Oscar Honeyman-Novotny of Kroloftet on maker spaces and urban manufacturing
In the midst of the pandemic the communal coworking initiative Kroloftet has taken over an industrial complex formerly used as a biker gang hideout - and turned it into a thriving hub of creative and social activity.
We have spoken to designer Oscar Honeyman-Novotny, one of the driving forces behind Kroloftet about maker spaces and design as a force of cultural change.
#How did Kroloftet come about, and what is the aim for the project?
Kroloftet was started in much the same way as we continue to grow and develop today. Frans Friis and myself could not find many places to apply our knowledge and interests. Coming from two different, creative and practical backgrounds we had this in common, that Oslo seemed to have to few alternative creative arenas with shared resources for cultural production.
This together with a need for workshop space led us to cramming a woodworkshop and 10 desk spaces onto the second floor of an old industrial building in Bjølsen. Since then we have expanded via a 1700 sqm space at Frysja and ended up, six years later, here at Etterstad with 3000 sqm and two new board members, Torbjørn P. Larssen and Peter Watz.
#Before the pandemic, setting up local small scale production of anything in inner Oslo seemed to be a marginal phenomenon, is this changing?
Local production has never seemed very far-fetched for me because of my background. The challenge has been to find a way to reach out to the small network of people who can afford locally produced stuff.
I believe that the pandemic has planted some seeds for a fundamental rethinking of which tools a city and an urban society needs, not just to survive but to thrive.
# Your move into a much bigger space was perfectly correlated to the first outburst of the pandemic. How has it been possible to advance with the project in a situation like this?
We have never been good at fitting in, so we naively viewed it as another bump in the road. We had also spent the previous six years investing a lot of time in trying to bring people together, so giving up was not really an option.
Kroloftet was also very glad to have finally found a progressive property developer who was interested in working with us to to strengthen local production and a more diverse cultural space in Oslo. That, together with a crowdfunding campaign, a grant from Sparebanksstiftelsen and a lot of support from our friends and tennants made it possible.
# What is sustainable design to you? ...and: what aspects of the world and of design culture should NOT be sustained? It what areas ; do we need to practice destruction?
I will semi-quote Lacaton & Vassal who said something about architects acting as physicians in the physical space and only "fixing or improving" what is necessary. The question for me is: how can we evolve the design practice from production to reproduction without jeopardizing some form of growth. The question is then how to manage growth without consuming finite resources.
My work with Kroloftet is an attempt to answer these questions with the basic idea that a diverse group of professions, backgrounds, ages, and interests will give design and other professions a broader context and more opportunities to find meaningful answers to the challenges of sustainable urban development.
# How do you manage to do a thousand different things every day and keep your sanity?
By having very patient partners and looking forward to the days when lots of inspiring people can fill our new buildings :)
# How can the public use the faclities at Kroloftet?
People can get involved and use Kroloftet in lots of different ways, normally. We are hoping to be able to open up gradually from the beginning of May. Initially our various workshops will be open primarily to professional.
As the summer progresses we will open up the hobby and part time services and by July we hope to have a course plan set up for all of our workshops for the remainder of the year. Apart from our facilities, we hope that people will get involved in other ways, Kroloftet is built on ideas that arrive at our doorstep, and although the physical space is starting to fil up, there is a lot of availble time and space in the in the common and multipurpose areas!
In addition to office desks, parttime and full time, Kroloftet offer full access to fully equiped wood-, metal- and ceramic- workshops. Learn more about what Kroloftet can do for you - and you for Kroloftet - at www.kroloftet.no
Oscar Honeyman Novotny also runs the design studio Between Designs and can be reached via www.betweendesigns.no