Review: „Second Hand Spaces“

M. Ziehl, S. Oßwald, O. Hasemann, D. Schnier (Eds.): Second Hand Spaces, Jovis, Berlin, 2012 (eng/ger)

The book “Second Hand Spaces” assembles essays and descriptions of projects, performances and possibilities of re-used spaces in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. The material of its grey cardboard jacket goes by the beautiful name ‘Silberschrenz’ and protects a glossy golden first page. In reference to used clothing the term “second hand” is interpreted as indication of an alternative notion of life that is critical of consumption. This might be as true for temporary architectures as it is for the average critical awareness in fashion.

However, on its way along second chances – from former outdoor pools to campsites, from high-rises to artist colonies, from inhospitable brownfields to public gardens, from railway stations to opera houses – this book articulates some valid questions for urban transformation: How to find a practice that not only focuses on what can be planned but includes what is not yet planned, that does not view users purely as space consumers but wins over partners for the production of space? Or, should civic involvement and temporary uses not also be viewed as actual and prospective participation (in planning procedures)? These suggestions are calling for emancipation and personal engagement. This of course sounds a little scary when a lot of people are exposed to precarious livelihoods and adamant financial forces in a sphere of deregulation and uncertainty. But in terms of new political imaginations and a critical urban theory these might be points worth talking about. So, one prospect of this book could read like this: Try to leave your fingerprints on the things that matter to you. Don’t seek for the second chance – take the first one. Make use of the built environment, inhabit spaces, re-organize time, and take positions in ways that have not been foreseen. Besides such likeable but vaguely heroic requests, one could find some suggestions for people concerned with knowledge production, publishing and graphic design too. Those relate to an obvious secret from inside our bookshelves: The most interesting books are used, overwritten and damaged heavily. In this sense the “Second Hand Spaces” appear as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its golden page and the soft ‘Silberschrenz’ directly become witnesses of action and attraction. Following a theory on second views by Eyal Weizman, not only the traces on the book itself but all of its content – the walls, the lots, the objects, and the constellations – could be reviewed as forensic artifacts that tell their own story.