There’s something incredibly exciting about getting into an abandoned building — a huge, disused factory. It gets you right there, you’re scared and a bit disgusted because it’s dirty, but the size of it is just overwhelming. Never mind the dirt, the dust, the pigeon shit and the graffiti on the walls, we’ve just got into 4 storeys of free, empty, hundreds of square meters of space!
The first thing to do once in the building is to change the lock on the door. When this is done we’re ‘legal’: we’ve got the right to be in there, and nobody, not even the police can kick us out. The owner can, but he will have to take us to court first, which means at least a couple of months before the case is settled. So this is ours for at least a few months.Where do we start?
Electricity is priority. The building used to be full of machines, so it has a powerful 3-phase electric system, dangerous to fiddle with. We choose to deal with each floor at a time, much safer.
Water comes next. Most empty houses still have running water, but our factory didn’t. So we had to jump the building next door’s water and connect it to the upstairs bathroom, where we’re building a shower — you’ll see, in only a few weeks this place will be a palace. And the owner will have a more valuable building. He is a property developer so if he knows what is good for him, he will let us stay till he sells it or turns it into a hotel. Much easier than having to secure it against other squatters.
Empty, hum, well not quite. The rooms are covered in pigeon droppings and carcasses, there are piles of rusty pipes in every corner, and this is going to take a while to clean and clear out. But once the filthy lino’s been ripped off and the walls cleaned and painted, my 200 m2 room will look like some expensive loft.
And I won’t have paid a penny for it.