„Die Multitude braucht Institutionen mehr denn je – keine Institutionen, die über uns herrschen, sondern Institutionen, die Gemeinschaft und Organisation fördern, Institutionen, die uns helfen unsere Praktiken zu organisieren, unsere Beziehungen zu gestalten und gemeinsam Entscheidungen zu treffen.“
– Michael Hardt/Antonio Negri: Assembly
Into the Future: The City and the Creativity of the Many
In the beginning was the question: how do we design our cities sustainably? How do we confront the challenges of the future with bravery and creative will? Which organisational form suits our times best and is the most appropriate to achieve all this?
All too often one has the feeling that very few people truly understand what it is that is heading our way. Digitalisation, urbanisation, migration flows, alterations towards greater sustainability – the scale of the changes is massive, their repercussions radical, and their pace blistering. In order to make fruitful use of these changes, we need innovative ideas and creativity above all. In order to prevent societies from collapsing in the face of these rapid changes, each and every one of us is called upon to participate in these processes. And this, in fact, is worthwhile, because who is a better expert at identifying the needs of society and how best to meet them, than the people themselves?
Raumstation 3539 aims to structure and guide this transformative process in Giessen. Neither top-down strategies nor external service providers can offer appropriate solutions for this challenge. Rather, one needs an institution that functions as a transformative tool and is guided by the creativity of the many and in the name of democratic decisions of the swarm – the multitude. Raumstation3539 is an airlock between the present and the future; an interface between future forms of economic activities and today’s economic landscape.
It is time to let sparks jump over between those spaces that are already ignited by creativity and those who are still in a phase of warming. We want to create networks between culture, creative industry and the everyday life of the people in Giessen, to stimulate the production of society and the creative power of 86.000 brains and 172.000 hands. Finally, new forms of civil engagement, social innovation and community entrepreneurship will emerge at these interfaces.
Space is the only frontier: From interim use to “Anschlussverwendung” (follow-up use)
The most pressing problem that we encountered with our project was the question of space. Creativity and innovation need space to develop. Networks are after all built in a physical space where people can meet and communicate. Places of stability and consistency are inevitable when projects are supposed to find roots, grow and branch out. However, the conditions sometime appear rather counter-productive. In Giessen as elsewhere, we encounter shrinking spaces due to real estate market developments and large influx. Although politics and facilitation of creative interim uses of formerly vacant spaces can be successful for a couple of years, these strategies reach their limits. Consequently, an alternative approach is needed.
At the beginning of 2016, raumstation3539 was founded in a former Schlecker shop by initially seven members. The cooperative was able to enter a long-term rental contract of the vacant building. Searching for an appropriate name for the new space, the term “Anschlussverwendung” (follow-up use) came to mind. Initially used to cynically refer to the “perspectives“ of former Schlecker employees after the bankruptcy in 2012, the term was re-evaluated to signal sustainability and stability instead of temporary use.
The unremitting effort of several helping hands finally gave birth to a cultural hub comprising a co-working space, a pop-up shop, an event space and the Kü-Ché, a student-led café funded exclusively by donations. Due to the leasing of some co-working spaces, the remaining space can be used creatively and without commercial pressures.
In the meantime, membership of raumstation3539 has increased five-fold and two more properties have been rented for creative use. The guiding principle: the cooperative concludes the main rental contract and is in charge of administration while the users function as subtenants. However, as members of the cooperative, they have full say in the activities and decisions of the organization. Raumstation3539 functions as a fluid but institutionalised tool for the shared needs of people and their projects.
The municipality, too, became aware of this new agent in Giessen. Since the beginning of 2017 the city of Giessen together with the cooperative operate the “Trans-institutional programme for URBANAUTIK” which facilitates networking and consulting in the cultural and creative economy under an official mandate.
A new chapter was launched in November 2018 with the official opening of the “Prototyp”. Conceptualized as a multifunctional space, Prototyp comprises artist studios, workshops, offices and rehearsal rooms. Thus, it connects and concentrates the creative will of its diverse users and creates a new visibility for their innovative ideas and civil engagement.
 Schlecker, a German retail company, went bankrupt in 2012, leading to the loss of some 50,000 jobs.
Author: raumstation3539 and Jana Tiborra
Photos: Jana Tiborra