Cross-pollinating (physical) space for the cross-disciplinary soul with Tainà Moreno
Who knows better what the Collaborative Economy really is about than the people who are actually active within it? Read on to discover a space in Berlin that started off as a co-working stint and is today proudly embodying collaboration, art, community and cross-disciplinary programs with Tainà Moreno
Coffee chains introduced the idea of chilling in a café and maybe working a bit, then there were the co-working spaces and if you look carefully, people are further re-inventing these spaces on where and how people come together. Be it the co-living houses, co-vacations/ camp for entrepreneurs, Free Space movement or Trade Schools, we are questioning the ways human beings interact and come together, stressing on the meaningful experience and connections. So I personally am always on a hunt for (physical) spaces where such experiences can take place (for real) and more importantly where there is a cross-pollination of people, skills, cultures, ideas and energies.
So when Tainà Moreno says, “oh! we have all kinds of people here, Germans, New Yorkers, Australians, Artists, Techies, founders, makers, dreamers and critics”, I feel like I’m in the right place. Taina is a core team member at Agora Collective, a co-creating, co-working, co-learning, co-discovering space in the upcoming district of Neu Köln in Berlin. I remember walking past the monolithic one-piece 800 square meters, five-storey, yellow-brown stoned building on a late Sunday, when the sun was playing peek-a-boo, that the energy of this place intrigued me although there was no soul in sight. I have been to my fair share of co-working spaces around the world and so I am not comfortable categorizing Agora under this, although co-working is one of their key components. Read on and you will discover why this is the case.
“Many crossed Agora, they came and they left, shed pieces of themselves and their inspirations”
Like many good stories, this one also starts with alcohol, a bar and bunch of crazy people. Pedro Jardim & Caique Tizzi, the co-founders of Agora Collective were intrigued to start a small homey bar called Hagestolz (closed now) in Berlin due to the insanely low rent (back in the days), where people could non-pretentiously with low-entry barrier come together and have a beer. As my friend Ms. Serendipity would say, the guys were being gently tested on their luke warm passion – bringing people together. Before they knew it, the artistic (painter) Caique and business punk Pedro, along with Taina, as she puts it, “were painting this blank canvas of a “wall” on the ground floor with thousand possibilities” where Agora stands today. Due to the perfect blend of art, business and community, the space early on began inviting people to come experiment and express themselves. Taina recollects, “ it was such a relief acquiring the second floor, which happened few months after the start, since with the amount of ideas we had, just one floor was suffocating and frustrating”. She adds, that the amount of time and energy that went into transforming these spaces into an art gallery one week then a co-working space the other, and then something else again, was exhausting. Taina stresses on the aspect of community over and over again, in her own words, “many crossed Agora, they came and they left, shed pieces of themselves and their inspirations”, she beams, “they helped start initiatives which is to-date active”. She happily points, “we made some very good friends who wanted to paint this blank canvas with us”.
As I talk to Taina, I quickly realize that she is not “pitching” for Agora has just a space but the experience and connections it wants to facilitate as an organization inviting everyone to participate. She adds to this realization, “we want to welcome communities to do more, to participate and still shape this experience and not be discouraged by the visible and “functioning” structures”. Agora wants the community to take charge, even co-own certain activities and share the joy as well as the responsibilities that comes with maintaining such a big space. Three years and the space has grown into five floors and four flats which is almost self sustaining, with various initiatives from co-working, 3-month art residency programs, start-up offices, workshop/ event space and a sleep-in flats for hosting guests and AirBnB purposes. There is also the 3-day summer festival called Agora Collect where the activities range out far and wide – life drawing, food experimentation, urban gardening, music, hackathons, art sessions, galleries, theatre…. I ask how the overwhelmed team of five keeps track of the happenings and activities, “we have learned our lessons and have come in terms of juggling/ multi-tasking and also sometimes saying “no” when it is too much”. However, they still warmly invite everyone to come, propose and share whatever crazy idea they have in mind.
When asked about the Ouishare fest, I get a quick statement, saying “it is an inspiring place, where the true experience of connections happen”. A beautifully put expression because it also reemphasizes my belief of the share economy being more about its people than the business models or the offerings themselves. Agora is aiming, on a physical level (also what Ouishare has always envisioned) to facilitate a cross-disciplinary playground and serendipitous experiences.
” it (ouishare fest) is an inspiring place where experience of connections happen”.
Agora, a fantastic space where collaboration seems to be reverse engineering itself offline to online and welcoming the hearts and souls of creation and community. Some aspects of the project still need help, advice, support and funding. With a touch of humor and enthusiasm Taina concludes “looking back at it (the journey) we tried to invent the wheel a thousand times, she laughs “and the wheel is there for a reason”. The team, the space and its cross-pollinating inhabitants believe they still have a lot to learn – it’s never (fully) ready, the process of never being ready is great for discoveries – wondering what’s going to knock on its doors next! So next time you are in Berlin, you might as well go and knock on Agora’s doors or come to the Ouishare fest in Paris, listen to the co-founder Pedro tell the story himself!!
Image credits: Shifa Virani and Agora Collective