The interim – the time in which land or buildings rest empty, awaiting a new designation – is often seen as the last bit of leeway in urban development; a yet partially unexplored and unexploited void in the harsh reality of the city. For long, it has been a pioneering ground for squatters, artists and adventurous citizens. In the past decade however, temporary use increasingly has come into the scope of urban development professionals, as a low-cost strategy for urban marketing and an attractive lever for the increase of real estate value. To clearly position the interim (and temporary use), the Constitution for the Interim (Grondwet van de Tussentijd), written in 2009 by STEALTH and Iris de Kievith, grants the interim itself fundamental rights as a much needed enabler for urban dynamics – to secure it as a domain where citizens can take part in the directing and making their city.
[uncharted – and unevenly shared]
For many of its users (from artists or neighbourhood initiatives to start-up companies, for instance) the interim use of warehouses, housing blocks awaiting demolition, urban wastelands, etc. is only a provisional solution, containing an implicit desire to rather hold on to spaces indefinitely, if that would have been possible. However, in the struggle to get access to affordable resources like urban space, little option is left open, even if experience shows that it is the temporary users who generally deliver the largest investment and at the end of the ride hold on to the least. Meanwhile, a misty cloud of romanticism and ‘creativity’ hides the questionable mechanisms deployed in this partially uncharted terrain.
A decade after the introduction of the creative class (by Richard Florida), time had come to pierce the balloon and in the no man’s land of the interim and put things in perspective more clearly. Especially now the interim is even expected to serve as a patch for a lingering crisis.
[a mutually productive domain]
After an initial research on temporary use (Urban Catalyst in Amsterdam North, 2002-2003), in 2009 we have been invited to contribute to the book ‘Between Times: Hotel Transvaal Catalysing Urban Transformation’. An invitation coming amidst the appearance of a stream of books, handbooks and step-by-step manuals covering the swiftly evolving field, and coinciding with the start of the economic crisis, which brought a sudden flow of ‘stakeholders’ (from state institutions to developers) to use the interim to patch their stalled real-estate developments.
With the resulting Constitution for the Interim (Grondwet van de Tussentijd), written in a semi-juridical and semi-policy language, we developed a document that defined the interim as an autonomous and finite entity in space and time, from which the benefits have to be shared – and not only by the economically most powerful actors. Instead of letting a disused plot or a building be the area of speculation, policy makers, developers and anyone who desires to explore the potential of this available urban space should in a transparent manner take societal and economic responsibility for its exploitation.
The objective of those involved with temporary use is, in one way or another, to derive added value from the interim through its development, for example social or economic benefits, or gains in time and space. Considering that the use of the interim is based on unique combinations of unequal partners (regarding their level of authority, legal status, investment capacity, available time for investment, pioneering spirit, etc.) it is essential to clearly define what their contribution in each specific case can be. The increase in value, created in the interim, finally is calculated on the basis of the total capital created, including both material and immaterial assets (the latter category includes urban, symbolic, cultural, social, economic, and cognitive capital, and the like). It is vital to determine the mechanism of value creation and the conversion rates for the different varieties of capital in the form of exchange rates between the partners involved at the start of the interim use.
The Constitution argues that the interim use should be part of a new planning reality, which makes the city the shared domain of active citizens. As the interim is one of the few areas where users from outside the dominant property relations, or planning and development models have access to the city – ‘their’ city. There is its chance – not as a temporary stopgap.
- [download] constitution booklet in NL or ENG (pdf)
- [see ] Constituting the Interim was presented at Legacy Now, at the Architecture Foundation, London (starts at 10 min 56)
- [authors ] STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen) + Iris de Kievith
- [copy editing ] Catja Edens (for SUN Trancity)
- [background ] The Constitution for the Interim has been commissioned by the Laboratory for the Interim in Transvaal (The Hague) that financed it, together with the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the authors. The Constitution for the Interim uses the on-hold European Constitution (stalled in 2005) as a basis. The Constitution has been published in the book ‘Between Times. Hotel Transvaal Catalyzing Urban Transformation’ SUN Trancity, 2010 (ISBN 9085068185).
- [timeline ] 2009 – 2010
- [publicity ] Grondwet voor de Tussentijd on ArchiNed (Dutch only) – and presentations at the 8th Sao Paulo Architecture Biannual (2009) and Netherlands Architecture Institute (2010) at the traveling exhibition Architecture of Consequence, in the publication Vacant NL, as part of the Dutch Pavilion at 12th Architecture Biannual in Venice (2010), and as part of the exhibition Common Grounds, NAiM/Bureau Europa (2011-2012). Constituting the Interim was presented at Legacy Now, at the Architecture Foundation, London (starts at 10 min 56)
related: publication Constitution for the Interim (ENG) / Grondwet van de Tussentijd (NL)