The movement for occupied social centers (OSCs, or CSOAs [centro sociale ocupado autogestione/self-organized squatted social center]) is global, the DIY expressions of a new generation of squatters and political and cultural activists. This compendium is spotty, episodic, and utterly incomplete. It proceeds by country in what seems like a chronological sequence of the arising of OSCs::
Denmark
Italy
Netherlands
Switzerland
Germany
England
Poland
Slovenia
Spain

AMERICAS
New York City
Brazil

Christiania, Copenhagen
external image christiania_263652c.jpg
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Centro Sociale Leoncavallo
Milan, Italy
1975 – ongoing
external image leoncavallo01g.jpg
Leoncavallo is the most famous self-managed social centre in town. The social centre moved to via Watteau from via Leoncavallo in the Casoretto district in 1994. Today the new centre (now called Leoncavallo S.P.A, spazio pubblico autogestito [self-managed public space]) houses a publishing house and bookshop, a legal helpdesk for immigrants and is the headquarters of six associations. Three hundred and fifty concerts a year are held there, together with an international cartoon fair, 96 theatrical performances and 100 film showings. It also transmits Radio Onda d’Urto 18 hours a day. The centre receives 100,000 visitors a year and has a significant turnover, the profits from which are fed back as “cultural initiatives.”
– from turismo.provincia.milano.it
see also: __it.wikipedia.org/wiki/CS_Leoncavallo__ (in Italian)
See also: Andrea Membretti, “Centro Sociale Leoncavallo: The Social Construction of a Public Space of Proximity” (2003), in Republicart at __republicart.net/disc/realpublicspaces/membretti01_en.htm__

pic: leone2
an emblem of Leoncavallo OSC

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ESC Atelier
Rome
ongoing

This space has an extensive website, but an account of their history is absent from it. By hearsay, it is important in autonomous organizing against institutional education, since it is located near a major university. The LUM project (Libera Università Metropolitana) both serves and organizes students there, along the lines of the initiatives represented on the Edu-factory website. ESC also hosts concerts, art exhibitions, a free wireless area, internet radio, services to immigrants, precarious workers, sex workers, and advocates for the legalization of marijuana. A highly theorized discussion of their purposes is at eipcp.net/transversal/0508/esc/en.

pic: banner_esc
the banner of the ESC Atelier website
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Binnenpret
Amsterdam, Netherlands
1984 – ongoing

On February 10, 1984, these 19th century draw horse stables in the Oud Zuid (Old South) area of Amsterdam were squatted as part of the “Day of Unrest,” organised by the Amsterdam squatters’ movement. This was a protest against the imminent eviction of the huge “Wijers” squat complex to build a Holiday Inn hotel. Wijers was evicted four days later by a force majeure of the police, who had great difficulty due to the passive resistance of 1500 to 2000 squatters.
People active in Wijers came to the new squat after the eviction. Together with squatters from the Schinkel area Hoofddorpplein, and in cooperation with the De Meerpaal center (now Cascade), they organized rental assistance hours and a youth help center. In those early days, the complex offered space to initiatives like the sauna Fenomeen (Phenomenon), the toddler playground Binnenpretjes (now in Cascade), Moroccan youth center Chabab, bicycle workshop Farafina, music studios, the OCCII concert hall, the Kasbah café, the children’s theatre space Wijnand Stomp (adopted by Teatro Munganga in 1988), the info centre Bollox, restaurant Zorro’s Zion (already active under the same name in Wijers), later The Byre, now MKZ; five artists’ spaces, a few homes and a lush green courtyard. From the beginning, efforts were made towards maintaining a horizontal organizational structure, although there were many strong conflicts over space.
In 1989, Amsterdam began the “Clean Ship” campaign in which all publicly owned squats were asked to negotiate. De Binnenpret finally reached a rental agreement. Try to remain independent, changing from squatter to tenant!
In the ‘90s, the way of life with which the squat group in the Schinkel neighborhood had grown up was vanishing. It was no longer easy to get welfare money (“Do they owe you a living? Of course they do, of course they do!”), and the many volunteers made way for jobs subsidized by the state but paying below minimum wage. The business initiatives beginning in 1984 have grown and thrived. Gradually, more initiatives grew, especially for the youth from the neighborhood. Binnenpret had focussed on neighborhood-oriented and accessible activities from its inception. Many Binnenpret people live in this neighborhood, and they attract other local residents. Also, as the state jobs are over, the volunteers are back again. De Binnenpret is still going strong after 25 years, as shown by the weeks of festivities marking that occasion in February of 2009.
– excerpted and redacted from website’s translation of: __xs4all.nl/~binnenpr/gesch.htm__

pic: 25jaar
event poster
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RHINO
Geneva, Switzerland
1988 – 2007

The RHINO squat occupied two buildings on the Boulevard des Philosophes in downtown Geneva, a few blocks from the main campus of the University of Geneva. RHINO housed about 70 people before its evacuation in July 2007. RHINO stands for “Retour des Habitants dans les Immeubles Non-Occupés” (in English, “Return of Inhabitants to Non-Occupied Buildings”). The project also operated an independent cinema in its basement, the Cave 12, as well as a bar, restaurant and concert space on the ground floor called Bistro’K.
The two buildings’ facades were often decorated with protest art, and leftist political messages. The buildings were instantly recognizable by the large red horn installed on the wall. This horn was the first target of police when they evicted the inhabitants on July 23, 2007.
– redacted from __en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RHINO_%28squat%29__
website: __rhino.la/__
see also Chevalier in “House Magic” #1, cited above

pic: Bienvenue chez Rhino!


Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich
2002

A nonstop happening lasting several weeks succeeded in preserving the historic birthplace of Dada from commercial renovation. It is a museum today.

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Tacheles
Berlin, Germany
1990 - ongoing

The Art-Centre Tacheles is situated in a ruin in Berlin Mitte. Located in former East Berlin, the area was a Jewish quarter in the past and has now become a meeting point for people interested in arts and culture and for those who think they are. The building was part of a huge shopping mall built in 1907. During the war, air raids damaged the building, and it was never rebuilt. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the building was taken over in February of 1990 by a group of young artists from many countries. It rapidly became a center for performances and concerts, theatre, visual art exhibitions, workshops, poetry and special events.
As an international art centre, Tacheles influenced the surrounding area in a positive as well as in a negative sense. By now the once creative community has mutated into a trendy quarter. Tacheles has been recognized by the Berlin government, and receives a varying yearly subsidy to help finance some of its many projects. Other money is raised through commercial enterprises such as the cinema and the bar.
Because of its special historic architecture, the dramatic “ruin appearance” of the rearside, and its years of activity in the international arts, “Kunsthaus Tacheles” is now well known, and listed in many travel guides of Berlin. In the course of changes since the Wall came down, Tacheles has been confronted with the difficult challenge of remaining true to its roots and ideals without becoming too sentimental about the old squatter times.
– excerpted and redacted from: super.tacheles.de/cms/

pic: mural outside Café Zapata
Tacheles. Photo: Flickr (cc)/tochis
“(cc)” means copyright? dunno if you wanna use this – I picked it becuz it looks good small… you could run nothing if you like, really

Mainzer Strasse squats
Berlin
? – 1990

In November of 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, thousands of police faced off against hundreds of squatters in a days-long street battle to evict the dozen squatted houses in the Mainzer Strasse of Berlin. The twelve houses had twelve different scenes. In some houses were mostly East Germans, in others “Wessies.” There were houses with punks, political freaks, refugees, etc. In every house there were activities: pubs, Volxküche (people’s kitchens), a bookstore with left literature, infoshop, and the “Forellenhof,” a pub in Tuntenhaus that staged some unforgettable shows of drag queens during its short existence. The non-squatter citizens on the street watched the hustle and bustle with mixed feelings. Some organized themselves into a citizens' initiative against the squatters because the noise and strident banners (especially the Gay House) were getting on their nerves.
These citizens continually assailed the politicians and administrators calling for eviction. When it came, the eviction was epic, with stone throwing, tanks and water cannons, barricades, riot gasses and stun grenades, a flaming trolley car, and over 100 street battles. During these days, the squatters received assistance from many in the community, like a donation of gas masks from a retired firefighter.
Today the district of Friedrichshain in former East Berlin has changed from a drab residential area to a lively diverse neighborhood with many cultural and political survivals from the days of the squatters.
– excerpted and redacted from Google translation of __umbruchbildarchiv.de/bildarchiv/ereignis/141190mainzer_strasse.html__
which was in turn taken from “Autonome in Bewegung: aus den ersten 23 Jahren” (Verlag Assoziation A, Berlin, 2003)
See also: “Mainzer Straße - 10 Jahresrückblick beim Streßfaktor und in der TAZ”
pic: book_AD_Street-Party-on-Meinzer-Strasse-Berlin-1990_source

New Yorck im Bethanien, Berlin
yorck59.net/
discussed in “House Magic” #1


Rote Flora
Hamburg, Germany
1989 – ongoing

Built as a theater in 1888, the building that today houses Rote Flora in the Schanzen district of Hamburg survived the war. After two decades as a department store, there began a controversy over its further use. Several groups obtained a short term lease. The city soon revoked it, but the groups continued as squatters in the Rote Flora. In autumn of 2000, the Senate of Hamburg began negotiations for a new lease. The question became a political issue, and the building was sold to an entrepreneur.
The Rote Flora had its 15th anniversary in November 2004. It was used while the Anti-G8 protests in germany took place in 2008 as a convergence center, and for several congresses, political meetings and cultural events. The main issues addressed are immigration, nationalism in Germany, and privatisation of public space. The front part of the building still serves as a space for political, often very subjective and propagandistic, messages. Rote Flora organises art exhibitions, working with artists from all over the world. In addition to serving as a meeting point for left-wing movements, the Rote Flora organizes flea markets, parties and cultural events, and a wide range of alternative music such as punk, reggae, ska, dub, drum 'n' bass and goa. The Rote Flora is mainly financed through donations and parties.

– redacted from nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/roteflora/
see also discussion with Michel Chevalier, in “House Magic” zine catalogue #1 at: __sites.google.com/site/housemagicbfc/house-magic-bfc-zine-1__

pic: RoteFloraThing
from Void Network blog promoting “Total Freedom Festival of Underground Cultures” at Rote Flora, 2008

also pic: BASS-THE-SYSTEM
event poster from Rote Flora


56a Infoshop
London, England
1991 – ongoing

56a Infoshop was born in June 1991, sharing a squatted space with Fareshares food co-op (purveyors of whole foods and organic vegetables since 1988). After a dark period of no electricity and possible eviction, 56a now has a 10 year lease from the local housing council. Both the Fareshares Food Co-op and 56a Infoshop have been renovated. 56a houses a zine library (really a Europe-wide archive of anarchist, political and squatting activism in the ‘90s and ‘00s), with some items and their own publications for sale. The collective hosts reading groups, “cafes” or get-togethers, a small exhibition space, practical squatting meet-ups, and radical history walks.
-- redacted from __56a.org.uk/__

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pic: 56aInfoshopFlyer
a flyer advertising the 56a Infoshop


CoolTan Arts
London
1991-92; 1992-1995; 1997; 1998; ?

CoolTan Arts took the name from the disused CoolTan Suntan Lotion factory squatted in Brixton in 1991. The group was evicted in ’92, and the building was razed to the ground. The collective then moved to a vacant unemployment office building, called the “Old Dolehouse.” There more local people became involved, and the co-op evolved to offer an art space, a café, office space for campaigns, rehearsal rooms, darkrooms, low-cost workshops, and a string of serious techno parties. (The last ones saw more than 1,500 people attending.) Among the campaigns hosted: Reclaim The Streets, Earth First!, various Green Party groups, and London Friends of Travellers (UK nomads). The squat was also the epicenter of agitation against the Criminal Justice Act which outlawed public rave parties. Numerous cultural projects began in this milieu, including the Exploding Cinema, a “hybrid fusion of projection, performance and social space,” and CoolTan Arts arts courses for people with mental distress. A key organizer, Shane Collins, later entered political life, running as a Green Party candidate. He said of the CoolTan era, “All of us … worked our butts off, not for ourselves, but for … the benefit of all…. A bunch of often quite different people on the dole came together and we did it. A totally independent community arts squatted centre.”
– redacted from urban75.org/brixton/features/cooltan.html

pic CoolTanParty
is a photo of the outside of the CoolTan OSC during a building-wide party

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rampART
London
2003 – 2009

At 5am on Thursday, 15th October, 2009, the rampART Creative Centre and Social Space was evicted by 45 police with chainsaws and, remarkably, a Church of England vicar. Three people and a dog were inside. The eviction marks the end of nearly five and a half years of occupation, during which rampART has served as a landmark for the social centres movement in London and a venue for a diverse range of events including political meetings, workshops, info cafes, fundraising parties and the London Freeschool.
The eviction, significantly, happened on the same day that Non Commercial House, a freeshop operating out of a building in nearby Commercial Street, lost their case against eviction and a week after the collective occupying 2a Belgrade Road in Stoke Newington successfully defended the space from eviction by council bailiffs.
from: therampart.wordpress.com/ The rampART collective has continued to operate; posts stop in 2010

See also the epic catalogue “What’s This Place: Stories from Radical Social Centres in the UK and Ireland” (2008) at socialcentrestories.wordpress.com

pic: baby_rampart
“Baby Rampart” image



Rozbrat
Poznań, Poland
1994 – ongoing

A strongly socialist “freedom movement” in Poznań sought to have their own space. They chose a vacant warehouse in an industrial area. At first the squat was residential, a commune or intentional community. But nearly every resident was somehow active in social activity. Music has always been important at Rozbrat, and concerts were organized very early at Rozbrat (1995 with Oi Polloi of Scotland), although the program began slowly because the space was dangerous. As the building was improved, the character of the place started to change and it became an independent culture centre. The collective widened from a closed group to a wider coalition. In 1997 the Anarchist Federation began working at Rozbrat. “Liberation Feasts” are forum meetings to decide on issues at the OSC. The “Lame Mule” (Kulawy Mul) is a space adapted for recitals, poetry evenings, discos and lectures, and has more recently served as an art gallery. In 2005, a new cafe bar next to the Gallery was created, it is a chillout zone. Rozbrat continues as a centre of independent culture in Poznań – without subsidy or sponsor, “outside of the system…for ourselves.”
redacted from rozbrat.org/our-activity/157-rozbrat-squat

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pic: RozbratPoznan
Kuba living at Rozbrat squat
photo by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

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Rog -- Ljubjana, Slovenia
Metalkova -- Ljubjana, Slovenia

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Laboratorio
El Laboratorio 1 -- 1997-1998
El Laboratorio 2 -- 1999-2001
El Laboratorio 3 -- 2002-2003
Madrid, Spain

A 2007 video documentary shows the development and end of this influential social center (“Laboratorio 3, ocupando el vacío”; subtitled in English “L3, filled the vacuum”, on DVD and Torrent download.) The documentary presents the history and activities of the OSC in its third space, concentrating on experiences of participants and cultural activities. While vague on specifics (and the OSC’s websites are long gone), the video shows the spirited tactics and media-friendly displays of Spanish direct action squatters. Managed by assembly, Laboratorio was concerned to establish a space of social relations in the neighborhood of Lavapies, and to serve youth needing housing in a period of brutal housing speculation in Spain. They sought also to create cultural life and neighborhood participation that was not imposed by institutions. According to hearsay, CSA Tabacalera in Madrid is managed by many of the veterans of the Laboratorio occupations.
redacted from es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centro_Social_El_Laboratorio, labuenanoticia.com/node/547, and a viewing of “Laboratorio 3, ocupando el vacío” (DVD, PAL, Traficantes de Sueños; English subtitles)

pic: Labo3
Still from the film “Laboratorio 3” by Kinowo Media

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Patio Maravillas
Madrid
2007 - ongoing

Patio Maravillas was a multi-purpose autonomously-governed space in central Madrid. The former school, closed for seven years, was in the Malasaña district. Different activities were organized to involve people living in the neighbourhood. Access was free to the permanent activities such as the Bicicritica bicycle repair workshop, video and documentary screenings (Cinema Maravillas), an internet room and hacklab, a cafeteria that served as a meeting point and cultural and social exchange, English classes, remedial classes, a storytelling and creative writing workshop, subversion point (political and feminist discussion), the “chikiasamble” (children's activities and games room), a photography workshop (Foto Patio), legal advice, rap workshop, and more. There were also theatre, painting, music, audiovisual, and immigration groups that met, rehearsed and carried out their activities. Also concerts, exhibitions, neighbourhood meetings, talks about health and consumer issues, and meetings of different groups took place. At this writing, the collective has occupied a new space, at Calle Pez número 21.
– redacted from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patio_Maravillas

Casa Invisible, Malaga
lainvisible.net
newly published 58 pp. dossier: “La potencia de la cooperación”

Casa del Aire, Granada
casadelaire.org
presently being evicted

Miles de Viviendas, Barcelona
? - 2007
Discussed by Emily Foreman and Maria Monsonis in “House Magic” #2, forthcoming (at Google website housemagicbfc)

Can Masdeu, Barcelona


AMERICAS

Lower East Side squatter resistance movement
New York City, USA
various houses and gardens
1970s and ‘80s - 2002
In the face of extensive landlord abandonment of tenement buildings on the Lower East Side of New York City, activists and local residents banded together to take over buildings. At first they worked under city-sponsored “homestead” and “sweat equity” programs, but as these ended and city-owned tax defaulted properties in the district were returned to a highly speculative private market, an internationally networked squatting movement claimed “adverse possession” rights to many buildings. The movement reached a high pitch of street fighting antagonism in the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riot. While most of these occupations were lost, in 2002 a number of squats were legalized as low-income coops. At the same time, the community garden movement created social and cultural space in neighborhoods throughout the city on the vacant lots where apartment buildings had been knocked down. These two complex movements intertwined.
source: Clayton Patterson et al., eds., Resistance: A Radical Social and Political History of the Lower East Side (Seven Stories Press, NY 2007)
tour routes; specific features of each garden site: http://www.greenmap.org/greenhouse/user/1449
some history: http://skillshares.interactivist.net/gardens/index.html

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pic: van_dalen_GardenSquat
Anton Van Dalen, Gardens + Squats poster image



Prestes Maia
2002-2007
São Paulo, Brazil

The Prestes Maia was the largest squatted highrise building on the South American continent. Originally 468 families, united in the Downtown Roofless Movement (Movimento Sem Teto do Centro or MSTC) of São Paulo, and lived in the 22-storey highrise since 2002. There were approximately 250 families and the numbers varied as people moved in and out. The building had been closed and left in a rundown condition for years, like many buildings in downtown São Paulo. The new residents cleaned out tons of rubbish, and expelled drug operations and criminals. It contained a free library, workshops, and hosted autonomous educational, social and other cultural activities. In the last few years of the squat it was a laboratory of experiment for bottom-up urban renewal of downtown São Paulo. People of all ages and classes, from all Brazilian states and other nationalities, including artists and students, all worked together. The 250 families comprised more than than 1600 previously homeless people, including children, elderly and disabled. Evicted 2007.
redacted from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prestes_Maia

pic: Prestesbldg
Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo.
Photo by Tatiana Cardeal
The banner slogan, “Zumbi somo nos,” refers to the legendary 16th century fighter against slavery: “Zumbi is us.”


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f: SCAPE resorted for SQEK pop