Finding Potential in the In-Between
By Sebastian Dahlqvist
In our cities, the commercial environment continuously evolves, with old businesses shutting down and new ones cropping up. But this process is anything but smooth and in Sweden narratives such as the ”butiksdöd” (store-death) have become a part of the everyday language we use to create notions of the city.
The shops where we meet and carry out social, cultural and monetary transactions disappear and leave us with empty spaces until new businesses to appear. Yet these spatial and temporal gaps give us the opportunity to rethink and reconfigure our day-to-day lives. It gives us a chance to challenge the logic of spatial, social and monetary systems. With a citizen-centered approach, I’m striving to contribute to and enable the development of a more pluralist physical environment.
About a year ago I started mellanrum (in-between space), an investigation into the plethora of discourses on urban development and distribution of space. I set out to find a way to enable use of the in-between spaces (mellanrum) of our cities. Later the urbanist Veronika Hoffmann joined and we have since worked together.
This investigation has resulted in a tool, an intermediary and a platform. With mellanrum we unlock the potential of vacant property by making it accessible to initiatives and ideas in search of space. We view vacant spaces as a possibility rather than a problem. By redistributing space we foster a plurality of spaces with different spatial and social dynamics.
Our initiative has resulted in projects such as mobile parks, a library on wheels; temporary galleries; collective, experimental and open private-and-public spaces; temporary platforms for exchange of knowledge and happenings; as well as a collective artistic platform for practice and presentation located in an empty shop on the main shopping street.
The need for mellanrum has become very clear. Our cities are filled with unfulfilled dreams and ideas in need of space. And this happens at the same time as the number of empty spaces multiplies.
In order for our cities to change, and develop, if you will, I believe it is necessary for each and every one of us to become vehicles and actors for change. For this to happen, I believe we need social, cultural, spatial and juridical action space. We need unprogrammed, accessible common spaces open to constant change, spaces that can be (re)defined, (re)thought and (re)worked in a never ending movement. We need to acknowledge the mellanrums of our cities, and we need to perceive them as potential.
Sebastian Dahlqvist is the founder of mellanrum.