25 October 2015

ShabbyShabby is a temporary architecture challenge developed by Berlin-based Raumlabor. It uses pop-up structures realised by European teams with limited time, costs and space, to showcase under-used spaces within the city and comment on current housing issues in Europe.

In 2014, the festival Theater der Welt held in Mannheim cooperated with Raumlabor, Umschichten, and ARTE Creative to build temporary hotel rooms out of salvaged material, in the most unlikely places in a city.  This is how Hotel ShabbyShabby was born. Hotel ShabbyShabby enabled visitors to rent and experience the city in a new way. Initially, an open-call competition was launched where every team could send an idea of the structure and building material they were thinking about, and how their structure considered the surrounding urban environment. The 22 deemed most creative were selected by an international jury and the teams invited in Mannheim who then had 9 days to build their prototype on full scale. The hotel rooms were a tremendous success, not only because they created the opportunity to spend a night on a food market or floating on the water, but also because they drew a new vision of some underrated spaces in the city and highlighted the potential of others.


Stadtloge – 2014 by the collective Kopfgemacht, from Postdam and Berlin


Lichter Hotel – 2014 by Nathalie Fournier, Cécile Roturier, Camille Delaunay, Simon Durand, Benjamin Le Roux, Mathieu Le Roux, from France

In September 2015 the concept was revisited in Munich under the name ShabbyShabby apartments, this time, in partnership with the Münchner Kammerspiele Theatre and among others IKEA. The project intended to question the rent rise in Munich (which ranks among the European Top Ten for cost of rent) and raise awareness of the lack of social housing. By building creative set-ups with salvaged material in a short amount of time, for under €200, in some of the most expensive neighbourhoods of Munich, Raumlabor and the 120 participants successfully managed to communicate that decent housing is a right, not a privilege.

“What would happen if everybody left their flats and built shelters in the most unlikely places in town? Might this result in a completely new kind of campfire society, of opinion making and exchange while sharing twist bread and cowboy coffee? Let’s give the future a home in public spaces!”

The accommodation options were complemented by the city tours “ShabbyShabby WalkieTalkie” that passed by the apartments and included discussion within the program ‘Urban Issues – How you can change the city’. The message was directed toward the authorities to prove that social housing can be inventive and doesn’t have to be shaped as standard blocks, and also to show the power of fast building in order to urge them to provide decent shelters for the refugees arriving to Germany.

Modular and experimental architecture such as promoted by Raumlabor does not pretend to present itself as a long term solution, but aims to draw attention on social issues as well as questioning the role of the architect in today’s society.

« We need low cost housing in our cities. Space is not a luxury – space is but a necessity! Housing should be a public value that relates to other common goods. We have to reinvent the idea of housing, ground and soil. We need new ways to build without using up the world’s resources. We have to find ways to work and live together, to welcome people, to make experiments. »


ZUR FEINSTEN SEIDE – 2015 by Veronika Schwaninger, Josepha Krüger, Laurin Döpfner, Thomas Schwarz, Birgit Lehner, Natalie Zimmermann (Linz)


All images and quotes taken from Raumlabor website here
Discover all projects from 2014 Hotel ShabbyShabby in Mannheim here and from 2015 ShabbyShabby apartments in Munich here

ARTE Creative produced good documentaries about both editions of ShabbyShabby, available here (in German & French)

Agile City is following the work of Raumlabor Berlin: you can read our previous posts featuring them here & here

Agile City previously looked at the theme of temporary architecture as a mean to comment on social issues. The Bellastock festival  in France which addresses the necessity of re-using construction material: here 
Gap Filler, uses temporary architecture as a mean to activate the post-earthquake city centre of ChristChurch, NZ: here