Making use of vacant spaces as places to experiment with ideas and projects has, by now, a long history. Interim uses have always been a place where (sub)cultural and social initiatives could form and which, as creative places, initially attracted users and then also visitors.
This essentially took place informally and tended to be tolerated by the public authorities, but since the early 2000s at the latest, this issue has increasingly become institutionalized and organized within formal frameworks. Nonetheless, the issue tended to be perceived as a niche in which citizens’ initiatives and the few publicly supported interim-use agencies applied a great deal of idealism to wear down the resistance of property owners and the municipal administration. This changed with the rather unsurprising rise in vacancy rates in retail locations in German city centers. Now that the long-proven instruments of the festivalization and orchestration of consumption are no longer effective and the long-maintained facade threatens to collapse, economic development agencies and retail associations are suddenly discovering the reviled topic of interim use as a means to breathe new life into retail locations.
But what do we mean by interim uses? Interim uses are a means to open up low-threshold access for many people to spaces where they can (for the first time) work on their ideas, meet other people, create offerings for their neighborhood, and work without financial pressure. Obviously with the limitations these vacant properties have, and with the possibility they will be returned to regular use.
Our objective is to reveal the potentials that lie within the users as well as the spaces, and to help bring these to fruition for both. To this end, we support actors in the implementation of their projects, establish contacts between users and property owners, help to work together with administrative bodies, and bring initiatives and their ideas into local politics and society. This work ranges from the more abstract preparation of permit approval documents for change-of-use applications to providing support with tangible material resources to tackling the practical implementation of individual interim uses.
We resolutely oppose the instrumentalization of interim uses, of art and culture, to temporarily entertain and enliven public spaces in order to preserve the status quo without even allowing the residents to participate in the future development of their cities.
The AAA – Autonome Architektur Atelier (Bremen) has been working on discovering, orchestrating, and using urban spaces since 2006. The interim use of vacant spaces and derelict sites is one of its main areas of activity.