• Holding organisation:
  • Status: Permanent centralised organisation in Denmark
  • Financing: Sponsored by Realdania for its first 2 years. Through consultancy work with owners of empty buildings, municipalities.
  • People involved in the project: The co-founders: Christian Fumz and Jesper Koefoed-Melson + building owners, municipality, “creators” or “users” of the empty buildings as well as other networks of people needed for development of new projects
  • Public Partners: Municipality, State
  • Private partners: Building owners, Creative “users” and experts
  • Creation Date: January 2010
  • Contact Persons: Christian Fumz & Jesper Koefoed-Melson
  • Main project links:

The idea

The idea is to see more empty buildings being transformed into workshops, offices or other innovative projects while they are waiting to be renovated or demolished. By establishing and facilitating user-run systems, empty buildings are taken care of and transformed into hubs of activity. When the idea becomes reality, not only opens the door to unused, empty buildings, but also to a new and more democratic way of thinking and organising culture and city planning.

The local context

Over the last years more and more manufacturing industries have moved their production out of western cities like Copenhagen in order to lower their production costs. Such cities are therefore left with thousands of empty square metres in old industrial buildings.

Temporary utilisation of empty buildings in a lawful manner is not easy however – especially if cheap rent is the goal. Different viewpoints, money aspects and bureaucratic processes can make it an extremely confusing and complicated action, which calls for immense work and energy from the initiators.

To accommodate this Christian Fumz and Jesper Koefoed-Melson established the organisation with an ambition to “widen the access to empty buildings in order to help them evolve and grow into open and inspiring environments” by giving space to social and creative initiatives.

The starting point started as an idea in 2006, when Christian discovered an old candy factory in Northwestern Copenhagen. Bolsjefabrikken (“the candy factory”) created the framework for the first meeting about the many incredible challenges and surprises attached to the temporary use of empty buildings. At that time, there were no services where Christian could find information or help about this kind of enterprise. He therefore decided to change that. Jesper was one of the many people passing through Bolsjefabrikken, and that’s where he met Christian. They soon realised that they had a common interest in empty buildings and on January 6th 2010, after a few meetings, they started work together. They have pursued their dream ever since.

How does it work today?

The organisation operates at four activity levels: a political, a consultancy, a knowledge sharing, and a practical level. This implies that offers several services and it also entails that it cooperates with many diverse parties. 1. At the political level aims at influencing the political approaches through networks and dialogue and collaborates with different municipalities.

2. At the consultancy level it collaborates with the building owners about an advantageous utilisation of their buildings and advises about administrative and practical matters regarding temporary use as well as it facilitates the contact to the creative entrepreneurs later becoming the users.

3. The knowledge sharing level entails organising conferences like Think Space, taking part in workshops, making presentations at universities and other institutions, and in general collecting knowledge and examples concerning temporary utilisation of empty buildings.

4. The practical level involves the actual start-up of places and the establishment of user-run systems consisting of people using and taking care of the buildings while no one else is. In order to ease the utilisation for creative entrepreneurs functions as an intermediary between owners, users and the municipalities.

Participation and Governance

With, there are three main stakeholders involved in the process of new projects: the building owners, the municipality/State and the creative “users” that is, the grassroots cultural and social activists. is also part of a bigger network of people with all kinds of competences and resources which it uses in all new projects in order to be able to offer nuanced, qualified and sustainable solutions and advice on all levels.

In terms of financing, the organisation has received a subsidy from Realdania for the first two years while trying to get a foothold in the market. They don't take money from the "users" but are looking instead to find means through consultancy work for municipalities and landlords who want to see a bottom-up use of empty buildings in their possession.

Added value of the project and making resources available acts as mediator between, on the one hand, the “urban pioneers” in need of space for their projects, and on the other, the owners of buildings that are not being used due to economic or development reasons. In doing so, an agreement is reached and legitimacy for use of the building is granted.

Empty buildings that would otherwise be left dormant are transformed into active social and cultural centres, Therefore, alternative cultural environments like the ones initiates are slowly perceived as a source for bringing the desired growth, prosperity, and appreciation on real estate back to cities and communities.

Enhanced interaction among participants in the field + increase in the flow of information and diffusion about temporary utilisation of empty buildings.

Incentives for business and property owners too: having the building inhabited reduces vandalism and break-ins and reduces the cost of security to the owner. The building is also maintained well and kept in good condition while it’s in use.


The concept of is still a fairly new phenomenon and the lack of examples as well as’s different beliefs and methods to the ones prevailing in the field contributes to the caution and reservations shown from both the owner as well as the State and municipality’s side

The temporary utilisation of empty buildings is still a fairly new area, which in many ways does not fit with the existing regulations, procedures, and mindsets not only at the municipal and bureaucratic level, but also amongst local populations and employers.

In spite of the success of a project, it can also be quickly wiped out since these kinds of places are also very fragile. They are easy to purge if the bureaucracy becomes too dominating, the rent too expensive, or if the places become too separated from the local area.

When principles of profit are valued more than creativity or social growth, economic beliefs and financial issues can impose pressures and constraints on

Future perspective

As our project is also a working one we are always adding to the main frame, described above, with the objective to:

Develop and expand the market in this field, in both urban and rural settings: The fact that is established as a permanent organisation, with the primary goal to utilising empty buildings and ease the process, requires the involved stakeholders to take notice and relate to the phenomenon in a more structured way than before: we are starting to articulate a market, with new ways of organising which cannot work under regular market conditions.

Continue building up its knowledge about the field and become experts in the area: The empty buildings are the focal point and we want to know what rules and limitations there are in the field and understand why it is put together the way it is and how it could be put together in a better way.

Proposals for change

Instead of constraining the public engagement with the bureaucratic processes and several rules and regulations regarding temporary utilisation of empty buildings, the state should help it along, and in no way discourage or stop people.

Increased focus on how an appropriate subsidy programme could be arranged - finding the right way to encourage and sustain bottom-up initiatives as they contribute to the society and provide valuable offerings both locally and nationally.

If a municipality would like to engage its citizens in creating social and cultural changes it should regard an area e.g. a city, as a board game. In order to have people "play" or contribute to your challenges, you need to make it as simple as possible to do so. You need clear challenges, available funds, simple rules and make a nice box. In we have reached the level of simplifying the rules (we take care of creating the initial organizational structures). We try to stimulate creativity by simplifying the rules and try to make participation as cheap and easy as possible. We take in regard that there are many different aspects and ways to "play a board game" but all rely on a combination of social and cultural needs.

Projects of/linked to

1. Prags Boulevard 43 - Since December 2010, the disused Sadolin paint factory located on Prags Boulevard 43 (PB43) in central Copenhagen has continuously been transformed into a creative, user-driven environment with workshops, offices, studios, galleries, café, urban laboratory and urban farm. The 6400m2 site and the four buildings located on it have been made available free of charge by the Dutch landowner AkzoNobel for use up until the end of 2016. For more info:

2. Boljsefabrikken, "The Candy Factory" - Bolsjefabrikken is an autonomous group of people running two culture houses/free spaces in Copenhagen. In one of the houses you will find a gallery, cinema, library, bicycle workshop, media workshop, wood workshop cafe, and much much more. In the other there is held cafe nights, underground music concerts and various artist workshops. Website:

Sources and links

Extra-creative: tips and thoughts

It is important to understand the perspective of the municipality: what is its reality, its working conditions? They are part of a larger system having to work on behalf of other, higher authorities – they have limitations. Choose your battles wisely, be firm with your demands and be ready to compromise.