Shortly after I took this photo, a cyclist, in that very Berlin, not really paying attention “I’m just riding, me,” way, rode up the grot covering the bike path, realised they had to jank hard right around the perversely located orange rubbish bin, then then hard left down the temporary construction ‘alternate route’, wobbled precariously as they saw the old Muslim woman they were about to run into who’d paused where footpath and bike lane merged and vanished into a cattle-race, wobbled right, found some dickhead had left a shitty ride-share e-bike in the lane, wove drunkenly to an almost halt wondering where exactly the town planners had intended them to ride, before continuing on in that also very Berlin, “Passive acceptance of basic shit this city can’t even manage to do right”. The old woman cut across the street, thus avoiding the endless wait at the pedestrian crossing.
I went to see Hans’ new space today, which I’d heard about from Anuschka just before coming to Brussels. It sounded like a lot of work; basement machine shop with decades of oil and other dance-unfriendly substances leeched into concrete to be turned into SOIT’s rehearsal space. It also sounded like it could be one of those fringe shoehorning of artistic necessity into somewhere that works but is always slightly at odds. After all, basement mechanic’s workshop and “The ceiling’s not really that low” …
Turns out to be beautiful.
One street back from the canal near Nord Station in an early-ish Modernist building now turned over to ateliers and studios, of the concrete type with massive metal-framed windows; the long side faces south and any sun is unhindered by adjacent buildings as it’s just parkland all the way to the next street.
The descent is perilous, around a tight and dark concrete spiral staircase into the washroom, and then, opening the door, even though the windows are high on the wall, there is more than enough light. Hans and the others working on it have wedged a couple of opening windows in as replacements, and a trio of extractor fans from a chicken farm as well.
The floor, having been thoroughly stripped is even sprung; a combination of wooden panels resting on thick slats, in turn resting on three layers of rubber tiles acquired as throw-aways from a Metro station. Carpet from another source will sandwich between that and the tarkett.
Hans and Joe were still laying this when I arrived, and there’s still a lot of work to be done before it opens, and the photos don’t really do justice to the size, but it’s easily big enough for a group to work in, and the ceiling really isn’t that low, and for winter there will be some heaters.
Which is to say I’m very envious and inspired, and also very happy Hans and SOIT now have a home. It’s beautiful.
The Kantine is on the ground floor, stretching from the street back some fifty meters in three distinct sections. First is a slight mezzanine, where the BVG Orchestra practiced; separated by three or four steps and sliding accordion screen doors is the central main dining area, now with dance floor. This opens out to the east with a wall of windows and a small courtyard garden. The north wall is the serving counter, behind which the last third, that of the kitchen.
The first need met – a floor upon which to work that is comfortable, our attention turned to the ceiling. A 1970s square-panel drop ceiling above which appeared to be satisfyingly thick and solid concrete. Except not. Whatever it is, held together with a chicken-wire-like mesh, it has the consistency of dried, ground porridge. Above which …
Dasniya cut enough of a hole to stick a head through, which we then worked on opening out to the area enclosed by the next level of structure – 4-5mm steel wire. Cutting the middle out of this and cleaning the edges, venturing up into what previously was only seen in flash-lit shots from my camera.
The steel wire is bound to 50mm wide T-beams, in turn welded to I-beams about 120mm high. They in turn bolted to the uprights above which they are mirrored beneath the scrabble-tile sloping concrete roof.
Much clutter and chunks of porridge clag.
Dasniya bores the first hole through; it’s almost a waste of an impact drill being so sandy. I think the paint on the underside assists significantly in preventing unison of ceiling and floor.
I do a bit of cleaning, soaking the exposed rim in acrylic paint to try and bond it, and scrabble above also, to set the first suspension rope. We have plans to bore at least four more over the weekend, and perhaps others if the urge takes us.
Last night after class (many regulars making the new space feel very comfortable), Dasniya rehearsed MA, which she is performing in Ljubljana next weekend (and perhaps a small rehearsal showing next Wednesday after Yoga+Shibari also).
Walking through town last week, Daniel took me into another one of the city’s abandoned construction sites. Adelaide has an appearance of being a bustling small capital, though I always seem to notice the proliferation of empty shops and buildings, and missing teeth of demolished sites. It reminds me of Auckland in the early 90’s, when the over-enthusiastic trashing of historic architecture all through the city centre met with the stock market crash and left the place with wasteland carparks, a prefabricated ghost-town.
I like the vacant pointlessness of it, the undelivered grandiosity. It mocks the conceits of the entire city in its absence. Actually, this is all you have to look forward to and either way it is not a livable city.