the spur magazine

#01 espais i xarxes creatives

Contemporary art, a spur for the recuperation of creative spaces in cities

Recuperation of abandoned spaces

Afra Quintanas

This text introduces some case studies to illustrate a system and a methodology to temporarily activate otherwise empty space for creative and community benefit. It will also feature key ingredients that had been taken into account when translating and scaling that system into the technology. The aim of the presentation is to be specific on highlighting different needs and best practices when designing and delivering particular projects.


Meanwhile uses are the temporary use of empty space for community benefit. The Meanwhile use Works on urban regeneration at a human scale looking at the long-term benefit for the local area and the local community. Those uses bring diversity and innovation together offering flexible platforms where to try and test new ideas.

The Meanwhile family, which includes Meanwhile Space CIC, Unlimited Meanwhile, Cu-Cu and Mentrestant as well as the Meanwhile Foundation, navigate bureaucracies and are working to standardise the temporary uses of empty space since 2009.

It all started with the Meanwhile Project on 2009 followed by the CIC founded by Emily Berwyn and Eddie Bridgeman. Meanwhile Space CIC has been at the forefront of the Meanwhile uses since 2009.


Main impact are focused on:

  • Employment: we encourage self-initiation; we create employment and include mainly unemployed citizens in our projects as tenants who try new business or ideas. We also focus on training
  • Place making; activating spaces, reviving neighbourhoods, creative hubs, community centres, enterprise spaces
  • Sustainability: encourage partnerships, create local teams, increase the meanwhile community with landlords, estate agents, developers, projects, creative, entrepreneurs
  • Experience: We’ve worked all around the UK, Ireland, Spain, Scotland working with local authorities, development agencies, councils, economic and urban development, government, creative industries


Those case studies will illustrate some key steps of methodology and ingredients we take into account when activating a space and a neighbourhood.

Case study The cineloreum

Pilot test

The pilot was delivered to test the reuse of gas stations. This was the very first one and it was turned into a temporary cinema thanks to 100 volunteers and up cycled materials. The idea was to first test and then use the Project in 4000 empty gas stations all around the UK.

Harrow – Start Here (on-going Project)

Selection process and Meanwhile Academy (training)

This project is a revitalisation one including 3 main spaces facing the High street. One pop-up shop, a shop and co-working/workshop spaces and shop spaces. All users have to follow a specific selection process from going to a workshop on ‘Building ideas’ to have a one-to-one tailored session on mentoring for their idea. They receive support on filling in the form to apply with their business idea before pitch it to a jury. Spaces are for free with the idea to encourage new artists and entrepreneurs to start-up their ideas in the area.

The Electric House

Community engagement

The electric House was the home for visual artists on its pauses of rent and redevelopment. It offered 2 common areas available from 1 day to 4 weeks and studio spaces. During the launch, artists offered a retrospective of the building, worked on their skills to offer their own vision of the area and the Electric house to the local community. The exhibition showcased old images from the building and their old uses, together with plans for the future for both the area and the building.

The Coming Soon Club at Chesterfield House

Organic growth – Mixed uses

6 story building former offices. Partners: Hub group, Bridge Ventures and The Meanwhile Foundation. Started working in two floors to grow the Project organically. We’ve been in the area for 3 years already with The Coming son club so this was an advantage. Uses: exhibition space, meeting room, workshop space, office space, flexible working space with opportunity of fixed desk. Spaces who wanted to open their space into the public to encourage audiences getting into the building.

The Coming Soon Club at The Cottrell House

Place making, flexible uses, open space
The Coming Soon Club at The Cottrell House

It all started with five retail shops where The Coming Soon Club set up in Wembley. After working with the local community on those retail spaces the Meanwhile Space team moved to a former gas station and refurbished it to get a community and Enterprise centre in Wembley; The Cottrell House. In order to work on the refurbishment and design and uses of the empty degraded space, the Meanwhile Space team organised workshops and focus groups with neighbours from the local community to understand their ideas and projects. It resulted into a flexible and open space that hosted workshops, makers, designers, artists, co-workers, hot desks and a local café that was rolling monthly with local guests.

The Queens Parade

Monitoring and legacy
The Queens Parade

The Queens Parade was one of the very first projects we delivered. It started with one single space and it turn into a parade of 10 spaces that after years of working with them, mentoring them and supporting those artists and entrepreneeurs are now sustainable. For that Project meanwhile Space did an extended job working with existing shops and retailers from the area and design students helping them to look nicer from the outside, investing in their windows and door frames as well as their marketing.

Loughborough Junction Railway Arches


Loughborough Junction is a very deprived area near Brixton in South London. Meanhwile Space partnered with the Railway Network to get hold on Railway Arches and offered them to social and creative entrepreneurs looking for a place to develop their idea. Those arches aren’t on the high street, they’re hidden in narrow streets. Key to this Project was the tenant sustainability. They’d pay for a minimum rent in this case and they’d be responsible of refurbishing their space and cover their costs. That’s why Meanwhile Space would ask for a cash flow projection when applying for a space through the Cu-Cu App, for instance.

Cu-Cu App

Digitalisation of Meanwhile Uses

The aim of Cu-Cu App was to scale Meanwhile use of empty space into technology and so we did. Unlimited Meanwhile was awarded by Innovate UK to develop Cu-Cu platform. The App now matches space owners with space users. The main challenge was to simplify and standardise in few steps and from a digital user experience perspective all licensing of spaces, application process, type of activities and needs/characteristics of spaces, time frames and availability, viewings, contract signatures and payments. Spaces in cu-cu are available from one day to one year, you can find a sole empty space and a sharable space. Cu-Cu includes all type of commercial spaces from churches to warehouses, retail and offices.


Depot Basel:

Place making, Art Fairs and product designers

Depot Basel started in Basel as an independent organisation during the Art Basel and it is home for product designers. In order to start and kick-off their good work, they negotiated an old Silo and invited product designers to set up their own exhibition space and refurbish it. The organisation has always worked on place making to organise events and to work with product artists/designers.

After gentrification:
Lincoln Rd in Miami and how art is being useful to turn otherwise empty space into exhibition and gallery space in a very gentrified area. This was originally a cultural area and now it is a commercial one.

Improve everywhere: Lincoln Rd in Miami link

Alexa Meade’s: Alexa Meade’s video link

Meanwhile in Stoke Newington, Meanwhile Space CIC

Artists, makers and temporary exhibition space in a former furniture shop
Meanwhile in Stoke Newington, Meanwhile Space CIC link

Blue house Yard, Wood Green, Meanwhile Space CIC

ASC studios:

Artists studios at the Aylesbury Estate
Artists studios at the Aylesbury Estate

Open Poplar:

Online Empty space platform
Open Poplar

The Truman’s Brewery in East London (Brick Lane) and Designers Block

How Designers and Makers started bringing people to East London in the 90’s during the London Design week by reusing a small part of a former Brewery

Afra Quintanas

I set up Proper Practice after time working and researching on production processes and sustainability from different sectors. After joining Provenance Project in London -a digital platform at the forefront of blockchain technology helping sustainable brands build trust through supply chain transparency- I decided to start working helping brands being more transparent on their values, their sustainability and processes. Understanding wellbeing as the new luxury I was wondering how I personally could join my skills to help those brands to showcase the unique value of ethically sourced and naturally processed products. This together with a trend forecast, consumer insight, brand positioning and transparency based communication let me to set up Proper Practice.

Proper Practice is a strategic branding consultancy with an expertise in sustainability, branding, business strategy and communication. We identify each brand’s and business’ key assets to highlight their hidden value and bring to life production process and stories that consumers can connect with. Proper Practice highlights the passion, values and authenticity of your brand and helps you define your next steps towards transparency.