"We want to develop the Lighthouse into a new free space where we can experiment with different forms of art and living"

The Lighthouse is an initiative that started mid-January with an empty warehouse of 300m2. We interviewed the three initiators: Bart, who was involved with the development of the Ceuvel, Arno, who is part of the Black Rabbit Collective and Kayla, an architect from the United States, who works for Thinkarchitecture . The idea behind the Lighthouse is to set up an involved community and to create a physical cultural free space where all aspects of life are combined. The interview focused on two main questions: how will this idea be materialized and how will the space be transformed?

What are the three main ambitions behind the Lighthouse project?
Bart:
 With the Lighthouse we want to prototype a conscious and regenerative economic model, centered on humans and their environment. Through a free space for trial and error, we want to foster organic development of the docklands. We have people that want to help us and we have certain materials that we can use. This will be a place where a diversity of activities are combined. If you want to chill, you can chill, but you can also be active and build things.

Creating such a place will be a slow process, but it is already flowing and now we have to manage it.

Arno: We want to empower others to do this. People can contribute to the Lighthouse and feel that they really belong in this community. We believe in giving people freedom. In return, people will contribute and take responsibility.

Bart: We want to be entrepreneurs and create an alternative way of living where we are able to express ourselves. Creating such a place will be a slow process, but it is already flowing and now we have to manage it.

When did you start thinking about this project ?
Arno: 
We started thinking about the Lighthouse last summer. We thought it would be nice to combine it with the Waterhouse. We took around six months to develop the concept and come up with ideas. We have all the plans on paper, and now we have to put it into action and bring it together.

Bart: It partly started out of necessity, because it is becoming more and more difficult to find suitable living spaces, this is why we want to start experimenting with a co-living project. In the beginning we could live here for a while, and later it can become a space for other activities. We see so many opportunities with this warehouse and the 500m2 waterfront dockland in collaboration with our neighbours. We want to develop the Lighthouse into a new free space where we can experiment with different forms of art and living. Therefore, we are ‘open’ in the way that we are inviting people to come and see if we can build the place with many more angles and different kinds of artists.

The location of the Lighthouse. © Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is situated in the neighborhood Buiksloterham, which lies in the north of Amsterdam (Amsterdam-Noord). The municipality wants to transform this area from an industrial zone into a residential neighborhood. How do you relate to this transition?

Bart: At the moment there are just 300 people living here officially, but in a few years it will grow to 3000 people. This transition has two aspects: First of all, the whole Buiksloterham neighborhood is to become a living lab for the circular economy. This means getting more access to DIY clean technologies, which we would like to combine with the input of artists. Secondly, there is quite a one-sided view from the municipality in the way neighborhoods are being gentrified. Many houses are being built for richer people. This standardized housing policy offers no place for young creatives. We are opposed to this, because we think that diversity is more important than conformity. The Lighthouse is a way to organize ourselves and ensure our basic needs when you see that the bigger system cannot provide that in a sufficient way.

We want to see what is legal and what is possible within these boundaries.

Also, in terms of legal issues we want to assure a long-term community. We want to see what is legal and what is possible within these boundaries. That is why we’re looking at what is possible on the water. In Berlin there is an interesting project going on that we’re connected with called Spree:Publik. It is a DIY harbor where, rafts/ floating islands are being built to do different activities on the water. This all falls back on being resilient.

The first idea that you will put into practice is the architectural project called ‘Darwin’s Delight’. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Kayla: It is about looking at how space can evolve with locally sourced building materials. You can create these little areas of space within a space, to combine the public and the private space. We will start with around 50 blocks from styrofoam, they are about one meter, by eighty centimeters by sixty centimeters. We want to keep the space open, because I think there is a lot of value in open space. And of course, it needs to be structurally sound and isolated.

You can create these little areas of space within a space, to combine the public and the private space.

Arno: The space has to be flexible so it can be used in several ways. In the beginning we had plans of making separate rooms and renting out square meters, but we are letting this idea go now. We want to have an open environment now we know how this space works.

How do you financially want to manage the Lighthouse project?

Bart:  That is something that we are figuring out at the moment. We want to provide a safe and tolerant environment and create a sense of belonging. To do this, we thought about a cooperative at first, but for now we think it is better to have a foundation. We hope that the Lighthouse can function autonomously in the end.

Arno: In order to establish this, we want to introduce different kinds of memberships. For 50 euros a month you can support the foundation. But you can also go dancing and attend events for a few euros per month. In the beginning it is necessary to keep it curated. We want to see for ourselves who fits in here: does he or she have the same ideas and values? From there we are looking into a self-managing structure, that would be ideal.

We want to see for ourselves who fits in here: does he or she have the same ideas and values?

Bart: It is not a set concept, spontaneity is key. We are not aiming to be a horeca (Hotel/restaurant/café) hotspot, but we want to be a member-based clubhouse. This clubhouse will be driven by shared values that foster a sustainable financing model. We have many intentions for the place and we want to see how it evolves. This really depends on ‘who jumps on the boat’.

Arno: We are working on a new kind of business model that is profit-for-purpose oriented. This will enable members to ‘program’ themselves and thus invest in their own work space and stage or expo space. It is definitely not about making profit, but we want to cover the costs. We do not want to do a full time horeca concept, we want to keep it a bit more private instead.

© Lighthouse

Do you have ideas about how you will face certain challenges or are you going to experiment to see what works?

We could have closed it for a few months, build everything and open up, but that is not the way we like to do it.

Arno: I think a large part is experimental. Before we had this space is was really difficult to fill in. We have had this space for a week now, and we are just inviting people here. We are asking them to come over and bring in ideas. Now it is about making a combination of these different ideas and values that fits into something that works. Maybe something doesn’t work, so we can change it and make something new. This is the reason why we keep it open at the moment, even though it is empty. We could have closed it for a few months, build everything and open up, but that is not the way we like to do it. We want to show it now it’s empty and bring in people that we think are interesting and build together.

You said before that the Lighthouse project is a slow process, so do you want to document this?

Arno: Yes, for now we want to make some kind of documentary. It is nice for us as well, because we want to see what comes out of it.

Bart: Because the Lighthouse is changing so much, in half a week it already changed. We want to keep doing meet-ups every week or every two weeks. People can follow the process with photos if they cannot come. And it doesn’t matter if it fails a couple of times.

Arno: It is a nice contrast to the plan-society where we are always thinking ahead and planning our lives ahead. We want to be more pragmatic and make things happen.

If you want to keep updated on the progress of the Lighthouse project, you can visit their Facebook page or take a look on their website.

Involved city makers
Bart van Overbeek
Co-founder of the Lighthouse
Arno Bouma
Co-founder of the Lighthouse
Kayla Lee
Co-founder of the Lighthouse
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