Newcastle’s independent art scene has revolved around re-purposing city centre office blocks in recent years. From Breeze Creatives at Bamburgh House to Commercial Union House, New Bridge Project at Carliol House and Workspace Gallery in Gateshead. Known as ‘meanwhile spaces’ they offer artists the opportunity to take over these unused spaces at affordable rents, it’s not ideal of course as there is no long term security for the organisations and artists.
We were curious how other cities use empty offices in innovative and artistic ways. For instance in Berlin we visited the Buchstaben Museum, an old supermarket space in the old East Berlin, re-purposed as an edgy typographic museum, displaying and curating a wonderful collection of old signage linking to Berlin’s eclectic history.
A recent trip to London uncovered another re-purposed gem, 180 The Strand. Designed by architect Frederick Gibberd, this brutalist landmark is located a few doors down from the very grand Somerset House gallery, but what a contrast! The Store based at Soho House Berlin, took over spaces in 180 The Strand two years ago and have held immersive exhibitions ever since. As a creative hub for people and progress. It aims to foster and connect creatives, entrepreneurs, dynamic thinkers and cultural explorers by integrating the creation, display, learning and social functions of culture throughout its spaces. It’s also home to a mix of creative companies including Dazed Media Group, IMG, The Vinyl Factory, Charcoal Blue, The Spaces and Fact magazine.
We were lucky enough to experience the latest audio visual exhibition ‘Strange Days: Memories of the Future’ and it was incredible. Supported by the New Museum in New York we had high hopes. The environment of the bunker like spaces added to the overall immersive feel of the exhibition. Led through abandoned stairwells, corridors and even into the bank vault in the basement, 20 AV installations were scattered over two huge floors. Visually arresting, ominous, anxiety inducing, thrilling are only a few words to describe this unique experience. As a completely free exhibition it was rich in content and we could have easily stayed the entire day had we watched each piece in it’s entirety.
If you’re in the area we would urge you to check out the space, it really makes you think how these buildings can be given a new lease of life whilst bringing artists and creatives together in a unique experience.