By Signe Demant
On the street of Monastiriou there is a place different from everything else you pass. Among dusty old buildings, closed-down shops and busy traffic it lights up in the dark. Space Lab opened just three months ago in an area that may not seem like the obvious choice to start up a business in. “Thessaloniki needs a new centre. If someone makes something in an area, ten other businesses will be around and take part in this. First it was Ladadika, then Valaoritou and now it needs to find a new place,” Patroklos Tottas explains about the area of Vardaris where Space Lab is situated. He is one of the people behind Space Lab and he believes that Vardaris is the obvious choice for a new, upcoming centre for creative people. “It’s a really good area because it’s the entrance of Thessaloniki from the whole Greece. There are lots of free spaces around here with very low rent so I definitely think it’s an upcoming area.”
A blank canvas
Space Lab consists of a big, raw space with a high ceiling and concrete walls. It can hold up to 200 people and with the simple foundation, the space can be transformed into practically everything; from exotic theme parties to art exhibitions, DIY-workshops and screenings. Though one of the fundamental aims of the place is to combine the different events. An art exhibition will for example be accompanied with food, music or something that differs it from the traditional idea of an exhibition.
Space Lab is a place for creative people to meet and share their ideas: “It’s like a blank canvas. A platform where people can come with their ideas and make them happen,” says Patroklos. The place consists of a creative team that can support people depending on the project. With everything from light, sound and communication the place can cover every aspect of the creative process. “You don’t have to do anything but design your idea and invite your people,” Patroklos says.
How to feel at home
This concept and way of thinking is an international idea but new in Thessaloniki. One of the biggest challenges Patroklos notes is how to apply this international concept to the Greek market: “You have to change the shape or the structure so it fits with the Greeks. Not too much though so it loses its points or objectives but make the Greeks love it. That’s the thing about Greeks, especially here in Thessaloniki they need to feel at home in every place.”
Further, in Thessaloniki many people have a strong connection to tradition, which is especially apparent in the popularity of traditional music. This relation between the people and tradition can be quite a challenge if you want to start something new in the city. According to Patroklos being a little bit mainstream can be the solution: “We have a small piece of the pie – if you could say it like that – which are like the more creative people. People are a little tired of the things that are going on in Thessaloniki. So you have to make those people feel at home by using some more alternative mainstream ideas and bring them here.”
But Patroklos does believe that the people of Thessaloniki are also starting to get inspired by what is going on abroad: “Now people from Thessaloniki are travelling a lot abroad to the Netherlands, London and Berlin. So I think people are starting to absorb and get inspired by these kind of places, which would be much more difficult just five years ago.”
“We need to walk before we run”
Only time will tell whether the people of Thessaloniki will take the inspiration and influences from other countries with them to Vardaris. Patroklos believes that within the next five years many more places have opened in the neighbourhood but the young generation is the key: “I think that the future of your town depends on the younger people. The people that have the opportunity to go abroad and bring back new stuff.”
As for Space Lab it is slowly progressing – day by day. Patroklos would like for the place to be like a hub for exchanging of ideas, “where people meet each other and new projects outside of Space Lab start in Space Lab. And slowly it’s coming. We are taking it step by step. But we need to walk before we run.”
April 1-2: 3D printing workshop. Read more here
Space Lab creates events continuously so make sure to keep yourself posted on their Facebook page for more information.