Mads Peter Laursen

Interview with project leader of Institut for X.
How was Institut for X created, who was involved, and what was the vision for this cultural platform?

For starters this platform started out from a series of social and architectural projects that were commissioned by the city and other organizations.  From day 1 it just started to grow and since then it hasn’t stopped.  At first it was just some people from the Aarhus municipality and a few active people from Bureau Detours.

The warehouses that are used by X today were given over to the Aarhus Kommune when they were decommissioned by the DSB train company in the year 2000.

At that time Godsbanen was going to become a cultural production center, but nobody knew how to do it yet.  Myself and some others that I work with were approached by the Kommune to start a project for this area, and also stay at Godsbanen when the project was done, to see what kind of cultural life could start flourishing within this space. 

During this time there wasn’t much money for new projects but there was space for workshops and to build new things within the warehouses and also outside.

It was myself, some carpenters and people from Bureau Detours.  The more projects we had the more people joined, usually on a temporary basis.  This is how the discussion started about the need to create a platform for future projects and events.  This is why the Institut for X was created.

Did you have permission to takeover these abandoned warehouses after the train yard was shut down?

Yes and No

First it started with A-Huset and then it grew into the surrounding warehouses because we needed more space for projects.  Once we had more space more people came and joined the platform.  A-Huset was made for building projects while B-Huset started to create projects based more for sound and space.  F-Building became a platform for entrepreneurs in a more visible way with long term projects and a more formal connection to business. 

Along with the shipping containers we started expanding outside of the   warehouses, giving more people opportunities to start their own studios.

The Kommune wanted to use the space for other activities but in the end the people from X were more persistent in developing the space through their own creative ways.
What kind of relationship does X have with the city of Aarhus both public and with the municipality?

With the municipality our relationship is very loose.  We try to follow their rules but sometimes we break them for the sake of creativity.  We try to show to the city that a lot of cultural projects can be done without the need of corporate sponsors.

By being in these warehouses, we are showing that leftover industrial space can be a functional space where many creative projects can be made. Through this new approach the city can be improved allowing the public to use it more frequently.

With each project that we do our relationship with the city and the Kommune grows. We have a platform for underground projects that sometimes can’t be done in other parts of the city. 

What kind of people can you currently find at X?

We are a group of cultural entrepreneurs, young people who have a passion for hands on participation through projects and events.   A lot of people are here because the bureaucracy process is quick and simple.  It is not very complicated to get things done here.  Lack of formal meetings allows people to make decisions by themselves and get their own projects done in the way they want to. 

It’s a lively cluster of ideas, students, young entrepreneurs, musicians, designers, and all types of creative people. 

How long do you think X can stay at its current location?

We are still waiting for the official date from the municipality.  If X continues to grow like it is now we could be more flexible and start moving to other locations around the city.  Maybe we can still have this place as a base, but most of our operations could be done in other areas. 

What other places do you see X moving to next?

Anywhere there is a group of people willing to make things happen.  Make more satellites in different locations, maybe allow the F-Building to grow up from the roof.

We need to start looking at other empty industrial locations that may benefit from X and the projects that come with it.  Anywhere X goes it can activate a space and create more life and culture in the city.

Did you ever feel like giving up from managing this institution?

Every day!
What kind of help do you get to keep X running both financially and physically?

The municipality allows us to stay here while paying really cheap rent.  Also they helped us with the water, garbage, and electricity bill, this allows us to have an open 24 hours/7 days a week attitude where we can always work at any given hour of the night and not have to worry about how much it will this cost us at the end of the month. 

Before we came here it was pitch black in this area, so we had to set up some lights.  You make the lights yourself and the city pays the bill, it’s a good relationship.  The bills aren’t that high they only increase a little bit each year. 

Most of the things worked here when we moved in, so this allowed for new people to come in and set up their studios relatively easy.  As long as everyone pitches in and pays their rent and helps out whenever it’s needed X will keep on going. 

Sometimes there are a variety of projects happening and people from different parts of the city come and help out.  These people contribute materials as well.  In the end there is always leftovers that can be used for other public projects. 

At the end of the day the people who are here everyday help out a lot and make sure that X runs smoothly with great projects and creative people. 

What is the craziest thing you have ever seen happen at X?

Probably X itself, just the idea that you can have this place exist in the middle of the city is quite amazing. Various communities can coexist with each other in the same place.
The parties and events here are quite interesting, probably the most organic form of co-civilization I have ever seen.  There were no lights here back in the day; so you had to be careful when you walked around late at night.  It was like a post apocalyptic space full of potential.

If you had one wish for X what would it be?

Complete backing from the municipality in terms of cooperation and dialogue with the city. I would also like to see Mock up Studio win a competition where they design an extension for the F2-Building by creating a new cluster of studios on top of B-Huset. 
Mostly, I want the Aarhus Kommuen back us up so we can continue to grow into a real city.  We need to have people from X involved in the decisions that are being made about the future of this place; so it not just outsiders interested in making money off the land around us. Being able to develop human life here without worrying about money, or normalization, and the new architecture that is going to happen here.