How to transform the old buildings into cultural spaces – order the handbook in your language

The Design Handbook for Cultural Centres explores 30 cases of urban renovation initiatives and cultural activism that transformed old buildings into cultural spaces. The author of the handbook, Peter Lényi, collected 123 stories about the difficulties faced when launching those projects and the social benefits that creative centres bring to communities.

The EU-EaP Culture and Creativity Programme translated the Design Handbook into the six regional languages (Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Georgian, Romanian and Ukrainian). You can download it from our website or order a copy from our coordinators in the nearest time.

Here are the five successful cases from the Handbook that can be used in the region.

Business Model

The Art Factory in Lodz chose the form of a private-public partnership for its project, which was a follow-up to the agreement between two NGOs and the city of Lodz. They adapted self-governance principles from the non-cultural sector. This means that they used funding from the EU devoted to strengthening entrepreneurship. It is a unique example of creating a business model for a cultural institution. The Art Factory has been a successful effort to change the grantee model into an organisation that produces economic benefits.

Fresh Life

Activists from Berlin faced a hard challenge creating the ufaFabrik cultural centre. The problem was that UFA was the film company where Nazi propaganda was produced. Creating a cultural space was especially difficult as many buildings from that historical period were being destroyed. The activists saved the building through squatting, and held a ceremony of “throwing out the old UFA ghosts”, thus trying to breathe fresh life into this place. Their actions saved the centre, which is now an 18,566-square-metre venue for cultural events.

Unique Location

The cultural space A38 is a ship. It is harboured on the Danube in the centre of Budapest. The authors of the project believe the uniqueness of the place is a great advantage. When the vessel is lifted to the pulse of the river, the audience gets vivid impressions, feeling the atmosphere of adventure. The architects have been working on the design of a cultural spot for three years. It cost the organisers a lot of money and time. Today it is a place with five bars, two roof terraces and a 700-capacity concert hall.

On the Way

The train station Stanica Žilina-Záriečie in Slovakia is another case of an unusual location. It took two years of negotiations to rent the building for a small price. Initially, activists were able to renovate only one room. Later on, however, they made a contract to work on the building for the next 30 years. There are clear benefits not only for the people visiting the cultural centre but also for those walking through the station every day, enjoying its safety and cleanliness.

Mistakes and Second Chances

In the past, the OZU cultural and arts centre was a factory in Italy. Initially, its building housed a printing workshop and later became a candy factory. But due to mistakes in the planning of the building, it became useless for industrial needs. The activists, who decided to establish the cultural centre there, detected even more defects during its renovation. It was a challenge to clean out the place of 18 tonnes of candy and deal with the fake pipes and windows that do not close. Today it is a place for innovations in art and culture.

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