Talked to Astrid and Boudewijn earlier this week. We were sitting in their office of the Vechtclub XL. I was asking them how things had grown like this. Having been there two weeks earlier I had really gotten inspired. This is why I decided to go back. Everywhere else these places are built with subsidies and lots of complex planning. And here some people just did it. They wanted to stay clear of subsidies and lottery money, just to keep their independence. But even so they managed to create a place. A place that offers the opportunity to connect. A place that makes it worthwhile to stay.
This place once was used to store medicine. Lots of medicine. There were plans to build new houses. But with the crises the city started to look for alternative solutions. Fightclub was already working in another part of Utrecht creating spaces for the creative. The city asked them to have a look at this place. And they decided to do it. Some three to four thousand square meters had to be redeveloped on a temporary basis. The city wanted to lease this for 10 years. Without any obligation for the future. And so it seems without much help.
Vechtclub XL needed money. They couldn’t get it from the bank. This is why they started crowdfunding. There were enough people that believed in their dreams and the goal of € 60.000 was easily reached. To build the new walls materials were used form the reconstruction of a housing estate nearby. With this money, with using good but cheap materials and by using their own workforce they were able to get extra money from the bank.
Work is almost finished. The first units are easily rented out . And now they want more!
That is quite easy to understand. These places are interesting because for a relatively low price most renters can work in their own studio. But the added value starts to grow when the place is able to get it’s own identity. This identity grows, not only from what IS but mainly form what’s happening. So a vision on meeting spaces and programming is needed. Vechtclub XL would like to have a meeting place. They would like to use open air space in front of their building. They want to attract people to work here even on a temporary basis. They want to show to others what their renters are doing.
What I like most here is the normality. This place is very special but everyone you meet seems to think this is the most normal thing to do.
It proves again that there is in reality only one thing you need to do: which is to start. Work hard and things start to grow. Never stop dreaming. Vechtclub XL wants to grow bigger, they want to explore city farming, new energy, alternative working places. The city should be exited: here the young and creative show that they can do it themselves. On the edge of Utrecht you can see what Dresden, Locri, Perm, Leeds and all these other medium sized cities with empty buildings can do. That there are possibilities that are a lot less expensive then investing in new infrastructure and management plans. Let people build their own destiny. Trust!