Prison Turns Into Creative Hub For Refugees And Locals

Amsterdam’s most famous prison, the Bijlmerbajes, closed its doors last summer. Now, in a showcase of creative transformation, it is reopening as a refugee center with space for up to a 1,000 refugees, as well as a creative hub, Lola Lik, that opened its doors this past weekend.

By opening up a creative hub linked to a refugee center in “time of fear and division”, Amsterdam is offering a space for inspiration and connection, says the organization. The space is seen as an incubator for old and new Amsterdammers, where refugees and locals can meet and create. Lola Lik is an innovative and inspiring space, but most of all a public space open for all.

“Lik” doesn’t only refer to Dutch slang for prison, but also to “a lick of paint”. Everyone in Lola Lik is encouraged to add their own “lik” and to add their own creativity. Over 8000m² of space is available for creative professionals, social enterprises, craftspeople or program developers to use. Many of them will co-create with the inhabitants of the refugee center, offer trainings or organise events.

Next to the characteristic and familiar prison towers, located in the former prison’s main building surrounding a newly designed public square, Lola Lik will house creative businesses, artist studios and language schools. Studio spaces, ranging from 20m2 to over 60m2, can be rented, as well as gardens and vegetable patches are available. Among the entrepreneurs is a sewing workshop and screen printing studio where clothing will be made. In the former prison laundry rooms, a lunch-time restaurant will be run with hospitality talents from the refugee center. The former kitchens will give space to a Start-Up Kitchen. The shooting range will transform into a kick-boxing school, next to a beer brewery and temporary museum, as well as a pop-up cinema and graphic design studio by the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam’s art school.

Favela Painting has already given some splash of colour to the previously grey walls of the complex, with help from refugees. The opportunities of this large space seem endless and many initiatives have been set up that cannot wait to start. We attended the opening festivities this past weekend and were certainly inspired. Keep an eye out for interesting things happening here!