Art-colonization of a factory. How ReZavod community is transforming an industrial area in Lviv

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«We always have a message: people first, then – the walls. And we develop it in such a way. However, I always argue that it’s only partially true, because Ukrainians also need walls that inspire them and lead to a better inner state and effectiveness.»

Vitalii Kyryliv

Art-spaces on former industrial areas seem to be common in Lviv, like the examples of Fest Republic and Jam Factory illustrate. The goals and values behind such initiatives are often diverse. ReZavod has been functioning for five years, and is a place for interdisciplinary communication between creative minds. There you can find design studios, places for organizing events, the restaurant »Ganok«, rooms for underground musical life, like «Ruin bar», as well as informal communities residing there.

Lviv Now spoke to the co-founder of ReZavod Vitalii Kyryliv about the community, completed projects, and plans for the future, as well as obstacles that threaten the existence of the art-space.

Vitalii Kyryliv with his sons

The story of ReZavod began when Vitalii, a co-founder of design-bureau «Hochu Rayu« («I want a paradise») together with his brother, Yura Kyryliv, and wife, Danuta Kril, started thinking of expanding their creative space, after two years of working in an IT coworking spot called «Betaplace». The team’s main activity is creating holistic and unique design solutions for businesses, and initially, they were not thinking much about any special cooperation with other creative initiatives. Finally, they found a big enough area within the plant «REMA», located on Zavodska, 31 street in the northern part of Lviv, which is still partially functioning and producing radio-electrical medical equipment.

«When we moved there, we, frankly speaking, didn’t think at all about creating a space; we were at pains with it all, and worked mostly to strengthen the bureau and so on. But during this whole movement, friends and colleagues began to come, and I started organising excursions. We always spoke about other people with different profiles, and maintained a constant unobtrusive tone about who we need here», – says Vitalii.

Co-founders of the design-studio «Hochu rayu»

An additional stimulus for new settlers was averagely low rent price for a square metre, though repairing works demanded money and effort. Nevertheless, the industrial area became an attractive spot for engineers, architects, designers, typographers, bakers and others who wanted to create something and cooperate to launch interdisciplinary projects. The main principle was – people come after people.

The plant area, which is about 20 minutes walk from the city centre, is surrounded by the silence of two-three floor grey constructions of Soviet and post-Soviet time. There are two main buildings there: administrative one (often called «a white corps»), where design- and photo-studios, architects are located, and the engineering «red corps», where carpenters, metal workers and others work.

«REMA» view

Another side of ReZavod reveals itself through its partying spaces, like underground «Vydra (‘otter’) club» and Ruin bar, in which you can visit the concerts of non-mainstream music, like electronic or metalcore. There are also occupants representing subcultures, like the «ЇЄ» («Yi Ye») movement, members of which informally paint graffiti – mostly with their own logo – on the walls of the city’s buildings (see examples on community’s Instagram).

Given this diversity, Vitalii focuses on calling ReZavod a community, rather than a space, since the latter is very blurred in organizational and legal senses.

«We always have a message: people first, then – the walls. And we develop it in such a way. However, I always argue that it’s only partially true, because Ukrainians also need walls that inspire them and lead to better inner state and effectiveness… It was our biggest aim – [to have] interdisciplinary residents, since it’s our faith and preaching that on the bounds of different disciplines, you can create new products, new services, something unique and interesting».

A project to illustrate this cooperation the best was «Eat Art Today«, which started with creating the «Vincent’s ears» (with a reference to Van Gogh) – shapes of human ear made of macaroni. They were produced by the design studio «Hochu rayu» together with the bakery «Svii Smak« («Own taste») working in the same area, while the initial idea was inspired by a local designer nicknamed Tarko. Vitalii argues that if there was no one who specializes on this type of food products there, they wouldn’t bring this idea to life.

Another example is restaurant «L’amour de trois» in the centre of Lviv – tables there are produced by a recycling company «Zhoglo workshop«, located in ReZavod, and made of reused decorations from puppet theatre. Other members of the community made sofas and bars for the restaurant, and thus, new products and results were completed. This very cooperation is what is stated as the space of art-experiment on ReZavod’s Facebook page, open to everyone regardless of their origin and worldviews.

Vincent’s ears»

«There are no restrictions regarding race, religion, age, because I believe that if you want to create something, it doesn’t matter how old you are and what your race is. The main thing is to have respect for others, that’s all… We were visited by children, as I called them, but they said they were not children but small humans – it’s also interesting how they present and see themselves» – says Vitalii.

In the future, Vitalii sees ReZavod as a complete ecosystem with accommodation facilities for the residents who work there as well as for tourists, eateries, or restaurants which the space lacks now the most, and also the institutions for officials like investment department or the department of city development, that would make this place more attractive for the investors. 

The role model for the co-founder is the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where the area of the former «Philips» plant transformed into a diverse art-space, following the initiative of an active group of local students. Now, it’s hosting an annual world class event Dutch Design Week.

Former Philips plant in Eindhoven

In Lviv, people colonized the plant through their acquaintances, without much control of the co-founders or plant administration. Such a decentralized, even chaotic process of colonizing the plant might give more freedom of self-expression, but it’s also an obstacle for further development of the space. 

During the existence of ReZavod, it experienced the rotation of three directors of the plant «REMA», but it was never clear who is the actual owner of the territory. Therefore, though ReZavod is formally a public organization, it cannot function fully in this way, since it’s unknown who will carry final responsibility in all legal processes.

In Lviv, people colonized the plant through their acquaintances, without much control of the co-founders or plant administration. Such a decentralized, even chaotic process of colonizing the plant might give more freedom of self-expression, but it’s also an obstacle for further development of the space. 

During the existence of ReZavod, it experienced the rotation of three directors of the plant «REMA», but it was never clear who is the actual owner of the territory. Therefore, though ReZavod is formally a public organization, it cannot function fully in this way, since it’s unknown who will carry final responsibility in all legal processes.

«They don’t see such a wide development and meaning as we do. And we, unfortunately, don’t have money to buy it, we cannot even form our repurchase, because there is no connection with the owner. Currently, what we heard regarding prices – they are definitely not market average… the price we heard (if this information is credible) – it’s just cosmic, and no investor would undersign it. And if we are talking about foreign investors, we don’t have «clear» history [in legal sense], because we don’t understand who the owner is».

For now, the presence of low-rise buildings is a factor that prevents construction companies from building that territory with high houses. Still, the risk of missing this territory is relevant for Vitalii. But anyway, ReZavod continues to live its unique life of art-colony in the territory of a partially functioning plant.

by Vitalii Holich

Images by Vitalii Holich and Vitalii Kyryliv

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