Picture by Ellie O. Photography, Creative Commons

In response to the effects that empty/abandoned buildings can have on local communities in Europe, various initiatives have emerged that seek to make (often temporary) use of these spaces, thus avoiding the waste of such a resource. This section will consider the types of movements currently in play, which, as we shall see, can bring numerous benefits to a community and its citizens.

Before looking at the examples below, consider the following statistics which aim to give a real sense of the scale of the problem of abandoned property in Europe:

  • 18% of the office buildings in Amsterdam are vacant, despite the fact that they are perfectly usable office buildings or other spaces ... these vacant buildings are anything between 10 and 350 years old, and could remain empty for up to 10 years! (urbantimes.co).
  • According to Michele Hanson (The Guardian) ”Empty office space in the City of London almost doubled to 10% between 2008 and 2009, while 17% of offices in Birmingham are empty, a fun area for vandals and arsonists.”
  • In Paris, France more than 2 million properties were vacant in 2012 (CSMonitor.com).
  • In Ireland, as many as one in five shops are now vacant (independent.ie).

As a result of these growing figures, an increased enthusiasm in temporary architecture or letting of spaces, carefully tuned interventions, and solutions for those who can’t afford the usual inner city square metre prices is becoming more clearly noticeable. The examples provided below are evidence of this.


ACTIONS (in orange) and POLICIES (in green)

Click HERE for the Examples

Caxias Social Association - social solutions

Author: Anne-Iris Romens - Published At: 2013-08-05 08:58 -

The Caxias Social Association aims to help families in need, solving social problems in households experiencing difficulties and/or with limited sustainability.

BIOME- Self-managed factory

Author: Mariani Papanikolau - Published At: 2013-08-02 12:45 -

A Trade Union that is fighting for the independent operation and self-management of their abandoned factory.

Manifatture Knos

Author: Alessandra Sciurba - Published At: 2013-08-01 09:50 -

Transformation of an abandoned space of approx. 400 square metres (including a park) into a multi-functional centre of research, training and cultural production. Also a member of the network "Trans Europe Halles" for independent European spaces.

Ex Fadda

Author: Alessandra Sciurba - Published At: 2013-08-01 08:26 -

Transformation of an abandoned space into one that is multi-purpose, encompassing the production of an alternative economy, art and culture that is accessible, and providing opportunities for social collectives.

Pretty Vacant Dublin

Author: Louise Marlborough/ Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-07-15 09:48 -

Pretty Vacant Dublin is an arts initiative repurposing vacant properties as temporary art exhibitions spaces.

Meanwhile Space

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-06-13 12:07 -

Meanwhile Space are a community interest company working all over the UK to activate vacant property and sites with uses that benefit the community, while something else is waiting to happen or being planned.

SCUP (sport e cultura popolare)

Author: alessandra sciurba - Published At: 2013-05-21 11:10 -

A centre of sporting and cultural services and a solidarity economy, created in an abandoned public space to be later occupied by the people involved in the project.

Corrala La Utopía

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-04-29 14:56 -

A collective project of a self-organised group of families - in urgent need of housing - who have occupied a building owned by a bank partly responsible for the crisis.

Ciclofficina La Granata

Author: alessandra sciurba - Published At: 2013-04-26 12:46 -

Since 2008, in Padua, a collective of students, housed in a building owned by the municipality which had been unused for a long time, started a bike repair workshop, which also has a coffee service, a bar, a small kitchen and a public internet point with a free wi-fi hotspot

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Creative Limerick - Connect to the Grid

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-05-22 10:03 -

Creative Limerick - Connect to the Grid, is coordinated by the Economic Development Department (at Limerick City Council) in partnership with the third level colleges, creative industries, commercial property owners and their agents operating in Limerick City. This project seeks to enhance vibrancy and active frontages in Limerick City Centre and to provide active uses for vacant properties while promoting the work of the Creative Industries in our region.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs)

Author: Anne-Iris Romens/Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-05-15 13:01 -

Legal device used in England and Wales, which enables local authorities to put an unoccupied property back into use as housing.

The soft requisition bill

Author: Louise Hain - Published At: 2013-05-15 12:54 -

Facilitates negotiation talks with the owners of abandoned buildings and other unused premises.

Bill in Andalucía

Author: Anne-Iris Romens - Published At: 2013-05-15 12:47 -

Based on Ex-propriation and fines in order to avoid buildings lying empty while families and individuals face homelessness on the streets of Andalucía, Spain.

Links and other sources

Please note: The experience of Empty/abandoned buildings is also discussed on another section of this website under the category Housing (Reusing abandoned buildings).