Since 10pm yesterday, the as yet unused factory buildings of the Labitzke Complex in Zurich have been occupied. And not a moment too soon: at 7:30 this morning, per the real estate firm Mobimo’s plan, the remaining tenants of the Complex were to hand in their keys.
Such a hubbub at Labitzke is familiar to anyone familiar with nights at the Complex over the last decade. But this time it’s not a party, not a concert, not a religious service, not a play. The long-standing tenants of Soziotop are clearing their event spaces, workshops, studios, and bedrooms; Albanian men haul bar supplies around; the tire dealer has just finished emptying out his shop; those running the “Farbfabrik” are ready to relinquish their clean-swept concert hall. Only the Autonome Beauty Salon sits somewhat dejected in the dark; the remaining tenants of the living community there seem to be making themselves comfortable in the collective kitchen.
This is all in marked contrast to the people now streaming into the Complex and hastily erecting barricades in order to prevent its pre-emptive demolition—as Mobimo hasn’t even obtained a permit to build its intended “300 mid-range apartments” on the site yet.
The Tenants’ Struggle
These newcomers aren’t the only ones who want to stay until the very date of demolition. Three other living communities in the Complex are fighting alongside the Tenants’ Association for an extension. Even just a couple months’ grace period could aid the tenants’ search for alternative spaces. Which is no easy task: the residents have not only very little money, but they have also been developing a creative collective life here—one they are not prepared to give up in exchange for a small apartment somewhere in the agglomeration.
Over the last two weeks, the tenants of the communities here have remained tirelessly active. With the event series “zke countdown,” they presented a wide range of artists who had played at the Labitzke Complex over the last 14 years: dramatists, electronic-music acts, tango musicians and dancers, circus performers, techno DJs, and pop divas. Today, as a provisional “Finale” to the countdown, Guillaume Lopez will project his film portrait of the residents of the Complex and their celebrations, thoughts, hopes, and desires. In the forum to follow the film, the past and future of the Complex and its residents will be discussed.
Direct Action at the Mobimo Press Conference
That the eviction of Labitzke might not go as smoothly as Mobimo would like was made obvious at their press conference two weeks ago. As the event opened up to questions, suddenly there were the Complex’s residents, standing uninvited in the room, distributing their newspaper and reading out their position. Even the market-minded Mobimo must make peace with these facts: While there is certainly money in housing, there are also PEOPLE in it. And sometimes you don’t get the key (solution) you want.