Re-use Mechanisms

An excerpt from my Bachelor's Thesis

Bachelor Thesis | 2016

Bitte Lebn

As a teenager I would regularly explore deserted factories around Derbyshire where I grew up. Old Victorian potteries and grand mills, the industrial hinterlands of Derby and Sheffield, all entertained my curious fascination with these crumbling reminders of the past. I moved to Berlin some months ago and immediately noticed many similarities between abandoned spaces here and those back home. There are physical similarities of course, but it is the social contexts that seem to surround disused spaces and how they are sometimes re-used, that intrigued me more. The preconditions for spaces falling into disuse are often localised to the city or country, whereas instances whereby people instigate re-use of these spaces, seem to be part of a much wider socio-spatial phenomenon.

“Berlin is a pioneer in re-using buildings that were left over after the division of the city” 1

Gorlitzer May 01

The necessary starting point for this study is with the disused spaces that find themselves marooned – for whatever reason – in the centre of the city. The inner-city gaps between houses, vacant buildings long since abandoned, unattended parks and forgotten street corners. Indeterminate territories as Dougal Sheridan describes them, they are the urban areas “not readily identified and included in the understanding of cities”.
The indeterminate provides the setting, however here we are concerned less with the spatial conditions of disuse and more with people and praxis; movements and initiatives that endeavour to re-imagine and to engage with disused parts of the city. We discuss how the re-use of indeterminate territories can define social belonging, but also how the instability that characterises them challenges the contextual, urban status-quo.
In the context of this discourse, I interpret the subsequent re-use of previously vacant space, using the term ‘liminality’ from the Latin, limen meaning “a threshold”. In anthropology liminality refers to social or religious ritual, rites of passage at which point those involved are at a threshold between their preliminary state, and that which succeeds and is defined by the ritual process. I translate this to an understanding of place and time in which ‘liminal spaces’ are defined by their use during this transitional stage.

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