Torstrasse166 is a once-abandoned Berlin apartment building that has been lovingly converted into an art installation, identified by its dramatic facade featuring hundreds of shoes, all connected to a single point by red string. Inside are twelve ‘imagination spaces’ used by performance artists, scent and sound researchers, architects, musicians, stylists and designers.
Since the GFC, I’ve noticed an increased number of vacant shop fronts in Sydney, which has me pondering whether we could do create own little Torstrasses (?) here. Sure, land is worth a lot more in Sydney than in Berlin (the mayor himself described the city as “poor but sexy”) but let’s face it, an empty building is an empty building.
So here’s the deal: Landlords make their vacant properties available to artists, who pay a bond, nominal rent, and their own tenants insurance to cover any damage. They also need to maintain the property (ie cleaning windows, graffiti and the like) and sign a contract agreeing to clear out whenever tenants want to inspect the place, and hastily vacate the premises if the landlord manages to secure a lease. The concept could also work for ‘pop-up stores‘ who open for a few weeks before moving on to somewhere else.
Landlords benefit by having their building maintained by artists and other creatives, in return for nominal rent. Their occupied building looks more attractive to potential tenants, and human presence equals incresed security. Obviously artists benefit by having a cheap studio space. But overall, the city is the biggest winner, benefiting from a stimulated arts industry and a more attractive streetscape, even reduced crime and more local customers.
Bait & Tackle, Inc is a US artists collective who are starting a similar concept in NYC and Detroit. I can’t find any more info on whether they’ve had any success but I think they’re onto something.
Now all I need is an insider at Sydney City Council and some willing investors. Hmmm…