La Nave Espacial: Barcelona’s ‘Space Station’
A reclaimed warehouse in an industrial heartland in Barcelona is home to a number of off-grid community projects.
It’s 6pm on Friday and I am sitting in a huge occupied warehouse in Poblenou, Barcelona’s old industrial zone. From the middle of the 20 metre high ceiling hang swinging ropes and aerial silks. One side of the room is home to a collection of reconditioned exercise equipment where a few gym bods are working out their muscles.
Flyer for one of the performances
On the other side a group of circus performers are limbering up on trapezes and tightrope wires. Next to the reclaimed laminate flooring at the far end of the space, where a breakdancing crew are practicing their moves, a row of crates has been set up with mattresses piled high on top, and a group of teenagers are perfecting what looks like free running. The space is that big that it seems no big deal that a few people are using another laminated area to twirl around in giant iron Cyr wheels, next door to some older people doing yoga. In and out of all this scenery run about 20 odd kids in their undies – running, jumping, almost getting knocked over and laughing, laughing, laughing: welcome to La Nave Espacial (The Space Station) on Kids’ afternoon.
Teach, Hang out, create and swap
La Nave (pronounced Nah-veh) describes itself as a self-regulated artistic social centre, and houses many different projects under its huge roof. While one large part of the space is dedicated pretty much to circus skills and all things physical, as well as a fully functioning theatre, the other part has been divided up into different useable spaces. These include a kitchen and various other rooms where people can teach, hang out, create, swap and even have a siesta (witness the special sign asking people to respect peoples siesta time in the middle of the day… only in Spain!). There are even a few people who live here full time, and it’s testament to them and their weekly communal ‘cleaning day’ that the place stays so well kept considering the volume of people using it.
The circus equipment and idea belongs to a group of people called La Makabra, but they were not always located here. Seven years ago they were turfed out of their other squatted residence. Fortunately, they found empty this huge warehouse, which is owned by one of the construction companies that are working to transform the area, and named it La Nave Espacial. Poble Nou is an old industrial barrio (area) of Barcelona, full of warehouses, factories and gypsy squats. It’s currently being ‘cleaned up’ and there is a hell of a lot of knocking down and building up going on. La Nave manages to survive in the midst of it, probably because they don’t need this space right here, right now, but it makes you wonder how long it will be before the company decides it needs the building back, and the project will once again be moved on.
Perhaps its this very spirit of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, that adds the place a special vibe. Whatever it is, it has managed to focus the creative energy of many, many people in a way that a corporate run centre, or even government funded public organisation, just can’t. First of all everything is free, so you can find a number of classes and workshops at no charge. One week on the chalkboard looks like this: acro-yoga, latin/flamenco/tango/afrodance classes, painting with spray paints, theatre, body consciousness classes, and aerial silks. There is a shelf to exchange books and brick-a-brack, and a huge walk in clothes area with rails and shelves where folks leave unwanted or found clothes to take for free to whoever wants them. Decisions are made by general assembly, there is a kitchen to cook reclaimed food and an atmosphere of community: you can make friends here, you can find a niche, whatever your background.
Power to the people
Every Tuesday evening at the general assembly, open to anyone, ideas for new workshops or performances are aired, and they also decide where funds will be spent. Funds are raised at performances by a voluntary donation at the end and people often give generously when they can, a whopping 2,500 euros was raised at the last one. Money is usually spent on new materials and gear for the circus area, even though at the moment it is being tunnelled into renovating the kitchen.
Whatever short life this actual space may have, its spirit is big and one thing is for sure, even if La Nave is moved on, it will just be reborn.