Munich, which houses event and creative spaces as well as multiple sports uses in a former concrete factory. In this way, new meeting places are created for the urban community that can provide invigorating impulses for an entire neighborhood. As is so often the case, it is the concept that determines the success of the use; for this it is important to It is important to know the local market needs and to create synergies between the individual utilization components. Operational aspects should not be disregarded in order to unite the various uses through a coherent operating model. For example, the tasks and responsibilities must be clearly distributed, and the support and financing structures clarified.

actori is happy to support you in the examination of existing buildings for cultural use through market and competition studies, utilization concepts, operating concepts, or feasibility studies. In doing so, we often use participatory methods.

Source: 1)Welche Filialen schließen müssen? (Tagesschau)

An impulse contribution by Amélie Strobel, Project Management.

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