[im]possible living is a crowd-sourcing website dedicated to mapping and reactivating abandoned buildings around the world.
[im]possible living wants to be an enabler and a catalyst of the energies available in every place in the world that are not able to get through and give birth due to the abandonment market and, in general, to a new housing development model. It’s a very ambitious goal, but we truly believe in it and are investing everything in this dream!
I interviewed the two founders, Daniela Galvani and Andrea Sesta, about the project.
1. How did you get to the practice of mapping?
[im]possible living is born from our personal interest in abandoned buildings. At the time we understood that many individuals and associations were spreading energies to map the abandoned buildings in their area, but everyone was doing their own maps, thus losing the possibility of sharing results, experiences, and the best possible practices.
So we decided to create a global map of abandoned buildings via a web platform, where everyone could participate and contribute to a common goal and benefit from the experiences of other people.
Since the beginning of the project we have gone far beyond mapping tools. With the last release of our site, people can now reactivate an abandoned building and involve the community in the design concept for the new life of the building.
2. How is the users’ contribution managed? How does the platform work?
The website consists of a service through which users can surf and see the abandoned buildings that have been mapped around the world, which also shows their profile, containing a general description and some detailed information about the building (year of construction, years of abandonment, square meters, number of floors, etc.) To explore the mapped buildings click here.
The real heart of the service, however, is the reporting and collaboration features, through which users can upload new abandoned buildings and enrich existing records by adding photos and videos. If you would like to begin a map click here.
Users can also use a mobile app for the iPhone to instantly map abandoned buildings. Once launched, the application allows you to choose a photo from the Pictures archive, add essential information and automatically provide the geographic data associated with the location (street, city, etc.), allowing the user to change any incorrect information.
The last new part, which has launched recently, allows users to start a reactivation process. Once an abandoned building is mapped, a user can decide to become the reactivator of the place and [im]possible living provides him/her with a suit of services that helps collect the needs of the area, ideas for the future of the building, and in general, create a community that supports the reactivator in designing a concept for the new life of the building. The platform also tries to connect different kinds of users, everyone possibly involved in the renovation process: citizens, entrepreneurs, professionals, artists, real estate developers, etc.These services are now online and we already have some projects running that you can contribute to or simply surf to get an idea:
● Padiglione Conolly by RETESPAZZI
● Sottopassaggio pedonale di Porta Vescovo by AGILE
● Edificio 3 by workinco
● Residenza by LANGYX
● Villa Olga by BIELLAINMENTE
● Ex Casa albergo per anziani by SIMONACOLUCCI
● Ex-macello comunale by ASSBUENAONDA
● Ex-Ospedale San Giacomo by ASSBUENAONDA
● Masseria O’ Sentino by INDIEVIDUI
● Stabile di uffici abbandonato by DANYGALVANI
● Palazzo Cosentini by CARLONATOLI
3. What is the process you wanted to start with your work? What is the social aim you wanted to reach with your work?
In the last years we have witnessed the constant investment in new construction, leaving behind millions of old abandoned buildings. This process has led to the phenomenon of land consumption in most of the world, but the recent economic crisis stressed the problem even more, condemning the new constructions to remain vacant.
The solution to this problem is taking an altogether new approach: abandoned buildings are not liabilities but assets from which we should take the most possible advantage. [im]possible living tries to promote this new sustainability approach. Instead of building new structures over and over again, we can utilize what already exists. Having abandoned buildings in your city or in your neighborhoods is not only a waste, but it also means trouble, that, in a long term perspective, becomes costly for the public sector.
We are creating a platform available to all, which consists of the most complete database of abandoned buildings in the world. It is a virtual place that everyone can use and all can be shared and discussed, and where citizens can actually have an influence in shaping the future of the place they live in.
Many times the interests of construction companies, or even publicadministrations, are not consistent with the local environment of the area itself. This missing link between those sides can be discussed through the [im]possible living platform, in order to build mutual benefits for both sides. Through the website, entire communities can share their needs and ideas, and this could lead to a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Nowadays, real estate projects are handled behind closed doors and the problem is that often the local population is not involved in the design process. This implies, on the one hand, a mismatch between the purpose of the construction project and the real needs of the urban and social settlement. On the other hand, it takes additional time to complete due to the resistance from local communities, which often brings in legal involvement.
Our aim is to create a more efficient process to reuse abandoned structures, with a benefit for local communities that will be able to affect or even contribute projects on the online platform. A benefit for the public and private investors that would receive important inputs or even entire concepts developed by teams of reactivators and a benefit for the reactivator teams that would pursue their own projects with all the technological, professional, and financial support to fully accomplish their goal.
4. What is the next phase of development that your research will undergo?
We released the reactivation services a few months ago, so now our aim is to expand the community as much as possible and start as many reactivation projects as possible. This is very connected to making the available services better, making the actions easier, making the contributions from the community as simple as possible, and adding new features that can increase the sharing activity on the site.
Furthermore, we want to investigate the real bottleneck of reactivation processes: getting the project funded! In fact, the real problem when you talk about abandoned buildings is that, even with low-cost interventions, using them involves pricey investments. So our question is: How do we ease the investment process? How can we push for better projects and actually bring them to life? It’s complicated research, but it’s definitely what we want to focus on during the next year.
5. What are you personal references for the theme of mapping (from ancient to contemporary ones)?
Our point of view is very connected to recent technologies, in particular, web technologies. We consider the birth of web 2.0 and web 3.0 the beginning of a new era: the shift from static contents to dynamic ones, but more importantly, the participation and involvement of people in crowd projects, tools created for geo-localization, augmented reality, and much more.
This had a dramatic impact on the theme of mapping: for the first time in history, people from around the world could contribute to global mapping projects seamlessly, using services like Google Maps, Open Street Map, Wikimapia, History Pin, Ushaidi, Foursquare, and thousands of other services that are enabling users to map things in the world and share the information globally.
This process is generating a huge amount of data that, in most cases, is openly available to everyone via API systems (in computer science, an API is a way to access private databases, retrieve information, and build a new service using one or many different external data sources) For example, today I can use Google Maps API to obtain geographical information and then use Wikipedia to map monuments and historical places.
The potential of this revolution is very immense and has already started to affect our society in a significant way, but we still can’t entirely understand all the possibilities that will be generated in the upcoming decades.