De Wereld Van Witte De With — 5 Questions To Axel Timm (Raumlabor)

Axel Timm is one of the founders of the Berlin-based office Raumlabor. Raumlabor is currently working in Rotterdam to prepare their latest project for the ‘Wereld van Witte de With’ festival, which will take place between 14 and 16 September. The festival’s theme for this year is ‘The Street – Live!’, focusing on new ways to use and experience public spaces. We asked Timm five questions about Raumlabor, his views on enhancing public space, and ‘Limousine Service’, the office’s current intervention on the streets of Rotterdam.

Raumlabor is not a traditional architecture firm. How would you describe Raumlabor as an office?
“We are a collective of 7 architects working together for more than 12 years now. Depending on the size and matter of our projects we team up with 2-7 people of the collective. So Raumlabor is not a firm but a collective. Yet there is a strong connection between us as we are interested in similar topics and working together for similar goals.”

Your work often deals with flexible and and temporary objects and interventions in public space. What do you want these structures to do to people that use them or bump into them?
“That is not easy to answer in general as there’s different contexts and different approaches according to them. Quite often a strategy of ours is to mix serious issues and program with more informal actions and rather playful surroundings and unconventional spatial situations in order to lower the threshold for citizens to become part it.”

We know Raumlabor for its amazing Spacebuster and other temporary spatial interventions. What will your upcoming project in Rotterdam be about?
“Our project for the Wereld van Witte de With Festival is about cars. In this year’s edition of the Festival the William Boothlaan and the Witte de With Street will be closed for traffic for the first time. Raumlabor’s ‘Limousine Service’ brings cars back into the street.”

What is the idea behind ‘Limousine Service’?
“There is a playing with the cult on cars. The forms of the objects of the limousine service are driven by images of cars that have become common and for many even have a cult status. Almost passionate relations to these objects – that are basically made to bring us from one spot to another – are built up from early childhood. Another level is the functional and programmatic one. The limousines become big scale furniture in the street and contain amenities for different functions during the festival ranging from places to gather, sit, hang out, eat and drink to stage cars for concerts in the street, tables for workshops, a billboard trailer for the exhibition posters and a Papamobile for street talks and discussions.”

How does this project specifically connect to the Witte de With street and the main theme of this year’s ‘Wereld van Witte de With’ festival?
“The project deals with the topic of this year’s festival entitled ‘The Street – Live!’. What roles do streets play in the urban fabric? Limousine Service is a reflection on topics of street and urban life on different levels. Do we really want huge amounts of public space in the cities to be blocked by individual traffic and even more by immobile (i.e. parked) cars? Or are there other ways for society to think about street space? The interventions address these questions trying to bring back ‘Live’ in the streets. Functions, activities and services happening in the Witte de With Street are brought back onto the street and made more visible to the public. This invites people to become part of it by lowering the threshold for participation.”