Navigating a pandemic

Repurposing a hard hit hostel’s rooms into artist studios

Text & Image: Aariya Talcherkar
Berlin, Germany

Kreuzberg’s vibrant, two decades old hostel, Die Fabrik, can be found at the infamous Schlesisches Tor. Despite its high ceilings, clean white walls, and large windows that look out onto a quaint inner courtyard, the halls currently ring echoes from their emptiness due to lack of business. But Berlin, full of creative talent, is ready with new solutions.

Die Fabrik has been struggling, like numerous businesses, to stay afloat due to Covid. The travel industry has suffered severe losses because of travel restrictions and bans on overnight stays. Even when these were temporarily not in effect, people were wary of staying in a space that accommodates so many others from all over the world. With dwindling bookings and only a 10% occupancy rate of what it used to be, Die Fabrik is fighting for its life- it is currently getting by thanks to loans from banks, however this is only a short term solution. Olaf Juhle, the general manager at Die Fabrik says,

“This has forced us to take huge loans from the banks and this will definitely affect our business in the years to come. In response to this we have also changed our concept very much, we are now also offering permanent rentals, private and common workspaces and we are trying to get at least enough of an income this year to pay our bills.”

It would be a shame to lose yet another institution that has contributed to Berlin’s vibrant community. Therefore, Spend It Forward/ Craft Initiative Agency CEO G. Beaudin, independent curator Dr. Suzy Royal, and media partner ArtConnect have stepped in with some new ideas. Die Fabrik, with the guidance of Beaudin and Royal, have decided to convert a number of their empty rooms into artist studios, seeing as this is a more sustainable source of income than relying on tourism.

As of now 14 rooms are being offered. They will have 24 hour access to the building, space to store materials and artwork safely, a shared kitchenette, a freight elevator to transport heavy materials, security cameras in shared spaces, and WiFi, as well as utilities included in the price. The program begins in November 2020, to help Die Fabrik sustain itself efficiently while the pandemic continues. The studio program will give artists the opportunity to participate in regular exhibitions in the hostel, as well as open studios, and other events to keep the public engaged with the artists. In the past, Spend It Forward has done a Live Market Series, the 5 Rooms/5 Artists exhibition with Royal during Berlin Art Week, and will also organise the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (an upcoming arts and crafts market in December), all at Die Fabrik.

Spend it Forward’s goal is to tie local communities of people to the spaces that define them- the bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants, and similar small businesses that contribute to the fabric of Berlin’s diverse population. It does this through matching local and regional brands such as Lemke Beer and PYKE Seltzer, with carefully curated events and programs, both virtual and in real life, that help raise money for these now endangered businesses. Spend it Forward is passionate about preserving community culture, an issue that is incredibly Berlin at its core. Beaudin, says,

“Artists and students are some of the first people to discover a neighbourhood, but also forced to leave first when gentrifiers catch on. A positive [of COVID] is that we can reverse this pattern by offering a historic Berlin institution’s spaces back to the people who founded it, who would not survive Corona without help.”

The company also hopes to duplicate this project in other Berlin locations, should the studio program at Die Fabrik be successful.

The repurposing of existing real estate spaces is hopefully a trend that cities will see more and more of. It seems that in these trying times communities must count on their own creativity to help them construct new and sustainable business models. Spend it Forward helps institutions such as Die Fabrik realize this.

For more information on Artist Studios @ Die Fabrik, please click on ArtConnect here and to see more about Spend it Forward click on video here.

Feel free to contact G. Beaudin @, to learn how to participate in the Spend it Forward initiative.