Neighborhood University: How a Group of Neighbors Turned a Run-down Building into a Community Hub
An abandoned government building in Hamburg, Germany, was scheduled to be torn down this year. But residents in the area thought it could be put to better use. Over the last four years, with little budget and just a group of volunteers, the building was transformed in the Neighborhood University [in German], a place for workshops, classes, research, and living spaces.
The urban design department at HCU-Hamburg helped take the lead, using their expertise in low-budget architecture and upcycling materials to shape the redesign of the building. The space has hosted a huge variety of projects, ranging from a summer camp where kids design their own treehouses, to a bar where diners bring canned food to donate in exchange for a cooked meal. As the name Neighborhood University suggests, it's also a hub for classes of all kinds, and research applied to the local neighborhood.
Now, the project organizers are working to create a new part of the experience: a DIY, community run hotel. The university is using the creation of the hotel as a research project itself, studying how it's possible to create a high-quality hotel at a low budget, and also studying how neighbors can co-design this type of space.
The hotel is being crowdfunded now, but in a twist that's almost as interesting as the project itself, the designers are less interested in financial donations than just getting people to participate:
We want to invite you to support this project with your skill, will, knowledge and participation. We do not ask for money in the first plan to realize the project...our question to crowd-fund it, is more a question on cultural and social capital than on monetary contribution. The money we ask for is only for a printed and well edited book version of the free and open source online documentation...So we want you to be part of the project, wether you are a carpenter, builder, hotel specialist, cook, PR expert, economist or lawyer, blogger, videographer, community wifi-radio specialist, musician, DJ, wellness expert or what ever you think you could bring into it, in order to build, organize, document or communicate the project on a local and global scale.